Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Exceptional, intense, complex crime drama resonates.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Married couple has sex offscreen; references to how it felt, etc.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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."
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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.
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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Based on 24 parent reviews
This complex, beautiful and masterful drama has heavy violence, language and themes
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Outside looking in often best perspective.
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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?
- In theaters: November 10, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: February 27, 2018
- Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson
- Director: Martin McDonagh
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, language throughout, and some sexual references
- Awards: Academy Award, Golden Globe
- Last updated: January 20, 2023
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