The Shape of Water

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Shape of Water Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Compassionate monster movie/love story has mature content.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 46 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 29 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's love story may shock some viewers, but at its heart, this is a story about sympathy, compassion, and love. It's about looking past physical differences and finding the thing that's true. And it's about risking your own safety to protect the rights of others who may seem different.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though the characters are brave and sympathetic, they also engage in certain amounts of deception and sometimes violence to do the right thing. While their intentions are admirable, their actions often aren't. Brief cultural slander.


Stabbing, bleeding. Severed fingers. Lots of blood. Bloody hand print. Bloody wounds. Attacking creature with a cattle prod. Guns/shooting, with resulting wounds and some deaths. Car crash. Creature eats cat; bleeding, headless cat shown. A character rages. A jump scare. Reattached fingers rotting/character rips them off. Throat slashing. Some hitting/bashing with objects.


Full-frontal female nudity. Woman masturbates in the bathtub. A married couple has sex; thrusting and a naked male bottom are shown. Woman and creature naked in tub together. Man touches a naked breast. Flirting. Innuendo.


Several uses of "f--k," plus "motherf----r," "s--t," "p---y," "bastards," "hell," "crap," "damn," "piss," "pee," "masturbation."


Corn Flakes shown/mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several minor/supporting characters smoke. A character with severed fingers swallows handfuls of pain pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Shape of Water is a 1960s-set fantasy/romance about a woman who falls in love with an otherworldly creature and tries to rescue him. It's from beloved director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), and it easily ranks among his best films, but it's only recommended for older teens and up due to its mature content. Expect to see lots of blood, some jump scares, fighting and hitting, guns and shooting, and other gory/horrific moments (for example, a man rips off his own rotting fingers, and the creature bites a cat's head off). There's also full-frontal female nudity and some strong sexual situations: a married couple has sex (viewers see a naked male bottom thrusting), a woman masturbates in a bathtub, and the woman and the creature share a kind of supernatural sex scene. Language is also strong, with uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "p---y," and more. Some characters smoke, and one pops pain pills.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byAlexa W. April 13, 2018


This is a very inspiring movie, that I think kids as young as 12 should be able to enjoy. The story is set in 1962 in Baltimore, where a mute girl named Elisa w... Continue reading
Parent of a 17-year-old Written byMary L. January 27, 2018

Pornographic filth - no redeeming quality - a waste of time - we walked out

Graphic sex - beastiality, a commandment and it was broken. All I can say is Why ???
Teen, 14 years old Written bySteelVenom1216 February 17, 2018

Del toro strikes again!

I love this movie! It was well scripted, acted, and shot. The cinematography was spectacular and beautiful. All the underwater scenes especially were done well.... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byEtcetaria March 4, 2018


I went to see this with my uncle and aunt, thinking that there would be no problem with me seeing this movie as it was aged 12+. I found out later just how ludi... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE SHAPE OF WATER, mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works nights as a cleaning lady for an aerospace research center in the early 1960s. She and her talkative best friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), start cleaning one of the rooms and discover some kind of non-human being (Doug Jones) in a tank full of water. Finding herself drawn to him, Elisa keeps visiting, bringing him hard-boiled eggs and playing music. But since the cruel, vicious Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) violently treats the creature as an enemy, Elisa decides to break him out. She enlists the aid of her loyal next-door neighbor, commercial artist Giles (Richard Jenkins), and is unexpectedly helped by scientist Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who doesn't want to see the creature killed and dissected. With the creature living in her bathtub, Elisa realizes that she must free him. But does she have enough time? And what's the secret of their mysterious connection?

Is it any good?

Fantastic director Guillermo Del Toro clearly put everything he had into this wonderful monster movie/romance, from a beautiful, labyrinthian visual scheme to a powerful story of love and empathy. Certainly The Shape of Water comes from a strange idea, but it's so lovely and so open-hearted that it never steps wrong. Given that it's structured, like Del Toro's own Pan's Labyrinth, as a kind of fairy tale, viewers may notice that it's easy to see where the story is going, but The Shape of Water is less about the payoff, or even the mystery, than it is about simply connecting.

It's interesting that Del Toro spends time focusing on other connections in the story, from husband-and-wife relationships to a spurned crush. And even the friendship between Elisa and Zelda -- one never speaking, the other always speaking -- is amusingly off-kilter. The movie seems to be saying that as long as something feels real, then it is real. The characters are supported by the brilliant set designs, which frame characters in unique and specific ways. There's also a striking use of the color green, as well as thematic uses of water (for cooking, bathing, as a force for destruction, etc.). All in all, The Shape of Water is one of Del Toro's absolute best movies.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Shape of Water's violence. How much is shown? Does it feel surprising or out of place in a movie that could otherwise seem like a gentle fairy tale? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What's the difference between the characters' motivations and their methods? What bad or violent things happen while they try to do good things? Are they admirable just the same? How does the movie demonstrate the importance of compassion?

  • How are sex and nudity depicted? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How does the movie generate sympathy for a monster over sympathy for certain humans? How does this idea relate to real life?

  • Do you consider the movie to be a fairy tale? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dark stories

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