The Darkest Minds

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Darkest Minds Movie Poster Image
Skilled actors can't save derivative, violent YA thriller.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 71 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Teamwork, perseverance, protecting those you love. Encourages challenging authority and questioning the rules set before you if they seem unfair or suspicious. Asserts the need to take risks when necessary and to defend others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu are all brave, selfless survivors who would put themselves in danger if it meant saving their friends. They love one another and build a family from a group of orphans. Ruby and Liam in particular put others' needs above their own.


High body count, although deaths are mostly off camera or shown from afar. Kids rounded up, imprisoned in labor and research camps. Anyone who's an "orange" or "red" is scheduled for "termination"/execution. Teens control others' minds and make them injure/kill themselves. Kids also use abilities in self-defense. A bounty hunter pistol-whips a teen, binds and gags two kids, uses a white-noise frequency to debilitate her target. A man tries to force himself on a 16-year-old girl; when she fights him off, he says he'll "erase" the memory and try again. Fights break out between teens using their powers; the rarest/most dangerous teens (who can breathe fire) are let loose, setting fire to places and people. An adult officer is cruel to teens and takes a creepy, violent interest in two young women, both of whom he screams at, pushes, pulls by the hair and hits. An upsetting episode involves a girl erasing her memory from people's minds -- once by accident and once on purpose.


Two teens flirt but can't touch each other due to the girl's powers. They eventually share a climactic kiss. The same girl and another guy get close and can look into each other's minds, which leads the guy to inappropriately believe she belongs to him.


Several uses of "s--t," "bulls--t," "holy s--t," "a--hole," "hell," and "damn," plus "Jesus" and "oh my God" as exclamations.


A Nissan van is prominently featured, as is a Dodge and later a MacBook laptop.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Darkest Minds is an action thriller based on the first book in author Alexandra Bracken's best-selling young adult series about a world in which most children and teens have died from a fatal virus. Rare survivors have emerged with mysterious superpowers, including enhanced intelligence, telekinesis, mind control, and fire-starting. Starring Amandla Stenberg, the movie is fairly violent, with a high body count that includes many children and teens, as well as some adults (who in some cases are compelled via mind control to injure/kill themselves). There's also a scene in which a girl erases herself from her parents' memories and another in which a 20-something man tries to sexually assault a 16-year-old girl. There's some romance, but because of a power that works skin-to-skin, the romance mostly consists of longing looks, one slow dance, and an eventual big kiss. Fans of the book will want to check out the movie, even if there are some major differences, as always, between the text and the screen versions.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCvking24 October 6, 2018


This movie is disappointing. The plot is that of Hunger Games mixed with XMen. The worse part however is that a dark complexed African American girl was casted... Continue reading
Parent Written byAllison S. August 13, 2018

11 and 13 year old loved it. Adults too.

Not sure what the 2 star rating is about, but we thought this was wonderful. Action, strong messages, engaged youth that support each other. The violence wasn’t... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bygamergrl13 August 4, 2018

I Loved It! *SPOILERS*

I don't understand the bad reviews, it was a really good movie. Sad ending too with a cliffhanger, Ruby and Liam were so cute together and she erased herse... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCat of Calamity March 9, 2021


This is going to be a really short review because if I wrote everything bad about this movie, than you would be reading a book. The movie didn’t have to same pl... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE DARKEST MINDS is based on the first book in Alexandra Bracken's best-selling dystopian series. The movie starts with a young Ruby Daly (Lidya Jewett) realizing that kids and teens are dying from a child-afflicting supervirus. She survives, but something is different. On the night of her 10th birthday, she touches her parents while they sleep, and by morning, her mom doesn't recognize her and calls the authorities, who take her away. Six years later, Ruby (now played by Amandla Stenberg) is in a prison camp for young survivors, all of whom have superpowers categorized by color: Greens are the least threatening and have enhanced intelligence, blues are telekinetic, and golds can control electricity. And then there are the two dangerous colors: oranges, who can control and enter peoples' minds, and reds, who are pyrokinetic and breathe fire. Ruby is an orange who uses her power to pose as a green. After a prison doctor/resistance fighter (Mandy Moore) helps Ruby escape, she teams up with a van full of two teens and one child -- "blue" Liam (Harris Dickinson), "green" Charles aka Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and "gold" Zu (Miya Cech). Together, the quartet avoids trackers and bounty hunters and searches for East River, a supposed secret haven for kids that's run by the elusive "Slip Kid."

Is it any good?

Despite starring a YA-film veteran (Stenberg) and coming from page-turning source material, this adaptation suffers from a lackluster script and derivative dystopian themes. On paper, the 2012 story was impossible to put down, but on screen, the movie is predictable and unevenly paced. Worse, Chad Hodge's script is clunky and results in unintentional laughter. Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson did a wonderful job with the two Kung Fu Panda movies she helmed, but here there's so much left to be desired; from the dialogue to the editing to the various plot holes that aren't remotely answered, there's not much to support this film being worth the price of admission (much less warranting the sequels to complete Ruby's story).

Stenberg is a talented actress, and she's more than up to carrying a movie. Unfortunately, Ruby's character in this fim is reduced to "chosen one" stereotypes, and the romance, which is so heartfelt in the book, is cute but also a little too inevitable. Dickinson's Liam is handsome and earnest enough, but the movie's love story doesn't offer viewers the high-stakes build-up of Tris and Four in Divergent or Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games. There's a minor (and short-lived) love triangle, but most viewers will see right through the other character's intentions. Hollywood should perhaps leave the big-concept YA sci-fi/dystopian/fantasy series to television and concentrate on realistic contemporary and period movies that are harder to get wrong. Bracken's books are quite entertaining, but this adaptation is far from compelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Darkest Minds and the popularity of post-apocalyptic/post-crisis stories. What's appealing about them? What are some other books and movies that feature a similarly bleak future?

  • How does Ruby compare to other female protagonists in young adult books and movies? What are her views on love, marriage, and kids, and how are they tied to the unimaginably dire circumstances she endures?

  • Fans of the book: How does the movie compare to the book? What are the main differences? Is it different to see violence rather than to read about it? 

  • How do the characters demonstrate courage, self-control, teamwork, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dystopian teen adventures

Themes & Topics

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