Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

The Dark Tower

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Dark Tower Movie Poster Image
Awful, violent, revenge-filled Stephen King adaptation.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's focus is on revenge and violence without consequences. The main theme seems to be "I told you so," given that adults aren't inclined to believe a child's warnings.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The gunslinger is nominally the "good guy," and he helps the boy, but he's focused mainly on revenge and on killing without consequence. Jake doesn't really seem to learn much throughout the course of the story.

Violence

Heavy fantasy violence. Guns and shooting. Killing. A boy learns to shoot. Some blood. Children in pain/peril. Fighting, hitting with heavy objects. Knives/stabbing. A chunk of glass goes through a character's hand, with blood. Explosions/earthquakes. Scary drawings, some scary images. Boys fight at school.

Sex

Brief flirting (character comments on a woman's "pretty face").

Language

Uses of "s--t," "hell," "Christ."

Consumerism

Characters drink a Coca-Cola but keep the label covered; brand isn't mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character takes a fistful of painkillers. A boy refers to them as "the good stuff."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dark Tower is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure based on a series of epic novels by Stephen King. The main issue is the movie's strong, frequent violence. Expect to see guns and shooting, killing, knives and stabbing, some blood/bloody wounds (including glass going through someone's hand), explosions, and scary images. Boys fight at school, a boy learns to shoot a gun, and there are children in peril/pain. Language is sparse but includes uses of "s--t" and "hell." An adult takes a fistful of pain pills, and a boy comments that they're "the good stuff." While the content isn't inappropriate for younger teens, for teens and up, it's a big disappointment creatively. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 year old Written byChris A. August 5, 2017

As a fan I was disappointed, but my daughter loved it

I'm a long time fan of The Dark Tower, and as such, this movie was fairly disappointing. They took what should have been a hard R rated series of movies or... Continue reading
Adult Written byJean P. August 5, 2017
Kid, 11 years old August 6, 2017

Better than expected

I honestly really really liked this movie. It deserves better reviews than it got. I mean, 18% on Rotten Tomatoes and one out of five stars on Common Sense Medi... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byermills2001 August 12, 2017

I don't understand why it has such low ratings.

Honestly I felt this was a great movie. My mom had dragged me to this movie because it had Matthew McConaughey in it, and she said and I quote "I'd go... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE DARK TOWER, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has vivid dreams about a man in black using kids to try to destroy the world -- and a gunslinger attempting to stop him. Following a clue, Jake discovers a secret portal and learns that these things are real. He meets the gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), and together they set out for the place that Jake saw in his dreams. He learns of the Dark Tower, which protects the universe from monsters, and how the man in black, aka Walter (Matthew McConaughey), hopes to destroy it and bring about Armageddon. Jake also learns that he has "the shine," a great power that Walter hopes to harness. Roland wants revenge against Walter, while Jake hopes to save the universe. Unfortunately, Roland is wounded by a monster attack, and Jake is captured. Will Walter's evil plan succeed, or can Jake's willpower and Roland's guns save the day?

Is it any good?

Based on Stephen King's novels, this sludgy science fiction/fantasy dud reduces King's epic vision to a series of mindless clichés, surrounded by lazy dialogue and half-baked visual effects. Noisy, junky, and without any kind of mood or rhythm, The Dark Tower connects somewhat to King's Shining universe, but this is as far from Kubrick as a movie can get; it's closer to sci-fi/Western disaster Jonah Hex. Akiva Goldsman is one of the credited screenwriters, and his usual penchant for over-explaining everything is here. But he and his fellow writers still can't make sense of the truncated plot or find reasons for any of this stuff.

Director Nikolaj Arcel tries to cover up his shaky footage, sloppy editing, and cheap-looking monsters with plenty of darkness, but the ruse is all too obvious. Oscar-winner McConaughey is flat-out awful as the man in black, coming across more as smarmy and annoying than menacing or threatening. On the other hand, as Roland the gunslinger, Elba is the only cool thing in the movie. So it's a crying shame that he couldn't have been involved in something more imaginative (or even something totally different, like a new James Bond movie).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Dark Tower's violence. Does it feel real? Is it thrilling or gruesome? How does the movie achieve this effect? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?

  • Does the gunslinger's preoccupation with revenge make him less of a good guy? Why or why not? Do you consider any of the characters to be role models?

  • If you've read the books the film is based on, how does the movie compare? Which do you usually prefer: the book or the movie?

  • Teens: Have you ever felt like your parents don't listen to you? What have you done about it?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love epic movies

Our editors recommend

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

See how we rate

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate