The Circle

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Circle Movie Poster Image
Tech thriller tackles privacy issues but rings false.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 23 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Raises important, relevant questions about privacy and accountability. Should privacy be guaranteed at any cost? What about privacy for public officials who use it to make shady deals? A character's Muscular Dystrophy is dealt with in a realistic way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's hard to get behind any of these characters. None of them act rationally. Some are portrayed as heroes, even when they're just as messed up as the villains.


A car crashes into a guard rail and goes over a bridge. A character talks about getting death threats. A character goes kayaking at night, in the fog, and gets into trouble; she's in peril, and her life is briefly at risk. People with cell phones harass other people. Chandeliers are made from deer antlers, which upset some people (the maker insists that he doesn't kill deer).


Brief sex act shown between main character's mother and father, with the woman straddling the man in bed. But no nudity. Printed texts onscreen comment on what was seen.


One use of "f--k," several uses of "s--t," plus "ass" and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).


Many phones and tablets shown, but all with the fake "Circle" brand name; no real branding.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes of social drinking -- wine, beer, hard alcohol. References to taking pills to stay awake.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Circle (based on Dave Eggers' 2013 novel) is a thriller about a huge tech company. Starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, it tackles timely issues related to privacy and accountability. There's a car crash and an offscreen death, as well as threats and characters in peril. One non-graphic sex act is shown between the main character's parents; the woman straddles the man in bed. Language is fairly strong, with a use of "f--k" and several uses of "s--t." Several scenes show social drinking, and one character mentions using pills to help stay awake. Despite its relevant themes, the movie really falls flat.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 11-year-old Written byA P. January 31, 2018

So so movie has vital messages for teens

While the movie is just so-so (the book is better), I think watching this alongside a teenager would be such a helpful teaching tool. Kids are entering this w... Continue reading
Parent of a 8-year-old Written byCharlene S. January 1, 2018

Good cautionary tale

I enjoyed the message of the story/movie. A great conversation extension about the uses in advances of technology. Modern conveniences and accessibility vs. the... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 30, 2017


I LOVED THIS MOVIE! Emma Watson did an extraordinary job as Mae Holland, a young woman who gets a job at the circle. The circle is basically a bunch of sites li... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byIrateMoviesCWN April 15, 2021

Good movie but why end so soon??

This would have been SUCH a GREAT movie! Except that it ends with no epic adventure done or amazing action scenes happen. It just makes the movie fall flat. I m... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE CIRCLE, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is working a dull temp job, so she eagerly accepts when her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her an interview at huge internet company The Circle. At first, Mae finds her new job enjoyable, but peer pressure mounts -- it's clear that she's expected to be more present on the company's social network. After a kayaking accident, Mae realizes that it's not safe to keep secrets, so she agrees to be totally transparent, wearing a camera and broadcasting every aspect of her life online. She becomes very popular and advances through the company. But a friendship with one of the company's founders, Ty (John Boyega), leads to the realization that the company's kindly, charming chief officers (Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt) aren't what they seem.

Is it any good?

This information-age thriller tries to tackle relevant topics like privacy and accountability, but its presentation is so opaque and plasticky that it might have come from a computer on Prozac. The Circle starts promisingly enough, like a more updated Antitrust (2001), with appealing characters and an exciting setting. Then Mae takes such a puzzling left turn. Not only is it difficult to identify with her, but when she verbally argues her decision, it sounds wooden and hollow. In fact, all of the characters trying to (ironically) speak up in favor of a total lack of privacy sound fake. (Is that the point of the movie? If so, it's not clear.)

It's all so horribly disappointing, given the skill that writer/director James Ponsoldt has shown on his three previous, excellent features (Smashed, The Spectacular Now, and The End of the Tour), all of which dealt with deeply, movingly human flaws. Now whatever human touch he might have brought to the material is gone, and he seems to have no handle on how to make a paranoid thriller with inhuman stakes. It's baffling, considering that Dave Eggers co-wrote the screenplay based on his own book, and the cast -- including the late Bill Paxton and a musical appearance by Beck -- is above reproach. Wherever The Circle went wrong is, for now, a mystery.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Circle's violence. How do devices become threats in the film? Is that something that happens in real life?

  • What is the movie saying about privacy? Is there any compelling reason to sacrifice privacy? What about when kids are involved?

  • Would you want a job at a company like The Circle? Why or why not? Do you think it's modeled on any real-life businesses? Why or why not?

  • Would you want your life broadcast online? Why do you think someone might choose to do that?

  • Annie seems to be taking pills to stay awake at work. Are there consequences for her choice? Why does that matter?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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