The Book of Eli Movie Poster Image

The Book of Eli

Future-set action epic is heavy on comic book violence.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Positive messages

One possible interpretation of the movie is that it has a bone to pick with organized religion, instead celebrating individual spirituality. The villain wants to obtain the last existing Bible and use it for power and control over the "weak and desperate," while the hero's goal is to protect the book and deliver it to a safe place. He reads it regularly, but given his violent nature and loner status, it's not very clear that he's learned anything from it.

Positive role models

Eli is violent, stubborn, and single-minded, but he does ultimately learn the value of trust and persistence. Occasionally he also shows honor (for example, by refusing to drink alcohol or take advantage of Solora sexually).


Extreme violence, generally of a comic book nature. Eli wields a bow and arrow and shoots both animals and people (sometimes in some very uncomfortable body parts). He also carries an enormous knife, with which he chops off hands, arms and heads. Lots of hand-to-hand combat as Eli fights off crowds of attackers; plenty of gunfights (and hand grenades) as well. The movie shows the impact of the bullets and the arrows -- including those shot at a bird and a cat -- as well as plenty of blood. Viewers see dead (and sometimes decomposing) bodies, and there's a suggestion of cannibalism. Rape and attempted rape are also suggested (sounds of ripping clothes, women's screams) both on-screen and off, in chaotic crowd scenes and, notably, in the case of one important character.


The future world presented in the movie has the equivalent of prostitutes, though they're only mentioned and rarely seen. A woman tries to seduce Eli by the side of the road by exposing her cleavage (no nudity). Later, Solara is sent to Eli's room while wearing a skimpy, cleavage-revealing dress and ordered to provide him sexual favors (though her orders are more suggested than actually spoken aloud). But Eli refuses to take advantage of her.


Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." "P---y," "hell," and "bitch" are also heard. For the record, Eli himself doesn't use foul language.


Some brands survive the apocalypse intact -- Eli cleans himself with (and later trades) little individually wrapped handi-wipes from KFC, and Carnegie uses a bullhorn with "Motorola" clearly marked on the side. Partial sign for Puma shoes.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some background characters drink in a bar, become surly, and assault Eli.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Book of Eli is very violent -- there's lots of weapon use, body parts getting chopped off, fighting, and dead bodies, as well as suggested rape (sounds of ripping clothes and women's screams) -- and takes place in a bleak future. But it has a "comic book" tone that keeps it from being a total downer, and it actually feels more like a Western than a sci-fi epic, with a loner hero (Denzel Washington) who wanders into a lawless town and tangles with the kingpin (Gary Oldman). The movie's subtext tackles religion: The bad guy wants to use the world's last remaining Bible to control and dominate the "weak and desperate," while the hero wants to deliver the book to a safe place. Expect some sexuality (though no nudity), strong language (including "f--k"), and -- worth mentioning again -- lots of action violence.

What's the story?

In a post-apocalyptic future, Eli (Denzel Washington) has one goal: to carry the last remaining copy of The Bible toward the West, hoping to find a safe place for it. Meanwhile, he encounters all kinds of villains, scoundrels, and cannibals on the road and must use his weapons and considerable combat skills to get past them. Wandering into a lawless town looking for water, he meets the educated Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who's after a copy of the Bible that he can use to control the townspeople. Eli merely wishes to continue with his mission, but Carnegie won't take no for an answer. Eli's situation gets tougher when he finds himself attached to pretty young runaway Solara (Mila Kunis).

Is it any good?


THE BOOK OF ELI is an effective post-apocalyptic action movie with elements from both comic books and Westerns thrown in for good measure. For instance, to protect themselves from the harsh sunlight, all the characters wear sunglasses or goggles, but rather than rendering them impersonal or distant, they only ramp up the movie's cool factor.

The action is exceedingly well directed, exciting, and sometimes surprising, even if the storytelling relies on some tried-and-true chestnuts. Like the best science-fiction tales, it has an underlying agenda -- this time it's mainly about organized religion's use of the Bible -- but the message never outweighs the story's thrust. Washington is powerful as the stoic, loner hero, and Oldman happily chews the scenery as the bad guy. But Kunis' role unfortunately seems little more than a plot device.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does the movie's tone affect the impact of the action/fight scenes? Does it feel realistic?

  • What do movies set in post-apocalyptic futures (Children of Men, I Am Legend, The Road, etc.) have to say about the way we, as humans, feel at the moment?

  • What are the movie's messages about religion? Is it trying to make a specific statement about the subject?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 15, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:June 15, 2010
Cast:Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Directors:Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some brutal violence and language

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 3, 11, and 12 year old Written byshelzmike July 24, 2010

Depends on the maturity of the kid

I'm not going to rewrite what others have written about regarding the violence and cursing, etc. Most have done an excellent job and they are pretty spot on. While there was a bit of cursing, it wasn't simply gratuitous for the sake of just saying it like many other movies are. Additionally, I was not cringing every time I heard it. Usually, there was enough action, or plot rather, going on that the words were not quite the focus. As far as the violence - to be honest, I was expecting more based on the reviews that I saw here. From my recollection, there are only about 5 or 6 scenes that were fairly graphic, but nothing too off-putting. It's hard to say sometimes, but again I do not think it was gratuitous and fit with the movie, if that makes any sense. Most were over just as quickly as they began. Finally, we are a Christian family and the plot of the movie was interesting and different and I was entertained the whole time; however, it wasn't really the best movie I have seen. There are some various Christian messages, but I am not sure it was really intended to be a full out Christian message. The story is more about Eli and his "mission" than it is the Bible or God. God does seem to play an important role and there are a few times that some good messages are shared by Eli. If I had to give one theme that stood out among the rest it would certainly be faith - Eli exemplifies faith in spite of adversity. The main review of this movie above does bring up an interesting point that I thought myself - it is hard to tell if the director and writer of the movie was simply developing the "bad" character of the villain or rather presenting perhaps their own view of religion - but there are some hints that organized religion is simply a way to gain power. As far as kids - we watched this with our 12 year old and I must say that as parents, we must know our own children and their maturity level. Age is just a number, and I know many 17 (and plenty that are older) who are very immature and know others that are younger that are more mature. I would have never let our 11 year old watch this movie - he has a problem with watching violence and doesn't know how to handle it. Our 12 year old though is very mature and quite a strong Christian. He can separate reality from the movies and understands what is okay and what is not okay. He, like myself, focuses more on the story than the cursing and the violence. On that note, parents only you know your kids (at least, I hope that you do) and you should not let ratings alone determine what you let your children watch and not watch.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Adult Written byangrypanda90 August 14, 2010

Good for older teens.

This movie is a very good movie. Violent yes but not Over the top violent. Eli is a man who is following God's will for him. Yes he does fight a lot of people but those who say violence and Christianity shouldnt mix clearly havent read the book of Judges in the bible. Eli doesnt kill random people at will he defends himself. Its aso in a post apocalyptic world. SO you can bet most people's morals went down the drain.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of an infant, 2, 3, and 5 year old Written bywilted6orchid August 4, 2010

Eli isn't just some violent guy!

I have to disagree with the author's ragging on Eli as a role-model. Eli is a man on a mission doing what he believes God wants him to do. He does kill a lot of people, but he never kills anyone who didn't attack him first...where I'm from that's self-defense!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great role models