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A Scanner Darkly Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… flatter and sadder [Waking Life]. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 40

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    Audiences will have to seek out their own peculiar diversions in order to last the whole course of this demi-dud.

    Read Full Review

  • 42

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    In A Scanner Darkly, we're watching other people freak out, but the film is maddening to sit through because their freak-outs never become ours.

    Read Full Review

  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Definitely not for everyone. It's a very bleak story with uneven pacing and a narrative whose jumps in time are confusing and occasionally infuriating. But the post-apocalyptic mood blends well with its uniquely stylized look and surreal story.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Wilmington

    It's one of the most faithful movie adaptations of any Dick story to date, and it comes from the scariest of all his books, as well as the truest.

    Read Full Review

  • See all A Scanner Darkly reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Provocative animated sci-fi. Not for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this animated science fiction film includes frequent discussions of drugs, both real (cocaine) and not (something called Substance D). Addicts, dealers, and cops lie to each other and lament their loss of trust and community. Characters also drink and smoke cigarettes. A sex scene shows a woman's naked body (including exposed breasts) during the act, which is fairly explicit. There is rough language and some gritty images, incuding a drug addict imagining himself being shot in the head, and another throwing up while being admitted to an alleged rehab center.

  • Families can talk about the animated style here. Why was it made this way? What does it do to the viewer's relationship with the characters? Does it add to the futuristic feel? Families may also want to talk about some of the common themes in science fiction -- the constant tracking of civilians, for example. How does this movie compare to other sci fi? Finally, families may want to discuss the addicts. Are they truly friends? Is anybody ultimately sympathetic?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Drug users and dealers, undercover cops (narcs) and organization/city officials all lie to betray one another. Police are brutal.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Addict imagines bug attack, then a shooting in the head (brief, brutal image); various falls and threats made by paranoid drug users; the central drug is said to destroy brains.

  • sex false5

    Sex: (All animated): Breasts visible, sexual activity explicit and brief; young men discuss sex with a woman.

  • language false5

    Language: Frequent language: multiple f-words (over 30); slightly fewer s-words; some creative permutations of obscenities ("freckle-d---").

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false5

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Frequent cigarette smoking; "drug epidemic" drives the plot (the drug severs brain hemispheres); characters sell and purchase drugs, smoke cigarettes (cigarette butts fill several ashtrays), drink liquor, discuss and name drugs (cocaine, for example).