Vanilla Sky

Some surface appeal, but ultimately vacant.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 136 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Character uses women.


Characters killed, tense scenes of peril.


Very explicit sexual situations and references.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink, get drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has very strong language and explicit sexual situations and references. One character smothers another, and a different character kills herself and is unsuccessful at killing her lover. The facial disfigurement is graphically portrayed and may be very upsetting to some viewers.

What's the story?

VANILLA SKY is a trippy mind game movie about a rich, successful, handsome, but superficial man named David (Tom Cruise), whose life turns upside down when he meets a woman who stirs him (because she is "guileless"). But then he must pay the price for his casual negligence. A woman becomes jealous, and drives them both off an embankment. She is killed, and he is badly hurt and disfigured. The life he took for granted is shattered. At this point, a fairly conventional narrative is shattered, like David's arm and his face. It becomes impossible to say much more about it without spoiling the surprises. David tries to piece together his story and we do the same, though sometimes based on conflicting information.

Is it any good?


Vanilla Sky has a lot of surface appeal, but at its core it is as vacant as the story's main character. It tries to be a sort of Sixth Sense with sex. Like Cast Away, this is something of a vanity production. I suspect that Tom Hanks created the ultimate acting exercise for himself, based on what he feared most – being separated from his family. Cruise, who also produced this movie by purchasing the rights to the original, Spanish-language version, has done the same here. He may have chosen what he fears most – losing his looks and easy grace, losing his knack for owning the room. And, like Hanks, he selected a story that provides the opportunity for tour-de-force acting. In many scenes, Cruise's famous face is covered with a latex mask, leaving him only his body and his eyes to convey all of the character's emotions.

Cruise works hard and makes some arresting choices. Cameron Diaz turns in a terrific performance and Tilda Swinton is excellent in a brief role as an executive. But Kurt Russell seems a little lost as a therapist, and Penelope Cruz, repeating her role from the original, says her lines as though she is not really fluent in English yet.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why David feels unsatisfied at the beginning of the movie, and whether he should have made a pass at the woman his best friend brought to a party. How much of the world around us do we control? How much would you like to control? If given the choice presented to David at the end of the movie, what would you choose?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 14, 2001
DVD release date:May 21, 2002
Cast:Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Tom Cruise
Director:Cameron Crowe
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:136 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sexuality and strong language

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byRachel D April 9, 2008
age 0+


I can't believe this movie was such a hit! Again, another story which leaves you depressed, empty and disgusted. Nothing of value.
Parent of a 18 year old Written byTsion September 13, 2013
age 15+

Intricate, Complex and Ultimately Soul-Enriching

Vanilla Sky is one of the biggest cinematic surprises I've ever come across. I watched the movie a couple months ago on a recommendation from a friend, knowing absolutely nothing about it, and was blown away by how involving, unique, and ultimately uplifting the movie was. I've now seen it three times and it's become my go-to "recommendation" movie for people looking to get lost in a movie. I honestly think you'll enjoy the movie better if you don't know a lot about it, so I'll boil the plot down to this: David Aames (Tom Cruise) is your average wealthy American playboy who struggles with finding meaning in his life and living up to the expectations of his late father. As he encounters two beautiful women (played with unforgettable pinache by Cameron Diaz and an endearing sweetness by Penelope Cruz) his life changes in a multitude of ways, and the film operates in lots of time jumps and twists that suck you into the story. This is really a movie for any type of cinema fan: it's simultaneously a drama, a sweeping romance, and a sci-fi thriller with occasional dashes of comedy. It's also a movie whose twist ending wraps things up with a powerhouse, life-affirming message. As such, it's a great movie for teens who are fed up with the average, cookie-cutter genre movies typically churned out of the Hollywood machine. The movie is rated R for sexuality and strong language, but in the context of the movie's complex story and message, the inappropriate content seems insignificant and in no way gratuitous. The "f" word is used about 30 times (over 135 minutes), frequently in a sexual context. Aside from that, one conversation tosses around some sexually graphic terms, including a woman talking about how she's swallowed a man's...well, you know. There are two sex scenes in the movie. The first is post-coital and just shows some topless cuddling (the woman's breasts are shown but the whole scene is very sweet and more romantic than erotic...and the nudity has relevance to the story later on, if you believe it). The second scene shows a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman with violent thrusting (but no nudity). This scene, too, is not erotic, because the man hallucinates as he is having sex., and there are many cut-away shots to his hallucinations. A car accident is shown on-screen, but there's no blood or gore. Revealing the movie's positive elements would give away significant plot points, but let's just say that the movie ends up being a lot more positive and inspiring than you'd expect (plus, the ending is a big mind-blower). In the end, this is one hell of a movie, and one that I'd heartily recommend to parents and their teens who are looking for something creative to watch and perhaps learn from. The R rating is deserved but there's nothing graphic or scarring here - just a fine example of how Hollywood can still make 'em like they used to.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byPlague November 15, 2010
age 13+

Vanilla Sky

To me, this is a very artful movie. Depressing, yes, but artful and imaginative none the less. I highly recommend this for Tom Cruise fans or anyone 13+.


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