The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Killing of a Sacred Deer Movie Poster Image
Skillful, fascinating, but very disturbing art-horror movie.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 4 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

Raises many complicated topics, not the least of which is the notion of sacrificing members of your family to save the whole. Also, how feelings are represented: Is it good to talk about them, or should they be hidden?

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are mostly enigmas who are used to tell a larger story; they're victims and don't behave in any admirable way.


Lots of blood, with blood stains shown. Disturbing imagery. Punching, slapping, biting, spitting out a broken tooth, spitting bloody chunks of flesh. Bleeding from eyes. A rifle is shot. A child is threatened. Characters die.


A married couple has sex; she pretends to be under anesthesia while he kisses her body, and he touches himself under his clothes to prepare. The woman is shown both topless and (briefly) bottomless. A man's bare bottom is seen. A teen girl strips to her underwear to seduce a teen boy. A woman attempts to seduce a married man by kissing/sucking on his hands and fingers. A verbal story of stimulating a man to sexual climax. A woman gives a man a "hand job" in a car; nothing graphic shown.


A use of "f--k" plus a use of "ass," "stupid," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Both adult characters and a teen smoke cigarettes. Social drinking. It's said that the main character hasn't had a drink in three years and it's suggested that he was drunk while performing a surgery. He's later seen drinking a beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a psychological horror movie about a troubled family and a kind of curse that befalls them. It's very violent and disturbing, with lots of blood/blood stains, as well as punching, slapping, biting (and spitting out chunks of flesh), bleeding from the eyes, gun use/shooting, and death. There are also several strong sexual situations of various types, including both partial nudity (bare breasts/bottoms) and brief female full-frontal nudity. Language is infrequent but contains one key use of "f--k," as well as "ass" and one or two other words. A teen boy and adult characters smoke cigarettes. Some social drinking is shown, and a character is said to have stopped drinking after perhaps drinking too much at the wrong time. While not for kids, this is an artful, highly skilled, and very challenging film that may appeal to hardcore cineastes, just as the director's The Lobster did.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTornadosplash44 June 13, 2018

Brilliant, but disturbing film that puts children in danger

This was a great film because it was different and unique. I loved the storyline as well as the acting! The film does contain some coarse language, although it... Continue reading
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byBobby G. March 24, 2020

Disturbing art horror film

Violence 6/10. A teen boy is badly beaten, kept in main characters garage. A boy bites himself and main character, very bloody and disturbing. Children are para... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 9, 2020

Interesting but sexual and gore involved horror film

The killing of sacred deer is a horror film Based on true events. The killing of sacred dear has one word to describe it....”brutal” because the story involves... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byplate of aspic March 21, 2019

What's the story?

In THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) befriends a 16-year-old boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan), following Martin's father's death on the operating table. After a time, Martin becomes closer to Steven and his family -- including his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman); his teen daughter, Kim (Raffey Cassidy); and his young son, Bob (Sunny Suljic). Martin even invites Steven to his own home for dinner, where Martin's mother (Alicia Silverstone) flirts openly with the happily married Steven. Then one morning, Bob's legs go numb, and he's unable to walk and unwilling to eat. Martin visits again and explains that Bob's condition will worsen -- and the rest of his family will follow -- unless Steven makes a terrible sacrifice.

Is it any good?

Following Dogtooth and The Lobster, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos delivers a brutal, skillful psychological horror movie. It's clear that he's unafraid to peer into humanity's most uncomfortably dark depths. Drawing easy comparisons to Stanley Kubrick because of his chilly, cavernous spaces and mid-level lighting, Lanthimos also recalls the great French master Robert Bresson with his method of stripping down performances to an emotionless essence. The actors' line readings can seem stiff, but it's also possible to read anything into them.

Lanthimos' subject matter in The Killing of a Sacred Deer is something else, pushing far past whatever Kubrick or Bresson ever intended, exploring feelings of love, guilt, fear, rage, and more, and showing them as squirmy and unattractive. Essentially, Lanthimos' movies could be about the way we feel we must hide our feelings -- and the fear that showing them could make people uneasy. But psychological and thematic readings of the movie are for later. Actually watching it is both spellbinding and supremely disturbing, although overall more satisfying than something like Darren Aronofsky's equally bizarre mother!.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Killing of a Sacred Deer's use of violence. How much is shown? How frequently? Is the violence shocking? Does it have a point? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is sex depicted? Which moments involve love and trust, and which don't? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • What do you think the movie is trying to say? Is it really about choosing which family member to sacrifice to save the rest, or is something else going on?

  • Is the movie scary or disturbing? What's the difference?

Movie details

  • In theaters: October 20, 2017
  • On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2018
  • Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Studio: A24
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 121 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity and language
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love offbeat movies

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