The Hurt Locker

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
The Hurt Locker Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Violent, complex Iraq war drama is rough, tough, thrilling.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 131 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 34 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie isn't afraid to tackle tough questions without easy answers. If war is, in fact, hell, then why is it so exciting? If the United States' liberation of Iraq was so welcome, why do insurgents fill the streets with explosive devices? Why do the men of the Army's Explosive Ordinance Demolitions group choose to do this work? Are there abstract -- or real -- political goals worth giving one's life for?

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie offers a complex portrait of the high-stakes work of volunteer Army and soldiers in Iraq -- and the characters consequently have many shades of gray. Are the men who do this work lunatics or heroes? Is there any "safe" way to defuse bombs in a war zone? Is the reckless work of Sgt. James the bravery of a champion or the recklessness of a fool?


Extensive realistic war violence, including (but not limited to) explosions, shootings, fighting, and more. Characters are killed on-screen by bombs and wounded by bullets, dead bodies are seen (including one of a young boy that's intended to contain a bomb -- like a grisly Trojan Horse), and there's lots of blood.


Some crude jokes and references to sexual activity; mild cleavage.


Strong language throughout, including "f--k" (and its variations), "s--t," "dick," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "oh God," and more -- it's a realistic interpretation of the the vulgar, salty talk of soldiers in a combat zone.


Scenes set in grocery stores include some visible brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke and also drink to excess in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this war drama/thriller is full of very realistic, graphic violence and danger -- shootings, death by explosion, images of dead bodies -- the consequences of these acts are never taken lightly, and they're never depicted as mere "action." Ultimately, it's an intellectually and philosophically stimulating movie that offers parents and older teens the chance to talk about everything from current events to the overall human condition. That said, you can also expect lots of strong language (including many uses of "f--k"), some smoking and drinking, and some crude jokes/sex references.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySam M. November 19, 2017

Engaging Wartime Charcter Study

Violent scenes are mostly not bloody but are extremely tense and explosive. Aftermaths of violence/ bombings sometimes leave bloody but not gratuitous results.... Continue reading
Adult Written byharris231 September 10, 2012
Teen, 13 years old Written byLachie13 April 12, 2020


This movie is packed with violence but there is a few gory scenes
It has got a lot of bombs. The language is the usual R rated movie language.
Teen, 15 years old Written byJoker912 November 18, 2017


Violent, complex and emotional, this Iraq war movie is intense, well-made, and brilliant. Lots of violence and swearing, but another Kathryn Bigelow masterpiece...

What's the story?

Set in 2004, THE HURT LOCKER follows the day-to-day work of the soldiers in an Army Explosives Ordinance Demolition (EOD) team -- aka the bomb squad -- as they find and defuse the improvised explosive devices that are the Iraq insurgency's most effective weapon. As new team leader Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner) works alongside Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), audiences get an insight into the minds and hearts of these soldiers -- and how, for some of them, life in the Army dealing with explosives feels easier to handle than life in the civilian world dealing with everything else.

Is it any good?

Combining intellectual and philosophical ambition with gut-wrenching, visceral action, The Hurt Locker is unquestionably one of the best films of 2009. It's also a great movie, period, full of excitement, action, graveyard comedy, and brilliant filmmaking technique.

Director Kathyn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days) co-scripted The Hurt Locker with journalist Mark Boal, who was embedded with Army EOD soldiers in 2004; the realism of the script and staging doesn't impede the movie's excitement and dramatic satisfaction but rather makes it all the more rewarding. The characters are real and their situation is real -- and that matter-of-fact approach to the material makes it even more excruciating as James and his men try to figure out how to dismantle bombs in circumstances where failure means death for dozens of people. Yes, The Hurt Locker is violent and tense and bloody, but so is war. Gripping, exciting, and matching brains with brawn, The Hurt Locker's shattering explosions and quieter questions will both echo in your head long after it's done.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does what's shown here compare to the explosions and shoot-'em-up scenes of more mainstream Hollywood blockbusters? Which has more impact?

  • How does the movie portray the United States' invasion of Iraq? Is it different from the way it's been presented in other movies and TV shows? How so?

  • Is Sgt. James a hero or a fool? Does he take unnecessary risks or necessary ones? Does his attachment to a local Iraqi boy improve either of their lives?

Movie details

For kids who love action

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