The Sisters Brothers

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Sisters Brothers Movie Poster Image
Heavy violence, camaraderie in revisionist Western.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Acknowledges the pitfalls of violence -- i.e., that violence begets more violence -- but there never seems to be anything in the way of consequences other than death itself. Greed is also rampant. For a brief time, four characters work together, but it's short-lived due to vice and greed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are likable but aren't worth emulating. They're violent, greedy, selfish, sometimes disloyal.


Lots of killing, guns, shooting. Many characters die, and death isn't given much weight. Bloody wounds, gore, pools of blood. Animals (horses, a bear, fish, beavers, etc.) are killed; horses are trapped in a burning barn (one is shown running, on fire). Characters get nasty chemical burns. Characters get sick and nearly die. Man's arm amputated with a saw. Brief, violent nightmare shows a man chopping bodies to pieces. Character dies by suicide. Hitting and punching. Characters handcuffed, tied up.


Brief images of men having sex with prostitutes. Men flirt with prostitutes in a bar. Sexual innuendo. Kissing. Suggestion of a man masturbating under a blanket.


Several uses of "f--k," plus "bulls--t," "a--hole," "damn fool," "ass," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," plus "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character abuses alcohol, getting extremely drunk in more than one scene. Violent hangovers with vomiting. Lots of social drinking, mainly whiskey. Cigarette and cigar smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sisters Brothers is an incredibly violent Western based on a novel by Patrick DeWitt. Many characters are shot and killed -- death doesn't seem to carry much weight here -- and there's plenty of gore and blood. Animals are killed, characters get nasty chemical burns, a character dies by suicide, and limbs are severed. Language is also very strong, with multiple uses of "f--k" and more. A main character abuses alcohol, gets heavily drunk in more than one scene, and suffers terrible hangovers (including vomiting and passing out). Social drinking and cigar/cigarette smoking are also shown. Expect to see brief images of sex with saloon prostitutes, as well as kissing, flirting, and the suggestion of a man masturbating under a blanket. This movie -- which stars John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix -- has some fine acting and picturesque scenery, and mature Western fans are likely to enjoy it, but it may be a little off-putting to genre newcomers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byahmed aiman 99 February 22, 2019

The Sisters Brothers is a must-see hidden gem from 2018

Love Western films or not, The Sisters Brothers will probably leave you more than satisfied, for it refuses to be submitted in a specific genre; it's equal... Continue reading
Parent of a 18+-year-old Written bygoodmovies19 February 8, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written byJacob Hetfield April 18, 2019
Teen, 17 years old Written byLpgore October 10, 2018

Amazing time if you like slow movies

This is a fantastic movie. It's got amazing dialogue with some great chemistry between John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix. Another thing about it is that it... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE SISTERS BROTHERS, it's 1851, and cool-headed Eli (John C. Reilly) and reckless Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) Sisters are hired killers who generally work in Oregon for a powerful man called the Commodore. Their latest job involves a man named Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed). Another of the Commodore's agents -- the elegant, educated John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) -- has been charged with finding and befriending Warm; then the Sisters Brothers will meet them to do the dirty work. But Morris discovers what it is that the Commodore really wants: a special chemical formula for finding gold. So Morris decides to abandon the Commodore and join Warm in business, but they make many enemies in the process. The Sisters Brothers save the pair from attackers, and the four become friends. But the chemical gold mining has its drawbacks, and more tragedy awaits.

Is it any good?

This enjoyable revisionist Western based on Patrick DeWitt's novel focuses on male relationships. But it's also somewhat tonally uneven, swinging from scenes of brutal violence to scenes that could be described as "cuddly." French director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone, Dheepan) makes his English-language debut with an assured touch; the movie's lyrical dialogue flows like music. Audiard seems to specialize in stories about the way violence wriggles its way into relationships, and The Sisters Brothers fits that mold perfectly. Reilly and Phoenix's characters have a simple but genuine history and an appealing conversational shorthand. Their performances are terrific.

The same goes for Ahmed and Gyllenhaal (who previously worked well together in Nightcrawler), playing educated men who prize simple courtesies and kindnesses. (Gyllenhaal in particular speaks with a studied elocution that sounds poetic.) When the four characters are all together, hanging around camp and waiting for a chance to look for gold, they have a genuine, delightful camaraderie. Audiard uses the film's Western landscapes effectively, but the movie's violence can seem detached, and the killings don't mean much (except for the untimely death of a horse, which is more gruesome than it had to be). And if not for the ingenious casting of the loopy, lovable Carol Kane (who has about five minutes of screen time), the ending wouldn't have worked quite so well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Sisters Brothers' violence. How intense is it? Does it seem designed to shock or to thrill? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is drinking depicted? Is it glamorized? Where does social drinking cross the line into abuse in this movie? What are the consequences?

  • How are women portrayed in the movie? Are any shown in positions of power? Why do you think prostitutes are so prominent in stories of the Old West?

  • What is the appeal of the Western genre? How does it speak to us today? What is a "revisionist" Western? Does this one qualify?

  • How are the brothers affected by an abusive childhood? Do they overcome it? How do their choices differ?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Westerns and action

Themes & Topics

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