The Sum of All Fears Movie Poster Image

The Sum of All Fears



Generic action film not good for kids, or anyone.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

There are some individual killings as well as disaster images.

Not applicable
Not applicable

The Superbowl figures largely in the plot.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking and smoking

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a fairly typical blow-'em-up movie. Characters drink, smoke, curse, kill one another, and commit espionage and acts of terrorism. The film addresses the worst case scenario for a missing nuclear weapon, which has fallen into the hands of a terrorist group based in the Middle East. The film's representation of Middle Eastern people and culture is two-dimensional. The destruction and violence depicted in the movie may be upsetting to younger viewers, and the film's political themes will likely confuse them.

What's the story?

Based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS centers on Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), a CIA pencil pusher called in to help provide insight to Russian-American relations after the assassination of the Russian president. When a low-yield nuclear bomb is detonated at the Superbowl, the CIA assumes that the Russians may well be to blame. Jack convinced otherwise, risks his career and his life to find the real explanation. The audience learns early in the film that the terrorist act is the work of a Middle Eastern terrorist cell that bought a stray nuclear weapon, and then watches Jack struggle to discover the same information.

Is it any good?


Filled with explosions and espionage, The Sum of All Fears is a typical big budget action film in most regards. It attempts to be thought-provoking, but manages only to be alarmist. The acting is nothing to write home about. As Jack Ryan, Ben Affleck does his best, which isn't saying much. Bridget Moynahan in the role of Dr. Cathy Muller, Morgan Freeman is consistent as Ryan's supervisor, DCI William Cabot. Similarly bland, the special effects in the film consist, unsurprisingly, of a series of explosions and shootings.

This isn't a terrible movie, but it's just middle-of-the-road action. The film's treatment of global politics is over-simplified. While the scenario outlined in the movie might be conceivable, it's highly unlikely. The film is too violent to make sense as family entertainment, and the political agenda means that the time it takes to watch the film might be better spent reading the newspaper.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about issues of arms races and nuclear weapons control. How likely is a scenario like the one depicted in this movie? What measures should be taken to keep nuclear weapons from becoming a threat? The film also addresses social responsibility. Jack Ryan risks his career and his life to ensure the safety of the American public. While this is clearly the "right" thing to do, how does Jack manage to make this risky decision?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 31, 2002
DVD/Streaming release date:October 29, 2002
Cast:Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber, Morgan Freeman
Director:Phil Alden Robinson
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence, disaster images, and brief strong violence.

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For kids who love action

What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written by9001 May 14, 2010

Some disturbing violent content, violence, some sexual content, and some strong language.

I found particular aspects of this movie to be very disturbing. The scene in the dark room with the corpses was disturbing, and I find the scene where Freeman looks around at the huge crowd of people about to be blown up disturbing. There is also some violence and disaster images. At the beginning, there is a scene where a man and a woman prepare for sex but never get there (they are still clothed; you can briefly see the woman pull a strap back up her shoulder when the man has to answer the phone). There are some kisses. There are some uses of the word ---d--n, infrequent use of the word $*** (one with b**l). There is one use of the F word. In general, I rate this movie iffy for ages 14-15 mainly because of the disturbing violent content. In terms of the language, this movie would be iffy for ages 13-14 (just as long as your child understood not to repeat the language they heard), in terms of the sexual content, this movie would be iffy for ages 13-14, and in terms of violence, this movie would be iffy for ages 14-15. Therefore, this movie is iffy for ages 14-15.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byC-Rae April 8, 2013

Things not in the review

There was a scene near the beginning with a couple (not married) sleeping together. In the morning, they wake up and make out. Language includes a**hole, b*stard, d*mn
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byFILMCRITIC500 February 10, 2013

exciting thriller has intense violence, strong language

bombs, bombs, and more bombs. that best sums up the aptly named Sum of All Fears. based on the Tom Clancy novel, it has what most people expect from a movie based on his books: suspense, thrills, and violence. but the graphic images and the strong action in this movie makes it way too intense for younger teens. although most of the film contains suspense instead of action, it still can pack a punch. there are explosions from missiles and nuclear bombs, a man is shot multiple times, another has his throat slit offscreen, and a third is blown up. Ryan and a man have a brutal fist fight with choking. people are seen with grisly wounds (skin off, bloody holes, cuts) there is frequent strong language.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing