The Bourne Identity Movie Poster Image

The Bourne Identity

Violent but thrilling first of the Bourne action trilogy.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Definitely some mixed messages here. On the one hand, the film shows government as corrupt and manipulative and the main character battles against it in order to be a good man and live a free life. On the other hand, the extraordinary fighting scenes are what makes this movie so watchable, so while the ideals of righteousness and purity are celebrated, so is violence.

Positive role models

Bourne is a tricky role model. As a reborn man, he sheds his past identity and whatever bad things he did along with it. His new self is a good, honest, caring man who happens to be an exceptionally good fighter. He puts himself on the line to protect good people, and defends himself against the bad -- to the point of death. If he lies or manipulates, it's only to serve good. But he still kills people...


Many fighting scenes, mostly hand-to-hand combat, but also with guns and knives. Some blood but no gore, other than a close-up shot of bullets being removed from a body. Several characters are murdered assassination-style, one jumps out of a window to his death. Several tense scenes, including two where children are potentially at risk of violence.


One very intimate scene that turns into passionate kissing. Shirts come off, though no nudity, and then the camera pulls away.


Strong language throughout, but not constant. A couple uses of "f--k," and "s--t," and a bit more of "hell," "Goddamn," and "for Christ's sake."


Definite product placement of a Mini that includes some very fancy driving and a brief close-up of the brand name on the steering wheel. Background shot of Air France plane.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some smoking and drinking in the background in several scenes. A main character drinks liquor from a bottle one time in response to extreme stress.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this thrilling action movie is packed with violence, including machine gun fights, intense hand-to-hand combat, a stabbing, and several glimpses of dead bodies with bullet holes or other wounds. Several scenes are packed with tension as the main characters evade police or other threats. Some angry confrontations turn violent. In one scene a character uses a dead body as a shield and a cushion for a long fall. The main characters embrace and kiss passionately in one scene without wearing shirts, though no nudity is shown. Language is strong, but not constant and includes "f--k," "bulls--t," and "Goddamn."

What's the story?

THE BOURNE IDENTITY is the first in a trilogy of movies that made Matt Damon an unlikely action star. Based on a book by Robert Ludlum, the movie is a tightly knit wonder of intense, heart-pounding action and mystery, with the perfect amount of romance tucked in for good measure. After fishermen pull a body out of the ocean and remove two bullets and a strange device containing a Swiss bank account number from his body, the man (Matt Damon) awakens in a state of amnesia. After a visit to the bank uncovers a cache of money, fake passports, and a gun, the man struggles to recall his past. When confronted by law enforcement, he finds he has incredible combat skills (not to mention wall-scaling abilities). As he attempts to put the clues of his past life together, he pays a young woman named Marie (Franka Potente) to drive him to Paris and they both become embroiled in the mystery of his true identity, which has links to the CIA, an African politician, and a handful of European assasins who seem to be out to kill him.

Is it any good?


What makes The Bourne Identity so good is Damon's ability to merge the physical with the emotional; he's strong, skilled, and smart, but he's also generous, honest, and tender. The scene when he dyes and cuts Marie's hair is incredibly intimate, made even more potent by the near silence of the scene. In fact, for an action movie, Bourne is remarkably quiet. Neither lead character talks much, but both command the screen nonetheless. Potente (of Run, Lola Run) is an edgy choice of a love interest because she's sexy in an offbeat way, not a typical American movie star type -- which gives the movie a refreshing touch of realism.

Aside from the characters, the fighting scenes, which incorporate a martial art called Krav Maga, among others, are especially watchable. Augmented by the miracles of filmmaking, Damon moves so fast while beating a foe to a pulp that one almost expects him to break into a slow-mo Matrix moment (but thankfully, he doesn't). Teens will want to gorge themselves on the fighting scenes, so even though the violence is tamer than many R-rated action movies, some reality checks and moderation are, of course, in order.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the violence in the movie. What was unique about the fighting style in this movie? Did it seem more or less violent than what you've seen in other films? Do you think Matt Damon's movements were exaggerated by special effects? How did seeing people killed affect you? How would those feelings be different if you witnessed these things in real life?

  • Talk about the government's role in political violence. How is it portrayed in the film, and do you think it's realistic? Do you think there really are agents like Bourne out in the world?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 14, 2002
DVD/Streaming release date:January 21, 2003
Cast:Chris Cooper, Franka Potente, Matt Damon
Director:Doug Liman
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence and some language

This review of The Bourne Identity was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old July 29, 2010

A Great Movie for Tweens and Up

A lot of intense action and violence some language- H***, C***** sake!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bySpielberg00 June 11, 2011

Incredibly violent, but great.

My rating: PG-13 for intense violence/action sequences and language.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byFunkboy565 January 24, 2010

Fantastic but proceed with caution

I have seen all of the bourne movies and i think they are amazing ( violent) (very tense) bourne is a person who really does not remember the person who he once was. He does not go after people they come after him (the scariest thing about this movie is the flash backs of what he has previously done this is most true in the bourne ultimatum) i would suggest that someone older than 13 watch this first to skip the more graphic parts
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models