Box art for 21 Grams

21 Grams


The emotionally and physically charged lives of three peoplea professor (Sean Penn), an ex-con (Benicio Del Toro) and a mother with a reckless past (Naomi Watts)collide in this thriller.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 16
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
5 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Thought-provoking film not for tweens/young teens.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film includes tragic deaths and brutal violence with gory wounds. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity and a brief glimpse of a porno film. Characters drink, smoke, and use drugs. A character attempts suicide. There is very strong language.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about why Inarritu chose to tell the story this way. How would its impact have been different if told in a more conventional structure?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 30
    see all 21 Grams reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Every year needs a challenging masterwork, a movie that defies filmmaking convention and leaves an indelible mark on the collective psyche.

- Bill Muller, Arizona Republic, Thursday, December 25, 2003

Fresh: Inarritu and Arriaga's first English-language film doesn't approach the brilliance of Amores Perros, but it succeeds on a more modest scale.

- Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Fresh: "21 Grams" commands a running discourse that runs as a constant thematic thread through all of humanity. The movie delivers life as a floating mysterious entity that we all share. It's very few films that achieve anything remotely close.

- Cole Smithey,, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Audience Reviews

3 stars

I do enjoy films that employ interwoven storylines and movies that feature non-linear narratives. Sometimes, I like films that employ both. However, I don't like all films like that, or think that all films that use such techniques need to be done that way. This is one of those films. This is a look at the lives of three broken people: a feverishly born again ex-con, a critically ill college professor, and a housewife with a tainted past. Their lives intersect following a bad car accident, and the films looks at their lives before, during, and after the crash, examining the consequences of things, and the interplay that goes on between them. This is some intereting stuff, and I didn't mind that it was downbeat and depressing as all hell; I just didn't care for the jarring editing or feel that this needed to be told out of chronological order. It really seemed to have no other purpose than to tell a story in a unique way or to be interesting. That doesn't work when this sort of thing is old hat and the way it is done doesn't make things more interesting. It really just makes things seem jumbled and fractured, and not in a good way. At least the story arcs are rather engaging, and the film has decent characters played by wonderful actors who give some compelling and great performances. My favorite was definitely Del Toro, though Watts gives a bold and courageous performance, while Penn seemed more low key though still commanding and powerful. I could have used a bit more Leo and definitely some more DuVall, but at least we got to see them at all. The film brings up some interesting concepts and has a lot of nice things to offer, but I think it would have fared far better had they just played it straight. Doing something like this seemingly just for the sake of it takes away all of the powerful that the thing had in the first place, kinda like using Dutch angles without really understanding why they're effective when used properly. So yeah, this film is decent, and has its moments, but it's a mess and doesn't hold up as being as strong as it should have been, so I'm on the fence, but mostly leaning towards a thumbs up.

- cosmo313, Tuesday, May 29, 2012

4 stars

Difficult and very ambitious with great performances by Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. Inarritu plays a little too much with narrative and gets lost in his own web, but overall it is solid work from one of the best directors working today.

- emilkakko, Saturday, January 7, 2012

4 stars

I love this style of film. I was almost lost during a few scenes, but at the end some of the loose ends were connected and it really turned this film around for me. What a story! Excellent performances from Penn, Del Toro, and Watts, as well as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Melissa Leo. Del Toro definitely deserved their Oscar nominations. Great direction also from Inarritu; it takes a lot to direct such an intertwined film as this, but he delivers. Excellent film, one of the best of 2003!

- jamers2011, Friday, November 11, 2011