The Signal Movie Poster Image

The Signal



Sci-fi tale looks great but isn't very original.
  • Review Date: June 13, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Perhaps the most important message here is "curiosity killed the cat." Also, if you're a computer hacker, don't underestimate anyone else's ability. 

Positive role models

The characters here are fairly typical college-age teens who are smart, sympathetic, and prone to mistakes and doubts. But eventually they try to help one another and overcome difficult odds.


Blood is seen during the climactic showdown. Characters have bloody faces, and there are blood spurts from shootings. A minor character is shown with a rifle and is shot. Characters are briefly seen cleaning rooms that have unknown brown/red stuff splattered on the walls. There's a fight around a big rig truck, and a character is bashed with the door. Characters are mysteriously thrown into the air. There are some jump-scare moments and some shocks. A truck crashes, and there's an explosion.


Two college-age characters are a couple. They kiss and behave comfortably around each other, but not much more. The girl's underwear-clad behind is shown in close-up.


Language isn't frequent but includes "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k," and "goddamn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Signal is a low-budget sci-fi movie involving three college-age teens. It has a few twists that are better not discussed, though younger viewers who've seen fewer sci-fi movies will be more surprised than veteran viewers; suffice it to say that there are definitely some "jump shock" moments. There's a little blood, mostly in a scene in which a minor character is shot; bloody wounds are also shown, and there's some fantasy-style fighting and chasing. Two of the characters are a couple, and they're shown kissing (there's also a close-up of the girl's underwear-clad behind). Expect some strong language, including a few uses of "s--t" and "a--hole."

What's the story?

Best friends/computer hackers Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are road-tripping through Nevada, taking Nic's girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke), to college. Tensions run high, since Nic worries about his future with Haley; he's in the early stages of a degenerative disease, and he thinks she'll give up on him. Also, Nic and Jonah have become obsessed with catching a mysterious hacker called NOMAD, much to Haley's irritation and impatience. When they believe they've tracked him to a run-down cabin, their adventure has only begun. They wake up in a weird, white building with no information as to how they got there or what's going on -- and only a slim chance of escape.

Is it any good?


THE SIGNAL is the second feature by former cameraman William Eubank, and it looks terrific. He clearly understands the concept of visual space and clarity, rather than the cluttered jumble of so many other sci-fi movies. It opens intimately, with cozy spaces for the three friends, then widens on those creepy, sterile white hallways, followed by disorienting, never-ending stretches of dusty Nevada desert.

Where the movie falters is in its plot, which does have a few cool surprises and powerhouse moments, but for the most part appears to have been borrowed from many other sci-fi movies. The Signal isn't very good at disguising its intentions or throwing viewers off balance. But Eubank has done a fine job with his casting, creating three interesting performances and avoiding the usual disposable, interchangeable teens. And Laurence Fishburne has a tangy supporting role that looks like it must have been fun.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about The Signal's sci-fi violence. How much does the movie show -- or not show? Does it tell a good story without relying on nonstop fighting and blood?

  • Is the movie scary? How much of that is achieved through what is and isn't on screen?

  • Would you have gone as far as these characters did in chasing an unseen rival? What would make the characters continue their pursuit?

  • Do the characters seem realistic? How are they similar or different to characters of the same age in other movies?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 13, 2014
DVD release date:September 23, 2014
Cast:Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Laurence Fishburne
Director:William Eubank
Studio:Focus Features
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some thematic elements, violence and language

This review of The Signal was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byhelpinghand June 16, 2014

R U Interested

If you are on the fence about seeing it, see it. The acting by Lawerence Fishburne and the up and comer Brenton Thwaites are perfect. A very entertaing and though provoking scifi thriller. Parents should know that there are some scary scenes as well as a few scenes of intense violence, some language, 2 possible F words
Teen, 15 years old Written byRadelite October 25, 2014

Something much different to this movie than any I have seen before.

This movie follows three college age teens as they track down a hacker who has been sending them strange messages just to have a close encounter with an ET(extraterrestrial) to wake up in a lab where they are apparently being questioned and studied in hopes of containing them just in case they are a danger to the outside world. But all is not as it may seem. Surprisingly well made movie with really good acting and special effects. Recommend this for teens who liked Super 8, Edge of Tomorrow, and other Si Fi movies. Just to let you know this movie is much better than you might think but while watching it the story seems different in comparison to other movies not like just a different story it just feels like something new. Might just be me but I liked it.
Educator and Parent Written byjohnswanson November 2, 2014

Very strange sci-fi movie that provides a few scares

This movie was very odd. At the beginning, three young kids arrive at a deserted house in the middle of nowhere because they are tracking an Internet hacker. From there, things get pretty intense and a little bit scary. I think this movie is OK for teens, but they may be very confused by the plot twists and scared by some of the more tense scenes. There is a bit of violence and profanity, but nothing too offensive. The ending doesn't really answer all of the questions posed by the movie, so it is a bit frustrating.


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