The Lighthouse

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Lighthouse Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Disturbing black-and-white horror has drinking, violence.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 19 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No clear message here, but movie is about isolation and how a little imagination can get someone into trouble, leading that person down a path into believing things that may not be true. With a little thought, this can be applied to the internet age -- i.e., how devices impact our tendency toward isolation, how online interactions can lead to narrow or misguided views.

Positive Role Models

No role models here. Both characters are highly troubling, both venture down paths of destruction.


Extremely disturbing imagery. Scary nightmare sequences. A character bashes a seagull to death, resulting in bloody, ruined corpse with blood spatters. Ax heaved into shoulder, blood shown. Hitting with blunt objects. Several dead gulls in water. Severed human head (spider crawls from eye socket). Dead bodies, gulls plucking eyeballs and intestines from a corpse. Painful fall from high place. Punching, fighting. Screaming. Arguing. Humiliation. Urinating, farting, vomiting, buckets full of excrement. Spoken story about a death.


Character imagines sex with a mermaid, including thrusting and touching naked breasts. Topless female. Implied masturbation in more than one scene. Naked male bottoms. Shirtless male. Naked mermaid sculpture. Sex-related talk.


Fairly infrequent uses of "s--t," "horses--t," "son of a bitch" "bastard," "damn," "hell," "goddamn," "pecker," "stupid," "anus," "jism."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent drinking and extreme drunkenness. Characters drink some kind of dangerous-looking homemade alcohol when they run out of the real thing. Hangovers. Cigarette and pipe smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lighthouse is an 1890s-set horror movie from the director of The Witch. It's excellent, though deeply unsettling. Expect extremely disturbing violent imagery, including slicing with an ax, lots of blood, a character bashing a seagull to death, a severed human head, a human corpse with gulls plucking at its eyeballs and intestines, fighting, screaming, and humiliation, plus urinating, farting, and buckets of excrement. A character has sex with a mermaid, with thrusting, a naked male bottom, and naked breasts shown. Men masturbate in several scenes, though nothing beyond naked torsos and bottoms is shown. There's also some sex-related talk in addition to strong language like "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," and "goddamn." Characters drink frequently, often to extreme drunkenness (and hangovers), and smoke cigarettes and pipes. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJonas_black October 20, 2019

Body-chilling;Nerve-racking art is way too much for little kids

This movie is not just any horror movie that doesn’t deserve to be talked about the way it is. This is an art black and white cinema styled chilling movie... to... Continue reading
Adult Written bydavispittman November 16, 2019

Interesting psychological thriller

The Lighthouse is a very well made psychological thriller that builds as it goes along. In the vein of other great horror thrillers, this film is subtle and doe... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 5, 2020

Sexual material, violence, and profanity in horror masterpiece

The lighthouse is a black and white indie horror film about two lighthouse keepers are spend weeks on a island. They start experiencing disturbing things and sl... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bycamdenmedwards August 10, 2020

Weird, like really weird.

I know many people that said this movie was amazing and that i had to watch it, but i'm just not a big fan. the movie is categorized as horror, so the enti... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE LIGHTHOUSE, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrives for work as an assistant lighthouse keeper, working under salty old seaman Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). It's the 1890s, the work is hard, and the weather is wet and gray. Wake treats Winslow without mercy during the day, but at night, he talks to and tries to ply him with liquor, to loosen him up. At first Winslow won't drink, but before long he starts to indulge. Soon, strange things begin to happen. Winslow crosses paths with a malevolent seagull, promising bad omens. He has visions of squirming tentacles and a mermaid on the beach. A seemingly never-ending storm begins to rage, and Winslow becomes obsessed with finding out why Wake never lets anyone into the locked upper lighthouse beacon.

Is it any good?

A deeply unsettling second feature from horror director Robert Eggers, this black-and-white period piece about isolation is intense and constricting. The Lighthouse has images that are so disturbing and pungent that casual viewers may well wish they could un-see them -- but the staunchest viewers may be tempted to revisit them, just to confirm that they saw what they think they saw. Eggers not only uses grim black-and-white cinematography but a narrow, squarish aspect ratio to trap viewers inside a small space, where it's never quite clear whether things are real or the product of isolation, imagination, and fixation.

Not so much scary as it is graphic and disturbing, The Lighthouse is nevertheless a skillful, enveloping work, with two dedicated performances that are so physically and emotionally devastating that the actors must have been left completely drained. In particular, Dafoe, whose character jauntily recites ancient sea poetry through a clenched wooden pipe, gets several long takes so ferocious that they may demand to be studied in future acting classes. Eggers, who also made The Witch, creates such a complete picture of the past that it almost feels like the movie was actually filmed there. And its theme of isolation still applies today: Our glowing screens may be our own lighthouses.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Lighthouse's violence. How graphic is it? What's shown and not shown? What is the most shocking moment, and why?

  • Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?

  • How is drinking depicted? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences for drinking? Why does that matter?

  • How does the concept of isolation in an 1890s lighthouse apply to today? Are we isolated today?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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