Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Movie Poster Image
Exceptional, intense, complex crime drama resonates.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 115 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 13 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Though the movie doesn't have any clear messages (it's a mix of emotional states), it does leave viewers with an interesting thought concerning justice and revenge. It will be worth discussing, since the movie poses the question but doesn't answer it. Tackles tough themes/subjects including suicide, murder, cancer, and racism.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though there's a rich, three-dimensional female character at the movie's center, she isn't exactly a role model. She's strong and stands up to challenges, but she's also an extremely flawed human who's prone to acts of violence, outbursts of anger, and thoughts of revenge. There's also a racist character who makes several off-color remarks.

Violence

Police assault. A man shoots himself in the head; the resulting bloody mess is shown. A man threatens a woman, grabbing her by the throat. Knife held to throat. Drilling through a thumbnail with a dentist's drill. A character beats people with the butt of a gun. After being beaten terribly, a man is thrown through a glass window, landing in the street. Building on fire; character burned (scars shown). Bar fight, with scratching and bleeding. A man coughs up blood. Violent outbursts. References to rape.

Sex

Married couple has sex offscreen; references to how it felt, etc.

Language

Extremely strong language, including "f--k," "c--t," the "N" word, "c--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "pr--k," "piss," "balls," "anus," "f-g/f--got," "cooze," "retard," "fat boy," and "scumbag," plus "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation) and racist remarks/racial slurs.

Consumerism

JIF peanut butter jar shown. Cereal boxes: Rice Krispies, Froot Loops. Doritos mentioned. Google mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent cigarette smoking. References to pot smoking. Characters share beers. Wine at dinner. Reference to driving drunk. Reference to hangover/headache. Reference to having a "drinking problem."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an intense, sharply written crime-related drama with excellent performances (especially by star Frances McDormand). Expect some intense moments of violence, including assault by a police officer, a man grabbing a woman by the throat, fighting, beating with blunt objects, a man being horribly beaten and thrown through a window, a man being burned in a fire, threats with a knife, a drill being put through a thumbnail, someone coughing up blood, a man shooting himself in the head, references to rape, and more. Language is also extremely strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word," "c--t," and much more. A married couple has sex offscreen (it's referred to but not shown). Characters smoke cigarettes and drink socially, and there are references to drinking problems, hangovers, and drug use.

User Reviews

Adult Written byIan k. December 18, 2017

Fantastic movie.

Wonderful film with great performances, definitely for mature audiences. Please ignore the other reviews claim that the movies subject matter is the violence sh... Continue reading
Adult Written byjennifer b. January 28, 2018

should have walked out

This movie seemed to aspire to be like a Cohen brothers movie but fails miserably. The amount of strong language so pervasive that it was distracting. I reall... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJ-Train December 24, 2017

Emotional Movie Is One of 2017's Best

Three Billboards is one of 2017's best movies. It is a very intense crime drama that really makes you think. Every actor turned in a phenomenal performance... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPotatoMate January 18, 2018

thrilling drama with violence and language

Great movie. Language: 10/10. Very strong frequent language. F word, c word, n word, s word and b word. Violence: 8/10 strong violence. Person held by throat. K... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is still -- understandably -- grieving and angry a year after her daughter was raped and murdered, with the perpetrator never found. While driving a lonely stretch of road, Mildred spots three unused billboards. So she rents them and puts up a message for the local police chief, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), calling him out for his failure to find the person who killed her daughter. Her act doesn't sit well with her fellow citizens, especially dim-bulb police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell). Mildred finds herself and her friends threatened on several occasions, especially when someone tries to burn down her billboards. Meanwhile, Willoughby is guarding his own terrible secret. Then, it's none other than Dixon, inspired by Willoughby, who steps up and tries to help.

Is it any good?

So sharply written that it cuts, the third movie from award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is a dramedy that starts with cleverness and wit, then opens up into something truthfully human. Aptly titled, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, features superb, lyrical dialogue so good that every single cast member, no matter how little screen time, gives a superb performance. McDormand in particular hasn't been this good since her Oscar-winning turn in Fargo. Yet Three Billboards never seems too clever for its own good. It's a stronger effort than McDonagh's In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths; beneath the sparkling verbiage are genuine, complex emotions.

There's hope here -- and love -- but also hate, rage, and grief, just like life. They're are all mixed up in a most bracing way. At the same time, the movie tackles things like murder, cancer, and racism, but never in a way that might seem obvious or pandering. It's not a movie about suspense or solutions; things are deliberately messy in this world, even if McDonagh presents them in a pin-neat manner. Blessed with pitch-perfect cinematography and production design, the movie offers many great scenes and no bad ones. But nothing quite prepares you for the final scene, a thoughtful, human moment that should resonate for some time.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri's use of violence. How much is shown, and how much is mentioned or threatened? What's the overall effect? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does the movie broach the subject of racism? Which characters are racist? How can you tell? How do things change, if at all?

  • What effect does Mildred's billboard scheme have? Was her action a positive move? Or was it something more akin to revenge or anger?

  • How does the movie portray and address suicide? Do you agree with that depiction?

  • How are drinking, smoking, and drugs represented in the movie? Does it glamorize them? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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