Parents' Guide to

Zero Dark Thirty

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Intelligent, uncompromising drama is violent and complex.

Movie R 2012 157 minutes
Zero Dark Thirty Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 9 parent reviews

age 18+

Zero Dark Thirty is about the dark side of terror and humanity

Zero Dark Thirty is about the dark side of terror and humanity. The film exposes the cruelty of terror and the cruelty required to fight it. The commitment of people dedicated to eradicate horrible humans and the humanity of their friendships and souls are the powerful positive messages. Not for the faint hearted, but so is life!
age 16+


Raw, intricate, nuanced and pragmatic look into the war on terror stripped of politics and ulterior agendas. We see its toll on those involved and the trials and difficulties intelligence workers have to go thru to make breakthroughs even if they have to cross dangerous boundaries. Characters has multiple sides that play into and sometimes against eachother to meet ends. The final manhunt is as engrossing as possible. Scenes of torture are disturbing (even moreso with the grounded depiction of terrorist prisoners) but not pornographically portrayed or even ouright shown. Terror attacks include shooting of people in an embasy with bloody wounds shown but not lingered on. The final stretch shows casualties both hostile and civilian as matter of fact as possible with bloody bools and bodies in the aftermaths. Somewhat frequent F words but its stretched put across 2:30+ hours

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (9):
Kids say (26):

Another filmmaker might have turned this material into either an exciting thriller or a serious condemnation of the whole brutal affair; director Kathryn Bigelow does both at the same time. Her unique insight into violence has been the hallmark of her entire remarkable career, and ZERO DARK THIRTY is perhaps the most complex and ambitious of all her films to date.

Bigelow's steadfastly apolitical movie asks the audience to consider both the usefulness and the horror of "waterboarding," both before and after it's outlawed. But that controversial element is only a small part of the greater whole. The movie follows the outline of a true-crime procedural, but with many more dead ends than successes, it takes on a certain tragic tone. Bigelow includes little moments of rest and pause to humanize and refocus her heroine. Then, the film's final 40-minute attack sequence -- and its aftermath -- is a tour de force. Zero Dark Thirty is a towering achievement.

Movie Details

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