The Spirit Movie Poster Image

The Spirit

Violent, sexy superhero flick is all style, no substance.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A career criminal chooses to stop a murderer and lunatic; in return, she's allowed to walk away. The lead character is shown to be a confused, emotionally promiscuous person. Extensive discussion of the nature of power. The lead character is a vigilante who has the tacit approval of the city's police force. The uniforms and iconography of the Nazi party are used solely for stylistic purposes.


Constant, hyper-stylized, bloody action. Characters are knifed, shot, punched (in the head, groin, stomach, and more), run over with cars, struck with arrows, impaled with weapons, exploded into bloody gobbets, encouraged to commit suicide, decapitated, punched, and more. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of dead bodies as a consequence. Characters also break necks with their bare hands. A genetic experiment gone wrong (a foot with a head sticking out of the ankle) is dissolved in acid. Disembodied eyeballs are seen swirling in a drain, and a severed finger is seen moving under its own power. Bloody wounds are seen in hyper-stylized contrast, so the blood seems white. Some of the characters, in comic-book fashion, have abilities that make them impervious or insensible to violence.


Lots of suggestive talk, clothing, and cleavage; some kissing and unbuttoning; one instance of nude female buttocks. Every female character in the film is presented as a two-dimensional doormat of desire who longs for the hero. Plenty of innuendo and implied sexuality. References to child prostitution.


Language includes "asses," "damn," "fart," "bastard," "goddamn," "hell," "piss," and more. Characters also use ethnic references like "guido" and "Jew."


Some brands mentioned by name or displayed on screen -- Bulgari jewelry, Diet Pepsi, etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters smoke plenty of cigarillos and cigarettes and drink beer and hard alcohol. The villain finances his research through drug trafficking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Spirit is an update of a 1940s comic book from one of the creative forces behind 300. It's overflowing with hyper-stylized and excessive violence -- and suffused with smirking sexuality. There's only one instance of nudity (female buttocks), but the movie's sexual politics are decidedly retrograde -- all the female characters are either tarted-up villains, "bad" girls with hearts of gold, or long-suffering true loves who stand by their men. Also be prepared for buckets of stylized (but still graphic) bloodshed and lots of gory wounds and deaths. While the violence has the hyperactive, cartoony feel of a comic book, it's also brutal and depicted with extraordinary detail.

What's the story?

A rookie cop named Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) returns mysteriously from the dead as The Spirit, a crime fighter lurking in the shadows of his beloved Central City. His mission is to protect the city from evil forces, especially his nemesis, the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), a killer who will stop at nothing -- including the total destruction of Central City -- to obtain immortality. The Spirit tracks down the Octopus, all the while facing a series of beautiful, sometimes treacherous women, some who want to seduce him, and some who want to kill him. 

Is it any good?


Directed by Frank Miller -- the comic book creator behind 300 and Sin City -- THE SPIRIT takes comic book icon Will Eisner's 1940s character and updates him in all the wrong ways. The classic Spirit strips had a noir sensibility, but they also had rich, well-drawn characters and a brilliant sense of urban setting; Miller, making his directorial debut, jettisons all that for flashy visuals, sexy posing, and over-the-top violence.

All of the actors are capable -- even the bland, handsome Macht in the title role -- but Miller's script is so shabby and threadbare that it's impossible to care about the characters or their situations; awash in fake blood and infantile sexuality, The Spirit doesn't so much represent the triumph of style over substance as represent the triumph of style over everything, including sensibility, storytelling, the look and feel of the original material, and the need to create a coherent film. Miller may be able to craft a story on the printed page, but with The Spirit, it's clear he can't make the jump to the big screen.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of comic book cinema. Why do you think so many comic characters, no matter how marginal or lesser-known, seem to wind up on the big screen? Do all comic book movies have the same appeal? Why or why not?

  • Discuss The Spirit's broad, almost cartoony violence -- is a violent film that's so over-the-top more or less problematic than a realistic one? What would be the real ramifications and consequences of violence like what's shown here?

  • How does the movie depict women? What role do they play? And how much of the film's marketing and iconography is about selling sex?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 2008
DVD/Streaming release date:April 14, 2009
Cast:Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson
Director:Frank Miller
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense sequences of stylized violence and action, some sexual content and brief nudity

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Teen, 14 years old Written byMayorMaypop November 28, 2010

not a good movie, not clean, boring.

bad movie, weak plot, boring over all, alot of sexual content, nudity, conversations are inapropreate, highly sexual. dont watch this
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written bytim45 January 8, 2009

Good comic book adaption film

This movie was good. the action scenes were very stylized. also this film had very funny parts in it. the violence was pretty bad for a pg-13 film. it had a bloody scene in it. the actors/actresses did their job like they were supposed to. the only main problem with this film was that in didn't show the city enough. overall, the film is enjoyable to watch. the action scenes are great. some dialougue was cheesy, but that's how it is supposed to be. frank miller, well done.
Teen, 15 years old Written byErrweb March 30, 2010

A movie only for action fans

It is quite a good movie, for people who like action, but there are some action scenes, brief nudity and sexual content which isn't age appropriate. The style of the movie is pretty good, but the acting is ludicrous. Personally I also found this movie quite slow in the begining.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex