Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

The Road

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Road Movie Poster Image
Touching but grim futuristic tale won't appeal to kids.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 119 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 16 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Overall the movie creates a feeling of hopelessness, with its relentlessly gray world destroyed by the hand of man (though it's never explained exactly what happened). But the man still clings to his responsibility to raise and teach the boy all the things he knows, in the hope that there still might be a future, somehow. Likewise, their continuing journey to the sea is also based on the hope that something will still be there.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The man is something of a positive role model, since he continues to hope and to plan a future for his boy, no matter how uncertain it may be. But at the same time, he succumbs to frustration and paranoia and refuses to trust anyone. The boy, born after the disaster, turns out to be the movie's real role model. He's open-hearted and wishes to help others, and his hope is purer.


Not a huge quantity of violent scenes, but what's included can be quite disturbing. There's plenty of suicide and suggestions of suicide, with people giving up hope in a hopeless future -- including the boy's mother, who kills herself with a gun. At one point, roadside bandits threaten the heroes, gunshots are exchanged, and a man is killed. A gun is also pointed at the boy. More guns are used to threaten people. The man is shot by arrows from a crossbow, which is followed by a bloody, gruesome "first-aid" scene. The man and boy also find a flare gun. Cannibalism is suggested but not shown.


Several (though not constant) uses of both "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "hell," "damn," "goddamn," and "ass."


Even in a desolate future, a few brand-name products survive. The man and the boy find a last can of Coca-Cola in a vending machine, and in one major scene, they find an underground bunker stocked with food. The boy eats Cheetos and mispronounces their name: "Chee-TOSS." The man and the boy drink Vitamin Water. Some labels can be briefly glimpsed in the background.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In the bunker scene, the man opens a bottle of whisky and drinks. The boy wants to know what it is and wants to taste it, but the man refuses. "It makes you feel funny," he says.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Road (based on the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy) is a relentlessly grim, gray portrait of a future in which an unnamed disaster has wiped most living things from the Earth, food is scarce, and people have resorted to cannibalism. (In other words, not a kid movie!) The main characters are a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his 10-year-old son; their relationship is wonderfully touching and ever hopeful, but the surrounding movie is depressing and sometimes violent, with many depictions of and references to suicide (including the boy's mother), as well as some scenes with gunfire and threats. Though older teens and adults may find it a meaningful, if not exactly entertaining, experience, know that it's not the Mad Max-type action movie that some ads have promised.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMovieMan26 October 11, 2010

Devastating, yet decent; probably too intense for kids

This is a deavastating apocalyptic drama along the lines of Children of Men, although nowhere near as violent. Parents: The dark tone alone should give kids nig... Continue reading
Parent Written byMyMoustache February 2, 2013

The Road

When I first saw this film i was unsure what to expect. After the second time i watched it i began to appreciate how good it is. I think the statement that kids... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBulletbluesky93 June 20, 2010

Extremely disturbing film, only to be watched by mature movie viewers.

This movie is one of the darkest, and most depressing films I have ever seen. I am a film fanatic, and seen hundreds-and-hundreds of movies, but this takes the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBrandon4News April 9, 2011

Dreary and depressing post-apocalypse story isn't for kids.

Violence- 8/10 Language- 7/10 Overall Quality- 9/10

What's the story?

In the future, an unnamed disaster has ravaged Earth, wiping out most animal and plant life. Electricity is gone, food is scarce, and everything has turned cold and gray from falling ash. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his 10-year-old son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) make their way along the dangerous road toward the coast in the hopes of finding something -- anything -- there. Along the way, they meet some dangerous cannibals -- as well as some good people -- and together they must nurture their fragile flame of hope.

Is it any good?

The Road is a well-made movie and a powerful story. But despite the characters' persistent hope, the relentlessly grim material -- including the constant, cold, gray visuals -- can be overwhelming, somewhat stalling the drama's forward momentum. Indeed, it's hard to argue that Hillcoat's intense visual presentation adds anything to or improves upon McCarthy's spare prose. Overall though, The Road is effective -- and interesting as a comparison for those who loved the book.

Australian director John Hillcoat (The Proposition) has brought the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) to the screen faithfully, with only a few dramatic additions for the actors' benefit, as well as at least one action-oriented sequence. The emotional core of the movie is the same as the book: the moving relationship between the man and his son and the way they rely on each other for hope and survival.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the unnamed disaster that brought the world to this point. What would life be like after something like that? What could or couldn't you do anymore?

  • Why is the boy more hopeful and trustworthy than his father? What could the boy know or understand that his father doesn't?

  • What made the boy's mother commit suicide? Why did she give up hope when the man and the boy still had hope?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate