Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

Bully Review

  • Release Date: Mar 30, 2012
  • Rated: Intense thematic material, disturbing content and some strong language - all involving kids.
  • Runtime: 1 hr. 39 min.
  • Genres: Documentary
  • Director:Lee Hirsch

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.

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    An intimate reflection on the bullying epidemic that makes its points quietly and succinctly.

    Read Full Review

  • 80

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    The film's power is undercut by its narrow geographic focus, which seems to associate bullying with conservative or working-class areas in red states. The filmmakers could easily have found similar cases involving the children of urban sophisticates.

    Read Full Review

  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    As long as the MPAA is issuing its cavalier decrees, though, they're the ones acting like bullies.

    Read Full Review

  • 88

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Bully forces audiences to face actions that are unthinkable, inexcusable and excruciatingly sad. It offers no solutions, only the testimony of brave youths.

    Read Full Review

  • 88

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    The purpose of Bully is to educate and promote discussion. If the problem is not solved, there will be more Columbines and additional stories like Tyler and Ty's.

    Read Full Review

  • See all Bully reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 13 & under

Powerful docu addresses critically important issue for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Bully is a no-holds-barred documentary that intimately portrays bullying victims' daily lives. While it's often heartbreaking and deals with tough issues like suicide, the movie addresses an incredibly important, timely topic -- bullying -- in a frank, relatable way that's age appropriate for teens and relevant for middle schoolers if an adult is present to guide discussion. Bully's strong language (including a brutal, profanity-laden scene in which one boy says to another that he'll "shove a broomstick up your a--" and "cut your face off and s--t") earned it an R rating from the MPAA (a rating that the production company chose not to accept, officially releasing the film as unrated), but none of the swearing is gratuitous. Like it or not, it's a realistic portrayal of what every middle schooler and older hears every day. This gives the film veracity and credibility with kids, and it will justifiably shock parents.Bully's most challenging material isn't just the language, but the suicides. Seeing grieving parents and friends could potentially be upsetting to teens and preteens, so they should definitely watch with adults. Bully also addresses the concepts of cutting, physical abuse, and more, but in a way that presents the consequences as well as the behavior itself. Victims' parents are generally portrayed as supportive and loving, while school administrators come off in a much less positive light. Ultimately, Bully encourages kids to stand up to bullies, not stand by, and reinforces the fact that everyone can make a difference when it comes to this essential issue.

  • Families can talk about an individual's responsibility to stand up, not stand by. Is that easy to do? How do you think people can really make a difference against bullies?
  • Parents, talk to your kids about teen suicide. This is an incredibly tough topic, but one that needs to be addressed. What makes some people think that it's their only option? What impact does their decision have on their friends and family? Where can kids in despair turn for assistance?
  • Bullying is often seen as physical abuse, but Bully shows that words are just as powerful. Talk about the different ways that people can bully others; what has the most lasting impact?
  • Bully doesn't spend too much time discussing the online/digital side of the issue. Teens: How does cyberbullying impact you and your peers?
  • School administrators come off very poorly in Bully, and there's lots of blaming the victim. Do you think administrators leave victims feeling completely discounted? Who else can bullying victims turn to for help?

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: Bully's powerful, important message is that everyone can -- and should -- make a difference when it comes to the issue of bullying. Kids are encouraged to "stand up, not stand by" when they see bullying taking place and are told that "everything starts with one." The movie addresses teen suicide, mourning, and conflict in ways that are likely to upset both teens and parents, but everything serves to reinforce the message that bullying needs to be stopped.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Bullying victims are portrayed sympathetically, including one who brandished a gun at the kids who were mistreating her and consequently faced criminal charges. Some of the kids exhibit great strength in the face of adversity -- especially Kelby, a gay teen who wants to stand up and make a change for herself and others. Parents are generally supportive and determined to help their kids and/or others in similar situations. School administrators, on the other hand, come across as unhelpful, inflexible, and oblivious, and the lives/motivations of the bullies themselves aren't investigated or addressed.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: The movie makes clear that the most severe bullying violence isn't always physical, but also verbal and emotional. Teen/tween suicide is one of the movie's central topics, with friends and family members emotionally mourning the loss of their loved ones. Many kids recount repeated incidents of physical abuse (being choked, sat on, stabbed with pencils, etc.) and threats (one brutal scene captured by filmmakers includes a boy saying, graphically, that he'll shove a broomstick up another boy's rear and cut him with a knife). Another teen discusses previous suicide attempts and a past history of cutting. Hitting/punching/scuffling, both between friends and between bullies and their victims. Security camera footage shows a girl brandishing a gun at other kids when she feels she's been pushed too far. Other images of guns, some within a hunting context.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not applicable

  • language false4

    Language: The most brutal language appears in a threatening scene on a school bus, in which an older student tells a younger one that he'll "f---ing end you and shove a broomstick up your a-- ... I'll cut your face off and s--t." Also several other uses of "f--k" (and its derivatives), especially in the early part of the movie, as well as "s--t," "ass," "p---y," "bitch," and many derogatory terms for homosexuals ("f-g," etc.).

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Various labels/brands are seen, but since this is a documentary, none are product placement.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable