Under the Skin Movie Poster Image

Under the Skin



Tense, slick thriller is creepy, with full nudity.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 108 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie is set in a grim world of anonymous sex and danger.

Positive role models

Some of the men seem innocent bystanders. One is downright kind and caring.


The plot centers on a woman who picks up men on the street for what seems like sex, but turns into something more nefarious. Little to no gore, but the imagery is disturbing, especially when naked men are shown being absorbed by a strange body of water. The soundtrack and sound effects pile on, enveloping most scenes in a very charged, tense feeling. A woman is shown being chased in the woods by a would-be rapist. He slaps her and manhandles and tries to rip her clothes off.


Lots of full-frontal nudity, including men's genitalia and a hint of a woman's pubic region. The central female character's breasts and backside are visible, too. In one scene, a man and a woman start to have sex, and his naked backside is visible as they get into a sexual position.


One instance of the word "s--t."


Some labels seen, including stores in a mall like Clare's, Boots, Foot Locker, Marks & Spencer and Next; Tesco, the supermarket, is name-dropped. In a store, bags of Doritos are glimpsed.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking at a nightclub.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Under the Skin is a creepy, atmospheric thriller about a woman who reaps men from the streets of Glasgow, ostensibly for sex, but actually to kill and feed on. It's disturbing, no question, even though there's little dialog and not a lot of gore. There's only one swear word, but plenty of nudity, including male full-frontal, and a few scenes showing couples engaged in sex, though we don't see it in explicit detail.

What's the story?

This futuristic film, based on a novel of the same name, features a nameless woman (Scarlett Johansson) pillaging the clothing of a dead woman and driving the streets of Scotland in search of men to lure into her van. She seduces them with small talk and lures them to a house where they disrobe, seemingly to have intercourse, but end up meeting a much strange fate. Who is she? What is she all about?

Is it any good?


Jonathan Glazer, who co-wrote and directed UNDER THE SKIN, has found in Scarlett Johansson the perfect otherworldly woman to fill the main role. Her beauty, despite a frumpy wig and ill-fitting clothing here, is supernatural and Johansson is expressive and kinetic even as she seems removed and devoid of feeling. She does an excellent job bringing the role to life. The film is a stylized, ambitious production that deserves respect for trying to skirt the usual conventions of the thriller-horror genre while still telling a thrilling and horrific story. 

Nonetheless, it's lacking in character development and background. Who is this woman? Why does she do what she does? Who is the man on the motorcycle? It's not a sin to have mysteries remain a mystery in a film like this, but here the omissions feel like they are the consequences of superficiality, of style over substance, rather than a revolutionary form of storytelling. The film's mid-section is paunchy, and adds to the listlessness of the whole affair. But the score and the sound effects pick up the slack. Mostly it works, leaving audiences with jangled nerves. But when the music overrides everything else, and sometimes overwhelms, you know it's a problem that's bound to get under the audience's skin.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the techniques used in the movie. How does the film use dialogue, music, and imagery to tell the story?

  • The film has a lot of nudity, but lacks passion or even lewdness. Does the nudity serve the story? What would it have been like without any nudity?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 4, 2014
DVD/Streaming release date:July 15, 2014
Cast:Scarlett Johansson
Director:Jonathan Glazer
Run time:108 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation: graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah April 19, 2014


Oh my God. I was always excited for this film, but this is just above and beyond what I could have imagined. This film is not for everyone because it's so incredibly arthouse, but I honestly think that if people talked about the film, they'd see it in a new light. Virtually nothing here is meant to be taken literally; it's extremely symbolic. It's an allegorical trip that is haunting, intriguing, sublime, gorgeous, sad, different, strange, human, spellbinding, unforgettable, and masterful, utilizing all of these qualities that convey what it means to be a human. What is also is about, though, is reveling in the questions and finding answers. The cinematography is immaculate and the sound design is incredible. The score is mesmerizing and perfectly complements the visuals and tone of the film, with its strings and screechy sounds crossing into the realm of being sound effects at some points, and that's great because like the film, it brings together all senses and experiences into one odd package. Scarlett Johansson is intoxicating, doing so much with so little dialogue. She uses her eyes and facial expressions and callousness-turned-fake-charm so well, and you forget that you're watching an actress work because it's so immersive and shockingly realistic. I can see why some people would dislike this film because it is very alienating (no pun intended) and probably as far from mainstream as you can get, but it's also so engrossing. This is a film that gives no explanations and doesn't really have much of a setup that leads into a conflict that sets the movie into action in a traditional sense. It works wonderfully because the movie itself feeds off of our abilities - as humans - to interpret emotions and read other individuals. The movie even seems to be watching you back at times. Jonathan Glazer demonstrates that he has such a huge talent but also a great deal of discipline in order to make everything work. In the hands of another director, everything would have crumbled into pieces, but because it's so well-made, he makes connections between humanity and sexuality, objectification and death, and, to a certain extent, gender roles. The ending (without spoiling anything) both satisfies and leaves ample room for interpretation, and is very affecting. There is a good amount of emotion to this film, and it's just so commendable that a film like this could be so human and realistic. I can definitely see the comparisons to Kubrick (my favorite director ever) and I could compare this film to Eraserhead and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and partially to Eyes Wide Shut. This is a movie that I will never be able to forgot, and I know for a fact that I'll be thinking about it obsessively for a very long time. This may be one of my favorite films ever. 9.7/10, masterful, two thumbs up, miles above average, etc.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent of a 18+ year old Written byValdoria January 12, 2015

Art? What?

As an artist, i felt this might be an enjoyable piece but didn't realize it would turn actresses into prostitutes and basically emulate the raunchiness and perversion of our current society. My respect for Johannson has died completely.
What other families should know
Too much sex