Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Upgrade Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Extreme violence in inventive sci-fi actioner.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Not a message movie, but the main character does try to do the right thing, whether or not he succeeds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grey tries to do what’s right and shows some ingenuity under pressure. During the times he lacks physical control, he sort of reminds those who might forget that severely disabled people are still capable of being emotionally and mentally responsive. But that's mitigated by the fact that he gains superpowers. The detective on the case is a smart, brave woman of color.


Lots of sci-fi/martial arts violence, some of which is extremely graphic/gory. A character's head is impaled on a shard of glass. Another is stabbed in the temple. Another's head is blown off. Someone's head is nearly cut in half at the mouth, and another's face is slashed many, many times by a knife (offscreen, but the bloody result is shown). A character is shot point-blank. A character attempts suicide via overdose. And more.


A married couple gets frisky in a car, but it's not at all explicit.


Frequent use of words including "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "c--k," "a--hole," "sons of bitches," "hell," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Grey drinks whiskey, but perhaps not as much as you might expect, given his predicament. He attempts suicide via prescribed-medication overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Upgrade is a violent sci-fi thriller about a man (Logan Marshall-Green) who loses his wife (Melanie Vallejo) and is severely injured in a terrible crime, then gets a high-tech implant that enables him to function physically again. Teens may well be interested, but the graphic violence approaches the level of Saw, writer-director Leigh Whannell's signature film as a writer. The martial arts/sci-fi fighting is well choreographed but gets very gruesome: Expect impalings, stabbings, heads being blown off (as well as nearly cut off), slashings, a point-blank shooting, and more. A character also attempts suicide via overdose. The language is salty, though not constant (expect a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," etc.). There's some drinking, but it's not to excess, and there's no iffy sexual content.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykevinbeets July 12, 2018

Bloody all over

This movie is very violent and shows a lot of blood and wounded people.
Adult Written byNojEsco August 3, 2020

Expected a Revenge Tale, Ended Up with a Smart and Chilling Cerebral Tale

I was dying to see Upgrade after its trailer, which promised an exceptionally violent sci-fi revenge film that made up for its small budget with creative camera... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bypeopleparlor April 19, 2021

Leigh Whannell is a genius

Upgrade is one of my favorite movies, along with The Invisible Man, and really blew my socks off. The music is fabulous, the ending is one of the best in movie... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bystartrekfordays March 29, 2021

Fantastic sci-fi action thriller has strong language and gory violence.

Parents should know that Upgrade is a sci-fi action thriller directed by Leigh Whannell, who's also known for directing 2020's The Invisible Man. He... Continue reading

What's the story?

UPGRADE is the story of Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a low-tech guy who's living in a high-tech near future. After Grey loses his wife (Melanie Vallejo) and is severely injured as the result of a terrible crime, a reclusive genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson) gives Grey an implant that enables him to function physically. The device turns out to have AI features that empower Grey to hunt down his assailants. Meanwhile, a smart human detective (Betty Gabriel) is on his trail.

Is it any good?

This sci-fi/action movie is clever, twisty, and sometimes shockingly violent. Upgrade is, as its name implies, a major step up for writer-director Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious). It's well thought-out and funny. It's imaginative. And it's a surprisingly effective mashup of several genres -- superhero (à la Unbreakable), sci-fi (in the neighborhood of The Matrix and Ex Machina), revenge (think Death Wish or The Crow), comedy (All of Me), and horror (more for the gore than anything else). Yet it manages to be its own thing; it takes direction from its influences without being derivative. It's a wild ride with good production values and great stunts.

The performances are also very good for the genre(s). Gilbertson, coming across as a mix of James Dean and David Bowie, is suitably freaky and suspicious as Eron. Simon Maiden's work as the voice of Stem, the implant, is deceptively skillful: The AI is programmed to recite words with a largely unchanging cadence, but Maiden squeezes quite a lot of mileage out of his lines. Gabriel is smart and sympathetic as the cop. But this is Marshall-Green's movie, and it demands a great deal of the actor. He plays an able-bodied person, then a quadriplegic, then a man who's consciously sending commands to a computer to move his body, and then a super-efficient, machine-like fighter and athlete. Like Steve Martin in All of Me, he manages to act while performing physical feats that surprise even him, including struggling against his own body. The emotional demands are also unusual for a genre film. Marshall-Green is up to expressing bliss, deep sorrow, rage, fear, and bewilderment -- all organically and all in context. Those elements, the visceral consequences of Grey's actions, and the extreme gore are more than enough to separate Upgrade from the sci-fi/superhero pack, but the movie is also quite well plotted. There are just enough twists to keep things interesting without straining credulity. For those who can stomach it, Upgrade may prove a pleasant surprise indeed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Upgrade. Is it necessary to the story? What's the effect of taking Matrix-like sci-fi/martial arts fighting and adding Saw-like gore to it? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Would you get an implant like the one Grey gets? Do you think you could control it? Do you think the movie is trying to send any message about the risks (or benefits) of technology?

  • If you were in Grey's position, would you pursue the assailants as he does, knowing it could lead to violent confrontations?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi and thrills

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