The Spirit

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
The Spirit Movie Poster Image
Violent, sexy superhero flick is all style, no substance.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 12 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 17-year-old Written bykmichael97 November 17, 2009


might be in black and white kinda but it isnt the average superhero movie. bloody and kinda of brutal. like the part when the octopus explodes and his rib flies... Continue reading
Adult Written byilikemusik23 April 25, 2009

No Spirit Here...

While i was very excited to see this movie and has been waiting the whole year to see it, i have to say this is the WORST movie i have seen in quite a while. Ye... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byAGClyde May 14, 2021

Way Too Much of... Just About Everything

This movie sucks. Though some visual effects are appealing, this movie shouldn't be PG-13. Rather, it borders rated R. Violence is disturbing and gross, th... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bybiovox14 October 28, 2017

Mature, self aware, satire

So the reason so many people hated this movie was because they didn't understand it. This movie is a satire. Its making fun of superhero movies. The sterot... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Action

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

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate