Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

The Lovely Bones

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Lovely Bones Movie Poster Image
Haunting mystery-drama examines a child's murder.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 135 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 24 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 96 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMovieMan26 October 11, 2010

Who would want to watch something this sad?

Seriously. This is one of the most depressing, anti-climactic movies ever made. I hated it, but that's just me. I wish I hadn't spent money on it. Oth... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byMomOfOne123 January 14, 2010

great for anyone 11 and up!

great movie! I saw this movie with my 12 year old and her friends, and they thought it was awesome. but this movie is definitely not for anyone under 11!
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+
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... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love drama and thrills

Our editors recommend

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

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 and learning potential.

Learn how we rate