The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
English-language remake includes extreme violence and sex.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 158 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 39 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 30 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWiebeFilm March 23, 2021

A Mature Film dealing with difficult topics, that isn't for everyone

This is a film that I believe to be a masterpiece, but I know will not be for everyone. It's a film that earns a Hard-R rating, about two messed up people... Continue reading
Adult Written byRad Mom January 23, 2021

Depraved, AND good...

I’ve never written a review until tonight after watching this movie. While we were watching, my 18-year old son came home and asked what we were watching, and I... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bywawity July 30, 2014
As most of David Fincher's movies, this remake to the 2009 Swedish film is very dark and disturbing.
The movie's main focus is constant violence towar... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byOerwcnuh September 23, 2019

What's the story?

In THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is invited to meet retired tycoon Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) after losing a libel suit. 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?

This 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 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-- 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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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