The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Graphic sexual violence in thrilling, subtitled crime drama.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 152 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Despite the intense violence perpetrated by people in power, the movie's overall message is that victims of outrageous crimes and abuse can find dignity and self-respect by developing their skills and reaching inward for courage and strength.

Positive Role Models & Representations

An offbeat heroine demonstrates that appearances can be deceiving: She's pierced, tattooed, anti-social, and she smokes constantly, but Lisbeth also proves to be highly intelligent, creative, and skillful. She's willing to risk her life for her beliefs, as well as for the safety of those about whom she cares deeply. On the other hand, women are seen as victims as well as heroes.


Several sequences graphically depict sexual assault, forced oral sex, torture, beatings, and bloody attacks. Numerous gruesome photographs of mutilated female bodies appear throughout. Characters are strangled, hung, whipped with electrical cords, drowned, and burned.


Consensual sex and explicit sexual activity with partial nudity, both male and female (breasts). Graphic sexual dialogue.


English subtitles in translation from the Swedish include multiple use of  "f--k," "motherf--ker," "bitch," "s--t," "goddamn," "whore," "c--t," "blow job," "damn," and more.


Apple computers, Google, Castrol, KIA.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The lead character, a young woman, smokes cigarettes non-stop. There's also some moderate social drinking in a number of scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) is a subtitled Swedish film that's definitely not for kids. With graphic sexual violence, gruesome murders, torture, and pervasive coarse and sexual language, even adults might be disturbed by what they see. Expect multiple images of mutilated dead young women and numerous instances of  female nudity (including breasts), as well as partial male nudity in graphic tortuous poses. The female heroine smokes continuously. Still,k despite the intense content, the movie's message of good triumphing over evil ultimately provides some relief.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 and 18+-year-old Written byWayne G. December 15, 2013

Too Much For Anyone To Handle

DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN WATCH THIS MOVIE. I cannot stress how inappropriate the whole thing is. I mistakenly let my child, a James Bond fan watch this with n... Continue reading
Adult Written byFilmFanatic October 21, 2013

Fabulous movie, but some hard to watch scenes. Good discussion topics for older teens.

The only real shocker in this film is the on screen rape and forced oral sex on the main character, and the idea of numerous women being raped, tortured and kil... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written by_____________ September 30, 2015
Teen, 17 years old Written bydainkonon August 10, 2015

Pretty good

Really good movie from the best selling book, but so many things are skiped.

What's the story?

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is based on the first book in the wildy popular trilogy by journalist Stieg Larsson, published after his death. Following his conviction for libel and waiting to serve his prison term, investigative journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hired to find the truth behind the 40-year-old disappearance of a wealthy young woman who has long been presumed murdered. He teams up with Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a heavily pierced, spike-haired, and tattoed young woman with a mysterious past. Lisbeth is a misfit with a brilliant mind and masterful computer skills. She's also the current victim of a corrupt, perverted government official. In great danger themselves, Mikael and Lisbeth unearth the decades-old family tragedy and seek justice for an untold number of young women who died at the hands of racist, degenerate criminals. Those who get caught up in the story will want to continue with the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, though it's equally graphic.

Is it any good?

There's never been a character quite like Lisbeth Salander. She's intriguing, infuriating, unknowable, and ultimately sympathetic. Swedish director Niels Arden Opvel and Rapace have succeeded in bringing this unconventional young woman to life in a well-made, highly charged, and often gruesome spectacle.

Even some adults may have trouble watching the many disturbing scenes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which include explicit sexual assault, torture, and mayhem. And, contrary to convention, the villains are pleasant-looking, benign gentlemen of the upper classes, while the central romantic heroine is the most punked of the punk.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why filmmakers felt it necessary to be so explicit in their depictions of the crimes against Lisbeth Salander? Did it heighten your appreciation and respect for the character?

  • Sometimes there's a fine line between a horror film and a thriller. Did The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) cross that line? If it was enjoyable for you, what emotions did it evoke?

  • Lisbeth Salander is a unique character. What is an anti-hero?  What other unlikely heroes or heroines do you remember from films you've seen?

Movie details

  • In theaters: February 27, 2009
  • On DVD or streaming: July 6, 2010
  • Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
  • Director: Niels Arden Oplev
  • Studio: Yellow Bird
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Run time: 152 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity and language
  • Last updated: February 20, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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