The Lovely Bones Movie Poster Image

The Lovely Bones



Haunting mystery-drama examines a child's murder.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 135 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though it centers on a shocking murder, the movie takes great pains to juxtapose the violence with love and domesticity. Loss, though destabilizing, is portrayed as far from decimating. Death isn’t explored as an end but a passage.

Positive role models

Yes, there’s a murderer/pedophile involved, but besides him, the movie's characters are decent and earnest -- as well as realistically imperfect. Though the mother reacts in a surprising way to her daughter’s death, her love for her child comes through; the father is more textbook caring. And the younger sister is impressive in her courage and determination.


Brief flashes of a man grabbing and throwing a teenager to the floor and against the wall (though her actual death takes place off screen). He’s also shown carrying a bloody bag and soaking in a tub, his blood-stained clothing strewn on the floor. The sink is filled with bloodied water. A safe that presumably holds a corpse is repeatedly shown. The bodies of a serial killer's victims are shown in the various places where they were dumped. A teenager beats up a man with a baseball bat; the man is later shown bruised and battered.


Some kissing. Implied pedophilia.


One "f--k," plus occasional use of words like "hell" and "oh God" (as an exclamation). Also some name-calling, including “jerk off,” “moron,” and “stupid.”


Some labels and signage are visible (Kodak, Seventeen magazine).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A grandmother chain-smokes and drinks heavily in front of her grandchildren.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that director Peter Jackson's drama based on Alice Sebold's best-selling book The Lovely Bones centers on the aftermath of an enormous tragedy: the death of a child (though the actual death itself isn't shown on screen). The intense subject matter -- murder and molestation -- may overwhelm younger teens. Although the movie's messages about love and loss are ultimately positive, the film is often deeply sorrowful and, at times, quite violent (images include dead bodies, bloody clothes, and more). Language includes mostly name-calling; there's also some kissing, and one older character smokes and drinks in front of children.

What's the story?

Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) has her whole life ahead of her -- filled, hopefully, with boys, a photographable world, and family. Only she doesn’t. When a neighbor (Stanley Tucci) lures her to a bunker, she's murdered, which sends her soul in limbo to watch those she's left behind. Her mother (Rachel Weisz), is so shattered that she has to flee; her father (Mark Wahlberg) grows obsessed. Only one thing will set them all free: The capture of Susie's murderer, who continues to go about his days, trying to keep a lid on his monstrous urges.

Is it any good?


As Susie, Ronan is infinitely watchable: She’s compelling every time she’s on screen. Her sadness plumbs depths; her joy soars. And when it’s clear that she’s been hurt, the impact is enormous. Losing her is palpable, and that’s critical, considering that she’s the story’s pivot point. Wahlberg and Weisz are strong, too, though perhaps not as gripping, as is Rose McIver as Susie’s younger sister. But Tucci: Though terrifying, he tragically plays to type. You can spot his child molester a mile away.

THE LOVELY BONES loses its way when it spends too much time in a place where director Peter Jackson is clearly comfortable: the in-between (the place between Heaven and Earth). Painted with visually arresting CG effects, this place is a sight to behold, a lyrical middle earth. But Jackson lingers there way too long, slowing down the movie's pace. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of the family’s unraveling, which seems painted in over-broad stroke.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. Do the violence and intense subject matter make it harder to see the positive take-aways, or do they come through?

  • How does the impact of the violence in a movie like this compare to that of an action/sci-fi movie? Which affects you more? Why?

  • Talk about the events that lead up to Susie’s murder. What lessons can be gleaned from the tragedy? Why is Susie stuck in the in-between?

  • How did Susie’s death affect everyone, including herself? Do these reactions seem believable? How does everyone find peace?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 15, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:April 20, 2010
Cast:Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Saoirse Ronan
Director:Peter Jackson
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:135 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language

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Kid, 9 years old August 13, 2010

Violence mildly disturbing

I enjoyed the movie very much, but the violence is mildly disturbing for some. Mature kids 9+, immature kids 14+
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 11 years old March 20, 2010

Very Good

The Lovely Bones is a very good movie but also a little creepy. I think it's sending a good message to kids to not talk to strangers even if they bribe you with something or if something sounds very appealing. It has a little violence in it because Bryan is hitting Mr. Salmon with a baseball bat. There's a little conflict with Grandma Lynn smoking and drinking in front of her grandchildren. Overall I'm 11 and I saw the movie with my mother and I recommend it because I think kids our age can handle what this movie's message is sending.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old June 17, 2010
This movie was amazing and I deffinently cried. It was one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. I think 11 year olds shouldnt watch this. She dies by getting raped, which is a mature subject. There wasn't any nudity at all except for a man's bare chest. Surprisingly there wasn't alot of bad lanuage just really mature and disturbing scenes. The "F" word was barely understandable because it was muttered. There really wasn't anything else though. It is a great movie for 12+ year olds. The parents are role models because they don't give up on her daughters murder case and they find a way to cope with thier loss of thier daughter. I would recomend this to any preteen or teen kids. But be prepared to cry.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models