The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • Review Date: December 20, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 158 minutes

Common Sense Media says

English-language remake includes extreme violence and sex.
  • Review Date: December 20, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 158 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite the fact that both of the main characters are outcasts -- and despite the general abhorrent nature of the story's subject matter and Lisbeth's somewhat destructive behavior -- they do work together to solve problems. There's also a theme of victims finding empowerment against those who've hurt and wronged them.

Positive role models

Lisbeth is amazingly smart and resourceful -- and there's no question that she's empowered to take care of herself -- but she's also a social outcast and resorts to questionable (and illegal) behavior when it suits her. Mikael has more social skills but is also an outcast (having been accused of libel) and is having a relationship with a married woman. Lisbeth and Mikael work together well, but neither could really be called a positive role model. Women are frequently victimized.


Heavy, brutal violence, some of it in the form of very graphic torture and rape (including anal and oral sex). Very disturbing police photos of graphic crime scenes. Viewers see a dead, mutilated cat. Also fighting, blood, guns and shooting, car crashes, and explosions.


Lisbeth is seen completely naked and participating in a fairly graphic consensual sex scene. She also seduces a woman in a club (kissing and touching), and they wake up in bed together. Mikael is said to have had an affair with a married woman, and viewers see them heading for the bedroom in one scene.


Language isn't constant but includes several uses of "f--k," including three on a T-shirt that Lisbeth wears. Also "s--t," "a--hole," "crap," and "hell."


Lisbeth is seen with McDonald's Happy Meals more than once and drinking Coca-Cola more than once. She also shops at 7-11 and drinks Nescafe. Viewers see the Google logo/search engine more than once, as well as an Apple computer. Mikael orders Marlboro cigarettes.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Both main characters smoke cigarettes. Mikael seems to drink quite often, and Lisbeth a little less, but almost always in social situations, and hardly ever to excess.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the English-language remake of the Swedish hit from 2009, which like this film, was also based on the best-selling Stieg Larsson novel. Like the previous versions of the story, it has very strong violence, including horrifying rape scenes, torture, and highly disturbing crime scene photos. There's also a mangled dead cat, guns and shooting, blood, and fighting. Sexual content is also strong, including full-frontal female nudity, seduction, and sex scenes. Language isn't constant but is strong ("f--k" and more). Both main characters smoke cigarettes, and the male lead drinks regularly (in a social context). This is a high-profile movie from well-regarded director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network, etc.), but it's not age-appropriate for any but the most mature viewers.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

After losing a libel suit, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is invited to meet retired tycoon Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Under the guise of writing a memoir, Vanger hires Mikael to find out what happened to his niece, who mysteriously disappeared many decades earlier. Meanwhile, a troubled, asocial young computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who supplied information on Mikael for the libel case, has been dealing with problems of her own. Mikael discovers her identity and tracks her down, and the two take a liking to each other. They form an unlikely team in the search for the missing girl -- but little do they know that their search will uncover a series of murders leading back 40 years.

Is it any good?


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is little more than good pulp that's wrapped up in history, the Holocaust, and Nazism to give it depth and presented in a 158-minute package to give it weight. Fortunately, director David Fincher is highly skilled at this kind of thing, having turned in the similar films Seven (1995) and Zodiac (2007). His chilly, precise filmmaking knows how to tease while still looking head-on into a dark, bloody abyss.

Fincher takes time to build the mystery slowly, showing the numbing amounts of research as well as details like freezing-cold cabins and bad vending machine coffee. Every bit of excitement here is mirrored by something either mundane or rotten. (This isn't a glamorous mystery.) For the English-language remake -- which uses all the same character names and locations as the original -- superb casting choices were made all the way down the line, with Craig and Mara superbly commanding the screen.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's extreme violence. How much of it is actually necessary to tell this type of story? Would the film have as much impact without it?

  • How does the movie portray sex? Are the consequences for the characters' decisions regarding sex realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values relating to sex and relationships.

  • Are these characters compelling, despite their questionable behavior? If so, why? Are they heroes? Are they role models?

  • How does the English-language version differ from the Swedish version? Did this version need to be made?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 20, 2011
DVD release date:March 20, 2012
Cast:Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
Director:David Fincher
Studios:Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures
Run time:158 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language

This review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byHelsinkii December 27, 2011

An alternative view

The previous reviews for this film seem mildly misguided. While the accounts of many of the scenes are accurate, they remain ignorant to the importance of such graphic detail within the overall theme of the film. Sexual violence toward women is one of the most damaging and prevalent crimes committed today. The theme of the film is obviously against this and raises awareness of the misery the victims are subjected to, as well as many social problems dominant today that only guide such actions further. While the film is graphic, I would hardly deem that as grounds for ignoring such a positive message. As a mother, I would emphatically support my daughter watching a film like this in which she learns that our society not only ignores, but supports the role of a female as a lesser being. Moreover, it should be noted that although Lisbeth Salander is a social outcast, she is strong, intelligent, and resilient, despite the various situations she is subjected to throughout the film.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 15 and 15 year old Written byscunnered December 23, 2011

Dont See This Movie-please read

This was the most heinous, inappropriate movie I have ever seen. It did NOT deserve an R rating but an X. I have complained to the FTC. Do NOT take any child or teen to see this movie. My sons said they wished they would have walked out. It was grusome and there are rapes, rated x sex scenes, multiple photos of mutilated women, incest discussions in detail and torture - over and over again for shock value. Not to mention it is really, really long.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written byshe-who-knows-all December 22, 2011

Most definitely NOT for children

I read the book, and I loved it, but it is most definitely NOT for kids. I was thirteen when I read it first and got quite a few odd looks. I was fine, granted I was an extremely mature thirteen year-old. For adults- go for it. For kids- h*ll no.


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