Total Recall (2012)

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Total Recall (2012) Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Remake is better looking, less violent, less thoughtful.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 36 reviews

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

Although set in a bleak future, Total Recall has an old theme: people with power and money trying to control and/or destroy those without. A few brave individuals stand up against these difficult odds, and the main character must learn to trust others. There's also a message about the fact that who you were matters less than who you are/who you become.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In this remake, Quaid is more admirable than he was in the original. He does a great deal of fighting, but it's mainly in self-defense. (He doesn't relish violence.) He has a great challenge to overcome: He wants to choose the greater good, but he can't remember anything, and everyone he thinks he can trust gives him different information.


The original movie's R-rated graphic violence has been toned down somewhat; though this version still has wall-to-wall martial arts-style fighting, nothing seems extra bloody, gratuitous, or mean. There are futuristic guns and other weapons, and characters are shot and killed. There are bloody wounds, but not a huge amount of gore. Characters fight with a knife, and one gets stabbed. Quaid must painfully slice a "phone" out of the palm of his hand with a chunk of broken glass (this is more implied than shown).


Repeating a joke from the first movie, an alien prostitute opens her coat and reveals three naked breasts. Quaid encounters her in a kind of "red light" district that hints of prostitution and "pleasure robots." Quaid kisses two women, one his "fake" wife and the other his "real" girlfriend. He wakes up in bed next to the wife, and they're both scantily clad. There's some slight innuendo as they begin to seduce one another, but they're interrupted.


One use of "f--k," plus very frequent use of "s--t." Other words include "a--hole," "goddamn," "ass," "d--k," "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bitch," plus "oh my God" and "Jesus Christ" (as exclamations).


A character grabs a Heineken beer from the refrigerator.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Quaid grabs a beer from his fridge, but he doesn't open it. Instead he goes to a bar and drinks beer with his buddy, who gets comically drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Total Recall is a remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's popular 1990 sci-fi movie; both are based on a short story by cult author Philip K. Dick. The original, R-rated movie has gratuitous, shocking violence, which was sometimes played for laughs; this PG-13-rated version features more streamlined, martial arts-style fighting, with less blood -- though weapons are pulled, and characters do die. One sex-related joke from the original is repeated (an alien prostitute flashes her three naked breasts), and a married couple is scantily clad in bed. Language includes one "f--k" and many "s--t"s, plus other words like "a--hole" and "bitch." Characters drink beer in one scene, and a supporting character gets comically drunk. Teen sci-fi fans will be interested, but the movie seems destined for a short shelf life compared to the original.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySteve J. November 6, 2016
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byMovielover02 January 28, 2014

Wow Nudity!

Shows 3 breasts, watch out!
Kid, 11 years old January 4, 2021

Total Recall (2012) Movie Review

Total Recall is a good movie with lots of violence frequent swearing and some sex. Language includes very frequent use of "s--t". Other words include... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTHEMANDOLORIAN June 18, 2020



What's the story?

A century in the future, the world has been rendered mostly uninhabitable. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works on an assembly line, building police sentry robots for a huge corporation. At home, he has recurring dreams about trying to escape with a mysterious girl (Jessica Biel). He decides to go to "Rekall," a company that specializes in implanting "memories." But as soon as he's hooked up to the machine, sentries attack, and Quaid finds himself fighting them off. He discovers that he's really "Hauser," a talented and deadly secret agent. Before long, he's involved in a life-or-death chase as he tries to figure out which side to fight for: the government or the "terrorists" who threaten to rise up and take over.

Is it any good?

Paul Verhoeven's original 1990 Total Recall was cartoonish, with over-the-top violence; Len Wiseman's remake improves on it in many ways, though in other ways, it's slightly inferior. To start, Farrell is much better suited to convey Quaid/Hauser's intense emotional ordeal than Arnold Schwarzenegger was. And Wiseman creates a great-looking universe that combines previous Philip K. Dick adaptations: the rainy, mash-up feel of Blade Runner and the high-tech computer age of Minority Report. The overall look is smoother.

The martial arts action in this take on TOTAL RECALL is more streamlined and less mean and crude than in the Verhoeven version, but it's arguably less fun as well. And though the newer movie feels current in terms of its themes of corporate greed and the "Occupy" movement, it also irons out any of Dick's original sci-fi ideas, and it doesn't seem to have a particularly good reason to exist. If only we could have combined the best parts of both!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Total Recall's violence. Was it exciting or disturbing? How does it compare to the violence in the original movie?

  • Is Quaid a good role model? How does he know he's doing the right thing if he doesn't know what's going on? What does he use as his moral guide?

  • What does Total Recall have to say about our future? Which concepts in it are realistic? Which are fantasy?

  • Does this remake have any new ideas/messages that weren't conveyed in the original? Why do you think they decided to make a new version?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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