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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Serial killer is cruel and plainly deranged; cops and reporters argue amongst themselves and become obsessed with the case to the point of ruining their home lives. Paul gives his editor the finger.
Violence & Scariness
Extremely bloody crime scenes; violence includes shooting, stabbing (especially brutal), fighting; much discussion of means of murder, ammunition, and gun types; letters from killer describe plans to kill children on school buses (a boy hears this on TV and looks worried); mention of gas chamber; woman in prison appears with dark bruises on her arm; scary scene in basement when Robert thinks he's met the killer by accident (jump shot, dark shadows, tense music); discussion of a suspect's deviant history ("touching kids").
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Suggestion of sexual desire as first victims "park" (they're shot before they even kiss); Paul reports that the killer is a "latent homosexual."
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Repeated profanity, especially "f--k," as well as "s--t," "hell," "goddamn it," and other colorful language ("Sweet mother of Christ," "Jesus on crutches," "Tell him to screw," "crap," "getting your rocks off with a girl") and name-calling ("shorty" and "retard").
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Products & Purchases
Some references by name (Folgers, the movie Bullitt), plus background imagery (Coca-Cola and Campbell's soup in vending machines, Slinky on TV); Dirty Harry on movie screen.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking to drunkenness in bars (Paul and Robert favor blue drinks called "Aqua Velvas"); more drinking at Belli's Christmas party (he offers a "toddy"); frequent cigarette smoking; Paul looks high/wasted at work -- he snorts cocaine and keeps a full bar and other drugs in his home.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this three-hour movie about the investigation into a string of real-life serial murders during the early 1970s is too violent and disturbing for most teens (and probably even some adults). While some violence takes place off screen, what does appear is brutal and bloody: The Zodiac shoots a couple in their car, stabs another couple in the back (the victims' pained, horrified faces are shown both times), and shoots a cabbie. Police officers and reporters discuss the deaths in some detail. Characters drink heavily and smoke frequently (one also uses hard drugs). References are made to the killer's "latent homosexuality" and a suspect's pedophilia. Language includes repeated uses of "f--k." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
David Fincher's excellent movie includes several violent murder scenes (a stabbing is especially grisly). But it's more interested in the consequences of the brutality: crime scenes, investigative procedures, fear in the community. In a mess of intersecting obsessions and deceptions, Zodiac finds remarkable coherence, tracing the similar needs, means, and fictions that structure truth.
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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