The Prestige Movie Poster Image

The Prestige

Rival magicians battle in smart, dark period tale.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 135 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Characters lie to each another incessantly, as well as commit murder and suicide; deception (in magic tricks and in audiences' desire to be fooled) as a theme.


Explicit deaths by hanging, gunfire, and drowning (all are only briefly shown, but it's clear enough what's going on); bodies (human and cat) zapped by electric currents; hand is shot, resulting in blood and missing fingers; fingers chopped off hand (as a sign of commitment and "sacrifice" to art/life of magic); fall through a trapdoor leads to injury and a permanent limp.


Some kissing and passionate embracing by a married couple and later by a different, adulterous couple; women in showy, bustiers on magicians' assistants; adultery.


Mild profanity: a couple of instances of "s--t," as well as "damn" and "ass."


Thematic: Magicians promote their own shows by crashing other magicians' shows with placards.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking to the point of drunkenness (the result of frustration in neglected wife and ambitious magician).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this dark period piece about dueling magicians includes several violent deaths: two by drowning (the victims' frightened faces are visible), two by hanging, and another by shooting. Other violence includes one man shooting another's hand (there's some blood, and fingers are lost); the revelation that a bird has been smashed into a bloody pancake during a trick to simulate its "disappearance"; the accidental smashing of a woman's hand in a similar trick; and a man submitting to having his fingers chopped off (the action isn't shown, but the noise of the chop and his facial expression are jarring). Other than the violence, there's not too much to worry about -- a little sexual activity (mostly just kissing), fairly mild language, and some drinking.

What's the story?

THE PRESTIGE focuses on the competition between magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) in turn-of-the-20th-century London. While cockney-accented Alfred is blunt and focused only on his art, Robert is a lesser magician but a more prodigious, ambitious showman. Though they initially work together, an on-stage accident leads to conflict and a battle of one-upsmanship for revenge. They compete over losses, tricks, and audiences, each reading the other's stolen journal to decipher his rival's meanings and mechanics. Robert goes so far as to name his version of "The Transported Man" (Alfred's crowd-pleasing finale) "The New Transported Man"; Alfred renames his show "The Original Transported Man." As the mechanical possibilities for tricks expand and shift, the men are increasingly hard-pressed to keep up. As they seek out more elaborate and astounding illusions, the magicians also begin to imagine intersections between science and art, performance and truth. Alfred's marriage begins to suffer and he takes a lover, Robert's former assistant Olivia (Scarlett Johansson). The men's contest turns increasingly aggressive, with each growing more isolated and spiteful. The magicians chase after control of their illusions, performances that fool audiences who want to be fooled. They believe that their competition depends on knowing each other's secrets, on not being fooled. But they are ever fooled, as each believes he is the more original prestidigitator. Ironically, this makes them, as Olivia observes angrily, "perfect for each other."

Is it any good?


Christopher Nolan's movie is a smart, intriguing tale of deceit and obsession. THE PRESTIGE (based on the novel by Christopher Priest) invites viewers to participate -- or at least to be aware of their participation -- in its storytelling. The film offers a series of tricks as connected pleasures; but they have less to do with plot twists (which are sometimes obvious) than details of character and performance.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the competition between Robert and Alfred. How does the movie show the rising stakes of their conflict? How can you tell that the audiences within the film love the magicians' illusions? Why are the magicians driven to go to such extreme lengths? How does their relationship with the more-experienced Cutter affect them? Is magic as popular today as it was in the late 1800s/early 1900s? Why or why not? Is there such a thing as real magic, or is it all illusion?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 20, 2006
DVD/Streaming release date:February 20, 2007
Cast:Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson
Director:Christopher Nolan
Studio:Touchstone Pictures
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:135 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:for violence and disturbing images.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byarkguy July 6, 2010
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Kid, 11 years old April 23, 2009


this film was grim and weird but the acting was great!!!!!
Teen, 13 years old Written bypatbart2 April 9, 2008