The Manchurian Candidate (2004) Movie Poster Image

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)



Sleek remake is more violent than original.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Loyalty, patriotism, service, bravery, and honesty are all positive themes in the movie that is critical of political machinations.

Positive role models

The main character is driven to uncover the truth out of a sense of loyalty and patriotism.


Intense and graphic violence, battle violence, characters in peril, several murders, lab animals mistreated.

Not applicable

Some strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking, smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Manchurian Candidate is a thriller with intense and graphic violence, including many murders (gunshot, strangling, drowning) and injuries. Characters drink, smoke, and use drugs. There's some very strong language. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of strong, intelligent, loyal, and capable citizens.

Kids say

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What's the story?

As in the original 1962 film, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE focuses on soldier Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), who is haunted by nightmares of serving in the Persian Gulf War. Marco knows the story of the incident that got him his medal. Everyone who was there uses the same words to tell the story and especially to describe Raymond Shaw (Liev Shreiber), who got the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. Marco meets up with a member of the platoon who is badly damaged. Is it post-traumatic stress, or is it his brain fighting back from something it has been programmed to believe? Meanwhile, Shaw is struggling as well. Being a war hero helped him be elected to Congress and he's now a contender for the vice-presidential candidacy. His mother (Meryl Streep), a Senator, is pushing him very hard. He resents it, but cannot seem to resist. The senator purrs, seduces, and finally brutalizes a group of politicos into abandoning their choice for the VP spot and taking Raymond instead. But Marco is increasingly troubled. Shaw is at first glad to see him again, then sympathetic, then skeptical. What Marco is suggesting seems absurd, impossible. But in his heart, Shaw knows that it might explain everything.

Is it any good?


This sleek and supple thriller features powerhouse performances, but never quite persuades us that it has anything to add to the Cold War classic starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. Director Jonathan Demme ably creates a believably creepy atmosphere and there are some great visual effects, especially Shaw's hotel room, which includes an infinitely refractive illusion in a picture that hangs over the bed. Streep is mesmerizing.

But some of it gets overheated, especially a mad scientist who of course has an English accent and is scrupulously polite and a murder assignment that makes no sense as a matter of logistics. And the big reveal about the bad guys does not have the same punch of the original; it is not as successful at tapping into the fears of the moment.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this movie compares to the original and how each film is a reflection of its times. Marco says, "I thought I knew who the enemy was." Who was the enemy? What does the choice of bad guy tell us? Is an "emotionally compromised past" a "terrible burden" from which someone must be freed?

  • How does this remake compare to the original? How are the issues of the 1950s different than the issues of the 2000s? How are they similar?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 29, 2004
DVD/Streaming release date:December 21, 2004
Cast:Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep
Director:Jonathan Demme
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence and some language

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byabuddy8 April 9, 2008

Disturbing, not worth the money.

I am 18 years old and went to see this movie thinking it was a political thriller. I was very wrong. The movie tells the story of Marco, a soldier who fought in Kuwait. Since the war, he has been haunted by dreams of what really happened, and is apparently on medication. The movie throws in several "twists" which seemed to be there only to make the audience jump and disturb them. The director focused on the gruesome, even showing in detail a very grotesque strangling, which should've been hinted at, or even left out completely. The characters left something to be desired, since you spent the whole movie trying to figure out who was crazy and who the bad guys were. I left this movie feeling sick, and wish I'd never spent the money.
Teen, 15 years old Written bywowiamcool108 April 9, 2008

Sloppy Remake, could be PG-13

I dont understand why this movie was so well recieved. They did not do a good job explaining the complex plot, resulting in an anticlimactic ending. The editing and camera work were bothersome, and both the acting and plot where dry despite the good cast. Some scenes were so lame I almost thought they were supposed to be funny. Content wise, I thought it could be PG-13. There is one very bizzare, unrealistic battle scene (later revealed as fake) with no blood. One scene has brainwashed man drown two close friends. Two killed by gunshot, very little blood on bodies. Two horrifying murders where a man is programed to strangle his friend (VERY disturbing, vomiting blood/bleeding from eyes) while his friends look on and do nothing. No sex, drugs, or drinking. A few s---s and one f--- (not that bad).
Adult Written byJohn from Westmont November 20, 2009

Skip it.

Overall, this movie is awful. It doesn't know whether to be a movie about policial intrigue, soldiers returning from war, or medical sci fi, and it's unconvincing at all of them. The violoence is gratuitous. many actions are unexplained or unexplainable, suggested incestual desires are at least distracting if not repugnant. Not even Meryl and Denzel could make this one work.
What other families should know
Too much violence