The Neon Demon

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Neon Demon Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Strange modeling industry drama has shocking violence, sex.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Acts as something of a warning about prizing beauty above all else. A minor character argues that the most important things are inside a person (not outside), and the movie seems to agree with this sentiment. Searing indictment of the modeling industry.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No admirable characters here; even the main character, who starts out as innocent and seemingly pure of heart, eventually turns on the people who trust her, behaving selfishly. Virtually all of the other characters think only of themselves first and consider looks the most important factor of a person's being.


Very gory: Images of dead bodies (both real and fake), covered in blood, with pools of blood around them. A central character dies. A woman is tied up for a performance. A woman breaks a bathroom mirror, and another woman cuts her hand on a shard of its glass, leading to blood everywhere; the first woman tries to drink the blood. A woman vomits up an eyeball, and a second woman eats it. A woman stabs herself. Dead bodies shown in a morgue. In a dream, a man threatens a woman with a knife in her mouth. Violent sounds -- including those related to sexual assault -- are heard through a wall. Women punch each other and threaten each other with knives. A man gets angry at a woman and pushes her once, threateningly.


A woman has sex with a corpse; this includes kissing and fantasizing about another woman (who's shown touching herself sensually). Three women are shown topless; two shower together, washing blood off. A character lies on the floor naked, and a fluid (blood?) emerges from her. A character tries to seduce another character, but she resists. A photographer makes a model take off her clothes (nothing sensitive shown). Women shown in their underwear. Occasional sex talk. References to "Lolita" and having sex with underage women.


A few uses of "f--k," plus "hell," "God," "p---y," "a--hole."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke. Casual background drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Neon Demon is an unusual drama from acclaimed cult favorite director Nicolas Winding Refn, who's best known for Drive (2011). It's extremely mature, with shocking violence: dead bodies, lots of blood, murder, death, suicide, punching, painful wounds, threats, and the sounds of a possible rape. And that list doesn't even include the most startling image of all, involving an eyeball. Women are shown topless, and there's strong sexual material, including a woman having sex with a female corpse. Language is infrequent but includes a few uses of "f--k," "p---y," and "a--hole." Some characters smoke cigarettes, and there's some background drinking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStevie111 June 26, 2016

The Neon Demon is a good film, but very different with extremely mature and disturbing content

The Neon Demon has an interesting concept and style. The acting is decent and the director did a great job putting the film together. That being said, this may... Continue reading
Adult Written bywill m. July 10, 2018

This movie is for young adults/teenagers

This movie was not aimed at adults but at teenagers! That is why I have given it a 14+ because it applies to mostly young adults and the way that teens view th... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byOli September 30, 2016

A masterpiece

A really really good film, a bit edgy though. It has some graphic sex which some younger viewers but there is only one scene where genitalia is shown. The viole... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bymosaicrose July 16, 2020


Not a great film, some nudity and disturbing content.

What's the story?

In THE NEON DEMON, in the modeling world of Los Angeles, small-town, fresh-faced Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a rising star. Surrounded by chiseled women who've undergone surgery to make their bodies and faces more "perfect," Jesse has a natural quality that draws photographers and fashion designers to her. A young shutterbug (Karl Glusman) tries to date her, and makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) tries to befriend her, but there are always strings attached. Two of Ruby's model friends (Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee) are wary of Jesse, mindful that they could begin losing jobs to her. Finally, when the manager (Keanu Reeves) of Jesse's hotel gets out of hand, Jesse calls on Ruby. But everything leads up to an incident of unexpected violence.

Is it any good?

This exquisite nonsense from director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for the excellent Drive, has very little substance -- it's not exactly art -- but it does have plenty of style and tension. Drawing inspiration from David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Brian De Palma, and others, The Neon Demon is a variety of surfaces and reflections, characters looking and being looked at. It purports to explore the nature of beauty while itself trying to be beautiful. But it really doesn't dig much deeper than that.

The movie is filled with crazy, breathtaking moments -- such as a mountain lion suddenly appearing in Jesse's room, a blood-soaked photo session, a lights-out photo session, and a strobe-lit performance at a party. It all leads up to a shocking, giddily disgusting conclusion that doesn't exactly complete the thesis but is at least memorable. The cinematography is always dreamily vivid, and an electronic score by Cliff Martinez frequently sends the images floating off into ecstasy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Neon Demon's graphic violence. What purpose does it serve? Is it thrilling or horrifying? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How are sex and nudity treated in the movie? Is it meant to be titillating, or does it have a different effect? Why? How much sexual content in media is appropriate for kids?

  • What do you think the movie is trying to say about beauty? Is it something to strive for at any cost? Why or why not?

  • Does the movie have a positive representation of female body image or a negative one? Why?

  • What's the allure of the modeling industry? Does this movie make being a model more appealing or less appealing?

Movie details

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