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The Thinning

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Thinning Movie Poster Image
Some peril, sex in teen dystopian sci-fi tale.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 81 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 19 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No positive messages. In a dystopian near-future American society, it's believed that the best way to combat overpopulation is by executing the students from first through twelfth grade who finish in the bottom 5% of an intelligence test. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Blake and Laina try to fight the system.


One of the lead characters knocks out an armed guard with a fire extinguisher. Guards shown violently beating students who try to escape or fight back against taking an intelligence test in which those who finish in the bottom 5% are to be executed. Peril, as those students who perform the worst on this test are dragged away by guards clad entirely in black and wearing black hockey masks. Some bullying, a cocky football player pushes, shoves, and knocks the phones out of other students' hands while stomping around the high school halls. 


From afar, a teacher witnesses another teacher having sex with an underage student in the front seat of his car, a bribe from her to pass the test. After he and his girlfriend swim in their underclothes, the son of the governor of Texas is found by a member of his security detail hooking up with his girlfriend the night before an important test. 


"Bitch" is the go-to word of a bullying high school football star. Occasional profanity: "s--t," "d--k," "pissed off," "goddammit." One character says, "Don't f it up." 


Afather tells his son how much he loves Pop Tarts. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Thinning is a 2016 YouTube Red dystopian science fiction story set in the near future. The premise of the movie is that due to overpopulation, it's decided that each year, students from the first through twelfth grades who finish in the bottom 5% of a test are to be executed, thus keeping the population low and smart. Guards dressed entirely in black with black hockey masks brutalize and oppress students at nearly every opportunity, speaking through a voice modulator that lowers the tone of their voices. They brutally club and beat up any student who either tries to escape taking the test or tries to resist after failing the test. A student knocks out one of the guards with a fire extinguisher. Young children are shown being taken away after failing the test. A teacher observes another teacher having sex with an underage student in his car; this is the student's attempt at bribery to ensure she passes the test. There is some profanity, including the word "bitch" used excessively by a bullying high school football player. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 year old Written byAdulting August 29, 2017

Modern day classic Logan Paul movie

This movie is very good, no sex, one bad word... bitch. Other than that one word this Logan Paul movie is a modern day classic with a great storyline, and a gre... Continue reading
Parent of a 15 year old Written byKat B December 3, 2017

Don't count it out!

Ok, let me just start out this review by saying that this movie would not pass by most standards as "good" to most. The premise is great, the executi... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 12, 2017

Definetly for mature tweens and older teens who love a great sci-fi- thrill!

I am 10 and this is my favorite movie. But be aware it may give younger or more sensiteve kids nightmares. The only reason it is my favorite movie is because I... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMs.Alanius June 14, 2017

Great plot, but a little unnecessary violence

I absolutely LOVE this movie! The plot is amazing! I think the reason I loved it was because it was about two teens fighting an uphill battle. Who doesn't... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the near future, overpopulation depletes the world's resources. As a result, governments begin taking radical steps. While some enforce a strict one-child only law and others kill off the elderly, America opts to have first through twelfth graders take a test each year, a test commonly known as THE THINNING. Students who finish in the bottom 5% are executed, thus making the population smaller and smarter. After high school junior Blake (Logan Paul) loses his girlfriend Ellie to The Thinning, he vows to fight back against this barbaric practice, even if that means taking on his father -- the pro-Thinning Governor of Texas who is eyeing the Oval Office -- and even if it means carrying out his intention to deliberately fail the test since his father allowed Ellie to die. Blake puts a video in the mail stating his intention to deliberately fail the test; the Governor's agents find the envelope and deliver it to the Governor as Blake is carrying out his plan. The Governor orders the brutal school security detail who help proctor the test to allow his son to pass; as a result, a gifted high school senior named Laina is called to be executed. While being carried away with the others to be killed, Blake fights back against the guards and frees Laina. Now it's up to Blake and Laina to prove that the tests are rigged and brutally enforced, as the school remains on lockdown, leaving parents waiting outside uncertain of the fates of their children. 

Is it any good?

Despite the low budget, obvious comparisons to The Hunger Games, and the ridiculous lengths the movie sometimes goes to generate tension, this manages to be entertaining dystopian sci-fi. The premise is fully fleshed out, there's an undeniable chemistry between the young actors, and there are enough twists and turns to keep it engaging. The cliffhanger undoubtedly assures a sequel, and there's enough interest in the characters and their situations to want to know what happens next. 

There are some flaws. For example, according to The Thinning, hairstyles, smartphones, and automobile design don't seem to change all that much in the future. But despite the questionable idea of forcing kids to take a life-or-death test in a dark room with giant oppressive Orwellesque digital timers and billyclub-wielding security guards dressed in all-black with black hockey masks, the rest of the movie holds up. The dialogue is mostly groan-free, and with the exception of the hammy kid playing the entitled jock bully, the acting stays consistently above the level of typical low-budget sci-fi fare. The Thinning should give the teenagers YouTube Red is trying to reach something more to latch onto other than good looks. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dystopian science fiction movies like The Thinning. Why do you think movies set in a bleak future have an appeal? 

  • How did this movie use music, sound effects, and colors to create the oppressive environments of the schools? 

  • How was violence used in this movie? Did it seem necessary to the story, or added to make the movie seem more exciting?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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