The Rules of Attraction Movie Poster Image

The Rules of Attraction



Not for kids, and not for many adults, either.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know


Peril and brief, explicit violence, graphic suicide scene.


Extremely graphic and explicit sexual situations.


Extremely strong and abusive language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Extreme alcohol and drug abuse.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie contains many elements that they wouldn't want their kids to see. The first scene alone of a horribly demeaning date-rape is followed by a nonstop montage designed to shock the most jaded of college party kids, let alone their parents. Sex is pervasive, casual and often described in excruciating detail. Drugs are ubiquitous and feature no downsides beyond the occasional bloody nose or fight with a dealer. Alcohol is more prevalent than soda. The bathtub suicide of one of the minor characters is so devoid of emotion that the laying out of the razor blade is as casual as removing one's rings.

What's the story?

Based on Brett Easton Ellis' book, RULES OF ATTRACTION is set at fictional Camden College, where the young, wealthy and white escape reality through sex, alcohol and drugs. The story alternates perspectives and time lines while focusing on several campus parties. Bi and beautiful Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) loves self-described "emotional vampire" and part-time drug dealer Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), who in turn loves the doe-eyed and virginal Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) who loves self-absorbed Victor (Kip Pardue). To stir up the party, Sean sleeps with Lara (Jessica Biel), Lauren's roommate, as a proxy, while Paul has a nostalgic fling with long-time friend Richard "Dick" Jared (Russell Sams). Notable cameos include Eric Stoltz as a student-seducing professor; Faye Dunaway as Paul's tipsy mother; and a cocaine-dusted Clifton Collins, Jr. as unpredictable drug dealer Rupert.

Is it any good?


Roger Avary has done a good job of adapting Ellis' multi-perspective narrative into a slick, visually dynamic movie. Ellis' books have all dealt with similar 1980's themes from different perspectives and have woven in references to characters from his other works. For example, Rules of Attraction protagonist, Sean Bateman, is younger brother to American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Avary's backward-forward filming and present-past-present timing gradually reveal the story, but he cannot put content into what is, in the end, an empty tale. 

Although the movie is set in the present day, the strong influence of the book and Avary's decision to weave in references to Ellis' other books keeps a '80's zeitgeist. The times having changed so dramatically over the years: the end of the Cold War; the flannel-clad nihilism descending from the Seattle scene; the disappearance of the rich, white boy as the movie bad guy; the return of heroin. But perhaps, most importantly, the world did not end.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why some people rely upon drugs as a crutch and be sure to discuss the film's bleak portrayal of adult drug use as well as that of the college kids. Other issues to be discussed include the connection or lack of connection between the characters and the consequences of the choices we make.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 11, 2002
DVD/Streaming release date:February 18, 2003
Cast:James Van Der Beek, Jessica Biel, Shannyn Sossamon
Director:Roger Avary
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong sexual content, drug use, language and violent images

This review of The Rules of Attraction was written by

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


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Go Poster Image
    Graphic sex and drug use -- a go for adults only.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bygglover3 September 18, 2009

Perfect for older kids AND for mature teens!!

To hell with those stupid sex-negative drug-phobic unfit parents who think they actually know something when in reality they don;t know know crap! Those revolting sex-negative stupid anti-drug unfit dysfunctional parents could care less about their grown-up teenage kids unless they complied with their parents' stupid worthless obsolete pseudo-moral crap that is more important to them than understanding the feelings and suffering their own kids are going through, which by the way, has NOTHING to do with drugs or sex!!!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old December 21, 2010
Well I only saw the trailer and it looked like a interesting movie but alot of it wasnt appropriat for kids and that was only in the trailer. So i wouldnt recomend showing this to your "Kids". But it looks like a interesting movie
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Adult Written byestee April 9, 2008

dreadful and pointless

Although there are some appealing performances in this movie, the whole thing is just dreadfully depressing and pointless. I'm really sorry I spent time watching it.