The Zero Theorem

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Zero Theorem Movie Poster Image
Dense, messy, brilliant movie has some sex, language.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

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

The main character learns that interaction with humans can be beneficial and that making his own choices, rather than waiting for something to happen, is preferable. There are other themes mixed up in the complex narrative, including the idea suggested by the title -- that hopefully everything does not equal nothing. Individual viewers will likely take away other conclusions and different ideas.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Qohen Leth isn't a bad person, but he also doesn't seem to be someone you'd want to emulate. He's intelligent but wounded and passive. He does learn some important lessons over the course of the film, but they're imposed on him by others. He needs a push to make anything happen.


The character goes on a brief rampage, trying to wreck a computer, throwing things, pulling cables out, and trying to smash things. There's an explosion. Some tense, confrontational conversations.


A woman flirts with the main character at a party. She wears a tight "sexy nurse" outfit with cleavage shown; there's also a close-up of her behind. She explains that she wants to have sex but never lets anything inside her. So instead they meet on a website where they virtually kiss. Images of naked women are shown on the website, and the main female character appears topless. The main character also appears naked; his bottom is seen.


One supporting character, a teen, uses quite a bit of strong language, including several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "ass." "Bitch" is also used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink cocktails at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, like many of director Terry Gilliam's other films, The Zero Theorem is complex, dark, smart, and quite dazzling. It plays with many ideas and isn't easy to pin down or label; as such, it's likely to inspire strong opinions on both sides. There's some strong language, much spoken by a teen, including "f--k" and "s--t." Other content includes nudity, mostly female toplessness, as main characters enter a website to kiss and have virtual sex. (The female character doesn't want to be touched in real life.) There's a brief scene of violence as the character rampages and tries to destroy a computer and a brief scene of drinking at a party. This will be something that film buffs will want to check out, but it's best for older teens and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byLindscrow March 31, 2015

Intelligent, futuristic sci-fi with a philosophical angle with sexualised nudity

This is a typical Terry Gilliam film. Set in a dark and trashy future with garish characters popping up every which way it hones in on an obsessive worker who c... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bybiovox14 December 11, 2018

Incredible, atmospheric, strange

Ok so this movie is along the lines of many other sci-fi movies in base execution. Much like Annihilation, Ex Machina, Inception, it relies a lot on ambiguity t... Continue reading

What's the story?

Loner Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) works for a big company but would rather stay in his vast, cavernous, ruined home, where he awaits an important phone call that he believes could give him his purpose in life. He strikes a deal with Management (Matt Damon): He can work at home if he attempts to solve the "zero theorem" -- i.e. to somehow make zero equal 100%. He begins this bizarre task, interrupted by various visits from the flirty Bainsley (Melanie Thierry); the cocksure boss's son, teen Bob (Lucas Hedges); his cheerful colleague, Joby (David Thewlis); and a "digital therapist" (Tilda Swinton). As Qohen slowly begins to lose focus on his two goals, he begins to wonder whether there isn't perhaps something less predictable and more rewarding to life.

Is it any good?

Terry Gilliam is a visionary director whose huge, personal visions are frequently as fantastic and futuristic as they are unwieldy and difficult to pin down. In short, they aren't for everyone, and THE ZERO THEOREM is perhaps one of his more downbeat films, if also one of his most heartfelt. It explores the clash between being solitary and living with humanity, ridiculing both as much as finding beauty in them.

Qohen Leth's living space is vast but in ruins, while the outside world is bright and new but also busy and noisy. Technology usually comes between actual human relationships, but sometimes there are surprises. Gilliam has guided Oscar-nominated performances before, and Waltz's work here is quite powerful and moving, which helps. It's a dense film, layered with ideas and themes, many that require pondering or perhaps a second viewing. Though it comes close in many ways to Gilliam's masterpiece Brazil (1985), ultimately it finds its own path.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Zero Theorem depicts sex. How does it relate to love? How does it relate to an actual human connection? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • What do you think about the idea of waiting for a telephone call that could tell you everything about your life? Have you ever waited for someone to tell you something? What other ways are there of getting information?

  • The movie is set in the future, but how many aspects of this future world seem familiar today? How?

  • Is the movie too complex or confusing? What didn't you understand? How could it have been clearer?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

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