The Judge

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Judge Movie Poster Image
Mature legal drama is superbly acted but a bit predictable.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 141 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Forgiveness and redemption arrive when you least expect them -- you just have to be open to them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Of the three Palmer brothers, Dale is the sweetest and the one who truly acts without agenda. Hank is angry at his father but finds a way to tap into a well of empathy he didn't know existed.


The story centers on a murder trial; a man is found dead by the side of the road, presumably hit by a car. A man backs an SUV into a garage, denting it. Lots of screaming fights, including a really mean one between a couple about to divorce. A fist fight nearly erupts at a bar after a group of men makes fun of a mentally disabled man. A criminal says something venomous to an officer of the court.


A guy makes out with a much younger girl at a bar, kissing her and groping her backside (they might be related). In another scene, old lovers make out and kiss passionately. A woman talks about pleasuring herself. Additional sexual references.


Frequent swearing, including "f--k," "hell," "piss," "ass," "a--hole," "s--t," "d--k," "bullsh-t," and more.


Some labels/products seen or mentioned, including Ford, Facebook, Kool-Aid, Cadillac, and GoreTex.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A fair bit of drinking. Adult brothers get buzzed at a bar. Additional social drinking. An alcoholic takes a swig of hard liquor after a long dry spell.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Judge -- which stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall -- is an engrossing drama/legal thriller that covers some fairly mature, emotionally taxing terrain, including family estrangement, murder, power struggles, divorce, the death of a parent, and the emotions of the mourning process. But it also has themes of forgiveness and redemption. Characters swear frequently (including "a--hole," "s--t," and "f--k") and drink a fair bit, sometimes going overboard. Parents argue in front of and with their grown children, and a plot line about a murder includes shots of a mangled car and discussions of how a crime might have taken place. There's also some kissing/groping and a scene in which a woman talks about pleasuring herself.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byDan G. October 10, 2014

Incest and other irresponsible sexual activity ruin this movie.

R-rated movie not for children (duh!) Besides the incest, the sexual theme of the movie is "Do whatever you want sexually, casual sexual (reproductive) be... Continue reading
Adult Written byJoe's Reviews November 4, 2014

Great film

The Judge was a great film with a predictable ending that had a bit of a twist to it. It roughly contains 30 uses of f--k and about 11 uses of G-d-mn. Some sexu... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTheDoctorDonna October 11, 2014

Very Good Plot and Acting--plus what you need to know

Because of the lack of reviews at the moment, I will put in as much as possible.

I won't focus on the plot very much at all, but to say the least I thoug... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBreaden Hoffmaster April 14, 2017

“If you ask Grandpa Palmer to read you a story...he might throw the book at you.”- Hank Palmer/RDJ

Overall, ‘The Judge’ was a very well acted, and engaging movie. It paired up 2 of America’s greatest actors, and they did a heck of a job portraying a father an... Continue reading

What's the story?

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) -- a highly successful but sometimes entirely too slick defense attorney -- would never dream of going back to his hometown of Carlinville, Indiana. But filial duty calls after his beloved mother passes away, calling for a face-to-face between Hank and his older brother, Glenn (Vincent D'Onofrio), a gifted athlete who wound up never leaving home; his developmentally disabled younger brother, Dale (Jeremy Strong), who's forever carrying around a Super 8 camera and recording every family moment, including the saddest ones; and their father, Joseph (Robert Duvall), the town judge, who seems to have a soft spot for everyone but Hank. Then, when a recently paroled criminal whom Joseph sent to jail is found dead by the side of the road, the magistrate winds up the main suspect, leaving Hank with no choice but to be his fearsome father's counsel and ultimately deal with his family's divisions.

Is it any good?

There's no doubt that Downey Jr. can deliver on pretty much any role he takes on. In THE JUDGE, he imbues Hank with a certain cynicism that only he could get away with without making the main character entirely unlikable. And likability is important here, because Hank wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. He's arrogant, cocksure, and difficult in his own right.

The fact that the film's characters are complicated actually heightens its appeal. But Downey -- and, by extension, the film, since his character is so central to it -- might feel just a little too slick. There's a knowing sheen here that points to a self consciousness about the movie being a type of crowd-pleasing thriller, one that milks all the right emotional notes. But there's no false note in Duvall's performance. He allows the titular judge to be difficult to like, at best. There's one particular scene in which his character is subjected to the indignities of age and illness, and Duvall goes to all the necessary dark corners. To watch him and Downey, who's best when he's paired with Duvall, is to witness a master acting class.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Judge's messages. What is it saying about family bonds? Who do you think the film is intended to appeal to? How can you tell?

  • What is the movie saying about forgiveness, especially when it comes to family?

  • Talk about the idea of family and estrangement and how the judge deals with it differently or similarly to other movies in the same genre. How would you characterize the Palmers? Are they close to each other? Are they bonded?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate