Trumbo

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Trumbo Movie Poster Image
Entertaining Hollywood story has important history lesson.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 124 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Uses historical events (the Communist Witch Hunts, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Hollywood Ten, and the blacklist) to raise issues that are important to remember and discuss, i.e. why it's wrong to persecute people for having unpopular beliefs or force them to choose between doing the right thing and protecting their livelihoods and families.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Trumbo is a complex character, fighting against the blacklist in whatever ways he can, though he's far from perfect, and others disagree with his methods.

Violence

Arguing, shouting. A secondary character threatens another with a baseball bat, smashing windows and objects.

Sex

Main character is naked, but only his bottom is shown. Some sexual references.

Language

Infrequent language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Some ethnic slurs.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Regular smoking by many characters (accurate for the era). Main character drinks whisky heavily in the latter part of the movie and takes Benzedrine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Trumbo is a biographical drama about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was branded a Communist in the 1950s, served jail time, and was blacklisted. The movie offers a powerful, important history lesson for teens who might not otherwise know about this period. Language is the biggest issue, with several (but by no means constant) uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "a--hole" and "p---y." The main character is seen naked, but nothing other than his bottom is shown. There are also some sexual references. Violence isn't really an issue, but there is some arguing and shouting, plus a scene in which a man threatens another with a baseball bat, smashing windows and nearby objects. Expect lots of period-accurate cigarette smoking, and lots of whisky drinking (and pill taking) by the main character.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMaryEBK February 25, 2016

Relevant and engaging

Watched with our 13 year old -- and we were all spellbound. A disturbing chapter of American history highlighted through great story telling and compassion. T... Continue reading
Adult Written bySarasota Joe February 16, 2016

Dramatic Story. Important history.

I find it ridiculous that this movie is rated R for language, yet my child is encouraged by the MPAA to live on a steady diet of violence in PG-13 films. This i... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In 1947, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is wealthy and respected. And then rumblings about his affiliation with the Communist Party begin to spread through Hollywood. Questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Trumbo is arrested, and -- along with nine colleagues -- blacklisted from working. After serving jail time, Trumbo writes Roman Holiday, and his friend Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk) acts as a "front" to help sell it. Trumbo also goes to work for low-budget producer Frank King (John Goodman), while his relationships with his wife (Diane Lane), family, and friends -- including Arlen Hird (Louis C.K.) and Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg) -- are tested. Then, in 1960, two big movies come along that will change everything.

Is it any good?

This biopic could have fallen into all the usual traps, but Jay Roach directs John McNamara's smart, witty screenplay with a light touch, and the result is both entertaining and educational. Set between the 1940s and the 1960s, TRUMBO could have been a mere collection of highlights, but the filmmakers manage to create a vivid gallery of colorful supporting characters who all contribute equally; in the lead, Cranston is marvelous -- with an endless flow of crystalline dialogue -- but it's not just a one-man show.

Better still, Trumbo deftly tells the story of the Communist witch hunts in a way that acknowledges their complexities and gray areas while still labeling them, on the whole, as an act of pure evil. Roach gets this message across with a minimum of preaching but still strongly enough to ignite passions. Yet the most memorable parts are the movie's many laughs, as Trumbo wryly regards the various situations he finds himself in.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Communist fears and accusations of the 1950s. Who were the victims? How accurate do you think Trumbo is to what actually happened? Why might filmmakers choose to tweak the facts when making a movie based on a true story?

  • How does the movie make you feel about Dalton Trumbo? Is he a hero? A role model? Do you want to see more of his movies or read his writing?

  • How does the movie portray smoking, alcohol, and drugs? Are they glamorized or simply part of the period setting?

  • How does the movie deal with those who "named names"? How do we feel about them? Why do we feel that way?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love true stories

Our editors recommend

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

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 and learning potential.

Learn how we rate