A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Film explores how the choices and decisions we make in life impact not only our lives, but the lives of those around us. The movie seems to suggest in some ways that the decency, kindness, and moral compass of individuals is determined primarily by external factors and circumstances rather than choices made from within. Explores extremely dark subject matter such as incest, child molestation, prison rape, suicide, animal cruelty, bullying, and mental illness.
Positive Role Models
Instead of trying to work through and overcome horrific childhood trauma, characters are forever scarred by them; the removal of these traumas results in these characters being -- if not always kinder and more decent -- at least seemingly more well-adjusted.
Violence & Scariness
Graphic violence, violent situations, disturbing scenes. (Warning: Some spoilers.) A powerful firecracker placed in a mailbox by tweens as a prank results, in one reality, in the death of a mother and baby; in another instance, in the lead character losing his hands, forearms. Suicide, attempted suicide. A dog is tied up in a sack, covered with lighter fluid, set on fire, and killed by a sadistic tween. A young man is beaten to death with a baseball bat. Child molestation strongly implied -- not shown, but aftermath discussed by victims years later. Prison rape implied. Lead character, serving time in prison, is on the verge of performing oral sex on two inmates before he stabs them. A young man is beaten. A lead character is shown as a tween killing another lead character with a large piece of scrap metal. A father with mental illness attacks his son in the mental hospital, choking him. Bullying -- frat boys pick on a goth punk in a bar; the goth punk retaliates by shooting a cue ball from the pool table at them, then breaking off the stick of his pool cue and threatening them. Fraternity pledges shown getting hazed. A teacher shows a mother a drawing her young son made of the boy killing his father with a knife; he is shortly after shown in the kitchen holding a large knife. A diner waitress is sexually harassed by a customer, who grabs her rear end.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Female and male nudity, full frontal. Talk of sex, and various sex acts. College student often walks in on his roommate having sex with his girlfriend. Post-coital sex talk. Tweens shown looking at pornographic magazines. Lead character brings a girl back to his dorm room; they start to engage in foreplay but stop when lead character's issues with blacking out occur once again.
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Constant profanity used by adults, tweens, and teens. "F--k," "s--t," "ass," "puss out." "F--got" used by tween. In a scene with white supremacists in a prison cell, lead character uses the racial slurs "s--ck," the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In one of the alternate realities explored by the lead character, the female lead is a drug addict and prostitute. Lead character's roommate shown smoking out of a giant bong. Tweens and adults smoke cigarettes. Woman shown dying in a hospital due to smoking. A pedophile father drinks whiskey while attempting to film his daughter and her friend in a state of undress. College drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Butterfly Effect is a 2004 sci-fi thriller in which Ashton Kutcher plays a college student who can relive the past and attempt to change it for the better. The movie doesn't shy away from traumatic events and dark subject matter. There are scenes involving child molestation, prison rape, animal cruelty (a dog tied up inside a sack and set on fire and killed), accidental murder, suicide, drug addiction, mental illness, and prostitution. One the characters is beaten to death with a baseball bat. In another scene, one tween kills another tween by stabbing him with a large piece of scrap metal. While serving time in prison, the lead character, on the verge of performing oral sex on two inmates, stabs them both in the groin. It has male and female nudity, talk of sex, and sex acts; a college student tends to walk into his dorm room while his roommate is having sex with his girlfriend. Adults, tweens, and children frequently curse, including "f--k." Homophobic and racial slurs are used. This fearlessness in terms of not shying away from subject matter that is difficult and troubling sometimes overshadows the deeper points the movie is trying to make about "the butterfly effect," "chaos theory," and how events and decisions large and small can play huge roles in determining the kind of people individuals turn out to be. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is pretentious. The title comes from the idea, here attributed to "chaos theory," that the flap of a butterfly's wing can produce a typhoon half a world away. It's an irresistibly intriguing notion -- all of us have thought about what would happen if we could go back in time and make a different choice. But this movie's plot lacks imagination, insight, and even believability.
Evan's time travels include an assortment of every possible form of hideous crime and abuse, including animal torture, child molestation, the death of an infant, prison rape, and drug addiction, all unforgivably thrown in for shock value and none with any shred of dramatic legitimacy. And wherever he is, psychology teacher's pet, half-hearted participant in fraternity hazing, confined to prison, or confined to a wheelchair, Kutcher's acting is not up to the challenge of making even a nosebleed believable.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.