The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Book-based drama for mature teens tackles tough subjects.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 25 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 118 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Teens may sometimes feel lost or inconsequential, but when they find their footing and are able to tap into their authentic selves, they can feel (per the movie) "infinite."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlie has issues -- he blacks out when he's in a fight, for instance, seemingly out of rage -- but despite the challenges he's faced, he's a loyal friend with good intentions and a big, open heart. His friends, though juggling their own issues, are kind and supportive of one another.


One character is shown to have assaulted another who's defenseless (to provide more specifics is a big spoiler, but it's tragic). A truck is shown barreling straight for another car, the driver in peril. Teen boys harass a gay student and, at one point, beat him up; another rises to his defense, pummeling the others (viewers see mostly the aftermath). Another gay teen hides in the closet for fear that his parents and friends will disown him or worse. A boy hits a girl.


Both same- and opposite-sex couples make out (viewers see them kissing and groping each other), and there's talk of people having sex, though viewers don't really see it.


Language includes "f--k" (once), "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "jerk," "spaz," "piss," "slut," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," and more. The word "f-g" is used as a slur.


Brands seen/mentioned include Olive Garden.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage teens drink (beer and hard liquor), mostly at parties, where they also smoke weed. One teen also has an acid trip.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Perks of Being a Wallflower (based on the same-named book by Stephen Chbosky) is an edgy, moving, and layered coming-of-age dramedy that's frank about the troubles and exploits of teenagers. You see them fret over their futures, push back against parental intervention, drink, make out, and use drugs. One girl also blithely jokes about being bulimic. Expect to see couples (both same- and opposite-sex) making out, teens bullying each other, and plenty of swearing. There's also a big reveal about a major, tragic trauma. Harry Potter's Emma Watson co-stars, but this is a much more mature role for her than Hermione.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 14-year-old Written byLisaB 9 August 6, 2015

An unrealistic (I hope) and far too mature view of high school

I watched this movie with my 13-year old last night, and I'm glad she's already had good sex/drug education at school and that we could talk about it... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 and 15-year-old Written byPA CA Mom January 30, 2013

The Perks of Alcohol and Drugs

The main characters are positive role models in that there is comfort with homosexuality, valuing of literature and intelligence, and overcoming adversity. A m... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byNeon_Fish October 4, 2015

Really good movie

This movie is really good and enjoyable for teens and even adults. The rating is pg-13 but in my view I think it should be a 12 because of the tough thematic El... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byheylookitsgrace September 29, 2012

Fantastic Film with Mature Subject Matters

I thought that this movie was fantastic! They left some stuff out from the book, but it was really well done and well acted, especially Ezra Miller :) there was... Continue reading

What's the story?

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is starting high school, a momentous and fairly joyous occasion ... if not for the fact that his best friend killed himself months before, and Charlie himself is recovering from a breakdown of sorts. It's a scary situation, until he befriends Patrick (Ezra Miller), a charismatic, openly gay senior whose biggest heartache is that his closeted boyfriend refuses to acknowledge their relationship in public. Patrick's step-sister, Sam (Emma Watson), a sweet girl saddled with an unfair reputation, takes to Charlie, too -- and vice versa. Together they navigate the treacherous waters of high school with some success, until Charlie is forced to face his past again.

Is it any good?

Watch out for Logan Lerman. If his work in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is any indication, he's that rare young actor who can carry the weight of complex emotions without reducing them to tics that are too often the actorly shorthand for teenage alienation. As Charlie, Lerman is fantastic and sympathetic -- key for a film of this make. We believe his diffidence, we understand his fear. The same can be said (to a slightly lesser extent) for both Watson, who's passionate and forceful as Sam in a way that she wasn't -- or couldn't be -- as Hermione Granger, and Miller, who has made a cottage industry out of playing vulnerable, eccentric characters (which is admirable, but it would be great to see what he could do playing a quieter role).

Author Stephen Chbosky directed this adaptation of his book, and the movie bears the imprint of his careful hands. But it feels strangely modern for a story set in the early 1990s (the cultural references say as much), and Charlie's stunning revelation in the end is hurried, and so doesn't stun as much as it should. The parents, too, feel like afterthoughts, confusing given the caliber of actors playing them (Dylan McDermott, for one). But on the whole, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a gem, and certainly not a wallflower to ignore.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts teens. Are the characters and their decisions realistic? What about the consequences of those decisions?

  • How does the movie portray drinking and drug use? Are they glamorized? If you've read the book, how does the movie's take on these subjects compare?

  • How does the movie depict bullying? What should teens do if that happens to them? What should they do if they see it happening to someone else?

  • Parents, ask your teens about the sense of alienation that the movie suggests teenagers have. Are real teens this disaffected and disillusioned?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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Themes & Topics

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