The Mule

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Mule Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Eastwood's mature drug-mule drama boasts expert filmmaking.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Family is more important than work. Doing the wrong thing may have short-term rewards, but you'll pay the price in the end. Technology isn't viewed positively by main character. A few moments of cultural insensitivity. Women are objectified in a couple scenes. Comments about appreciating war veterans, police officers for their service.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Earl is very likable, but he's very often badly behaved. His finest moment comes when he finally decides to place family above work. The cost for this is very high, but it's worth it.


Character shot in back; blood stain on shirt. Dead body in trunk. Bloody wounds on main character's face. Brief scene of DEA agents bursting in on people, beating them with guns/clubs. A character dies of cancer. Arguing, shouting, threatening.


Topless woman shown. Two women shown in bed, seducing main character; no graphic nudity. Main character kisses, hugs two women in a hotel room; they're seen leaving early the next morning. Bikini-wearing women dance in a sexy way. Brief innuendo. Mention of Viagra.


Many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus uses of "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "negro," "beaner," "hell," "stupid," "idiot," and "Jesus."


Mentions of Crown Royal whiskey, Ben-Gay, Google, Home Depot, Viagra.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug smuggling is key to the plot; duffel bags full of cocaine shown. Characters drink whiskey in a bar. Characters drink beer at lunch. Cigar-smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Mule stars Clint Eastwood (who also directs) as a 90-year-old man who becomes a drug mule for a Mexican cartel. Drugs are shown, but the business of drugs and drug dealing -- as well as drug use and addiction -- is mostly avoided. Characters do drink socially and smoke cigars. One character is shot and killed, with a blood stain shown; a character dies of cancer. People are briefly beaten or roughed up, and there are threats, shouts, and arguments. Bloody wounds are seen. The main character kisses and is seduced by two women, twice, in two different scenes. A topless woman is shown. Language is quite strong and includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," racial slurs, and more. There are also a few moments of cultural insensitivity and women being objectified. But Eastwood is still at the height of his skill, and the movie is quite entertaining.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byOlg77 December 27, 2018

Not for kids!

My husband and I love Clint Eastwood films, but we were really surprised by the amount of adult content in this one. Very disappointing to see this much nudity... Continue reading
Adult Written byPres April 5, 2021

Gross Porn

Do we really need more porn in movies? As if the old man had no better content to put in this movie so he objectifies a lot of women. Shocking how much inapprop... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 7, 2019

Extremely boring, no plot, hard to make connections with main characters.

Some younger viewers who watch this film may find it hard to keep up with what's happening, as there are some confusing scenes. There is some language, and... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byPinkReaper February 3, 2019

Really good movie

A really good movie that I enjoyed quite a bit. Only has a brief scene with a topless woman, but that didn’t bother me. People are overreacting a little too muc... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE MULE, Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a 90-year-old horticulturalist who finds his business dwindling with the rise of the internet. At a wedding party for his granddaughter, Ginny (Taissa Farmiga), Earl is approached by one of the guests about a driving job; he's been on the road most of his life and has an impeccable record, so he agrees. Despite the weird conditions of the job -- and the anonymous packages he's transporting -- everything goes smoothly, and the money rolls in. But before long, Earl discovers that he's actually transporting drugs. Feeling he has no choice but to continue, Earl rises through the ranks and is eventually summoned to meet the cartel leader (Andy Garcia). But when Earl's ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) gets sick, he realizes that he's neglected his family for too long and risks everything to be with them. Meanwhile, two dogged DEA agents (Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña) are on his trail, in addition to the angry cartel.

Is it any good?

Eastwood directs this drama at the same high level as his best work; his classical sure-footedness overcomes potentially goopy material. And fans can likely forgive him a few politically incorrect missteps. Suggested by a New York Times Magazine story, The Mule brings Eastwood back to acting for the first time since Trouble with the Curve; it also marks the first time he's directed himself since Gran Torino. Now close to 90 himself, Eastwood looks older and frailer than you may remember, but Earl is a perfect role for him. He's a little doddering, more streetwise than smart, but with an endearing twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile on his lips.

The movie's main theme is that family is more important than work (as well as the evils of technology), and while it's not discussed at length, Eastwood gives the movie a flow that seems natural -- tulips become a lovely symbol -- and not preachy. The movie has a few moments here and there that are embarrassing, such as women being objectified and some culturally insensitive remarks, but they feel like the whims of an eccentric older man rather than anything intentionally malicious. The drug world story is given little weight -- there's no acknowledgement or discussion of the lives that drugs ruin -- but nonetheless, involvement with it comes with a price. In the end, The Mule once again shows that Eastwood is a master filmmaker in the old Hollywood style.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Mule depicts drugs. Are the wide-reaching effects of drugs shown or discussed? Is drug smuggling glamorized? Is there a price to pay?

  • How is sex portrayed? What values are imparted?

  • Are there any strong female characters here? Are women objectified? What message does that send?

  • Did you notice any moments of cultural/gender insensitivity? Were they funny? Harmful? What do you think their intent was?

  • Do you agree with the movie's theme that family is more important than work? What about its/Earl's opinion on technology? Do you agree that people are on their phones too much?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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