2003 R 1h 20m DVD


2003 R 1h 20m DVD
  • Overview
  • Details
Gus Van Sant's minimalist drama uses unknown actors and partially improvised dialogue as it follows several students and teachers on the day that two bullied teenagers stage a massacre at their high school.
Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson, Elias McConnell, Jordan Taylor, Carrie Finklea, Nicole George, Timothy Bottoms, Matt Malloy
Gus Van Sant
Full Screen 1.33:1
English, Spanish (Neutral), French
English: DTS 5.1 Surround, English: Dolby Digital 5.1, English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, French: Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish (Neutral): Dolby Digital Mono
R - Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.
age 17+
Common Sense rating OK for kids 17+
age 17+

Common Sense Note

Parents need to know that Elephant is Gus Van Sant's Palme d'Or-winning drama, which is loosely based on the infamous 1999 Columbine high school shootings. It's deliberately mysterious and opaque, following several characters throughout the day and observing that they are all dealing with personal troubles, with little or no adult help. It contains some shocking violence, namely two teen boys shooting and killing people at school (with blood shown). Language is strong, but mainly during the final stretch, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Teen couples are shown kissing, and two boys are shown showering and kissing (though seen only above the waist). There's also a very brief glimpse of a naked bottom in a girls' locker room. A teen's father is shown to have a drinking problem, and there's a brief scene of cafeteria workers smoking pot. Though rated R, parents might consider the movie as a discussion-starter for mature high school teens.

Sexual Content

Two teen boy shower together and kiss (they are shown through the shower door, waist-up). A teen girl's naked bottom is quickly glimpsed in a locker room shower scene. Other boy-girl teen couples are shown briefly kissing. Two romantic teens, having their photo taken, make reference to "naked pictures."


Two teens arrive at a high school with duffel bags full of guns. They begin shooting teens and teachers arbitrarily. There are dead bodies and lots of blood. As these teens prepare for their big day, they play violent shooting video games, browse the Internet for guns, and watch a documentary about Hitler. There's a scene of teens bullying another teen in a classroom (throwing wet, wadded-up paper at him).


Most of the language comes during the horrifying final stretch, with upwards of a dozen uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Other words include "bitch," "hell," "retarded" and "oh my God." Some name calling: "loser."

Social Behavior

The "elephant" of the title refers to the idiom "the elephant in the room" that everyone ignores. The movie gives the sense that problems exist with teens and high schools, and that grown-ups are simply not present. Adults very rarely appear in this movie, and when they do, they are usually either part of the problem, or totally unaware of what's going on around them. However, aside from pointing this out, the movie doesn't offer any proactive suggestions.


Capri Sun is mentioned and seen.

Drugs / Tobacco / Alcohol

A character's father is presumed to be an alcoholic, and drives his son to school drunk. The car swerves all over the road, bumps into obstacles, and gets scratched, but no one is harmed. In a very brief scene, two (adult) cafeteria cooks sneak off to smoke pot in a storage room.

  • Age appropriate
  • Not an issue
  • Depends on your child and your family
  • Parents strongly cautioned
  • Not appropriate for kids of the age

This information for parents is provided by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving kids' media lives.

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