Spotlight parents guide

Spotlight Parent Guide

This movie reminds us why serious, investigative and credible journalism needs to be supported by an interested public. Profanities account for R-rating.

Overall B+

Based on a true story, this movie dramatizes the investigative reporting of a team of journalist (played by Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Brian d'Arcy James) at the Boston Globe that uncovered evidence of child molestation within a local Catholic Archdiocese.

Release date November 25, 2015

Violence B-
Sexual Content C
Profanity D
Substance Use C

Why is Spotlight rated R? The MPAA rated Spotlight R for some language including sexual references.

Run Time: 128 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

In an era where many of us assume journalism is a free service obtainable with a click on the Internet, Spotlight is a stark reminder of what investigative journalism used to be and how this dying profession helped provide checks and balances within our society.

The title of the movie refers to an elite team of reporters within the Boston Globe. Led by Walter Robinson (played by Michael Keaton), journalists Mike Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Matt Carroll (played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) had the luxury of taking the time required to dig deep into an issue. Unlike other reporters who had to meet daily deadlines, the Spotlight team could invest months into their efforts.

While this section of the Boston Globe continues to publish today, this specific movie reflects on a story published in 2002 that revealed a sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

In a city where Catholicism is the norm (according to the script, 53% of the Globe’s subscriber base is of that affiliation), the press is careful to depict the church in a somewhat positive light. The members of the Spotlight team themselves are all Boston natives, born and raised within the shadow of the religious order. Consequently each carries overt or subconscious sympathies toward the institution. However, the arrival of a new editor at the Globe, brings a more scrutinizing eye. Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), a man of Jewish descent who was parachuted in from a successful position in Florida, takes the helm at the paper. Not steeped in the same traditions as the others, Baron directs the Spotlight team to follow up on some story threads about a priest previously accused of child molestation. What begins as skeptical curiosity turns into an extensive investigation revealing not only sexual misconduct by clergymen, but efforts by church officials to cover up a growing problem.

Profanities account for the R-rating on this movie, with the sexual expletive used at least five times, along with frequent scatological and religious terms, moderate and mild profanity, and crude slang. Yet, thankfully, the script doesn’t stoop to wallow in salacious details of the sexual abuse, although enough non-graphic information is shared to insure viewers understand the seriousness of the accusations. Instead the focus is placed on the affects this breach of trust and faith has had upon some of the victims. Our heroes, the reporters, create much of the plot’s dramatic momentum as they come to recognize the enormity of the situation and endeavor to find and confirm every lead. Along the way they must face their own inherent biases.

A dialogue heavy film that presents scene after scene of confrontations and revelations taking place in offices and boardrooms, Spotlight‘s fine performances and careful editing work together to create an engaging experience. It’s also commendable that the script includes depictions of how the newspaper itself neglected to look into the issue when it was first revealed to them years earlier. Still, we, the audience, should also remember this is a movie—a theatrical production—not a fact-based documentary. While the sexual molestation is verifiably true, the film industry’s own prejudices toward religion and Catholicism should also be taken into account while watching this based-on-a-true-story screen adaptation.

In reality, the Spotlight journalists revealed an important story that brought awareness to a crucial issue and initiated change. Hopefully it also helped many people heal from past abuse and prevented many more from becoming victims of such devastating violations. Along with revisiting the scandal, the Spotlight movie helps to remind us why serious, investigative journalism needs to be supported by an interested public, and why we should be demanding the maintenance of credible news sources.

Directed by Tom McCarthy. Starring Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton . Running time: 128 minutes. Theatrical release November 25, 2015. Updated

Rating & Content Info

Why is Spotlight rated R? Spotlight is rated R by the MPAA for some language including sexual references.

Violence: Characters discuss the sexual molestation of children by authority figures. Victims of abuse tell their stories to lawyers and journalists. The fate of some of the survivors is mentioned, which includes alcohol and drug addition, along with suicide attempts.

Sexual Content: Characters discuss child molestation, rape and homosexual activity. Some slang/crude words and anatomical terms are used to describe masturbation, oral sex and anal intercourse. Pornography and the game strip poker are mentioned.

Language: A strong sexual expletive is heard at least five times. Scatological slang and terms of deity are used frequently. Also included in the script is a smattering of moderate and mild profanities, along with crude slang words.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Frequent smoking is shown. Characters drink at social settings and in bars. Drug abuse and alcoholism are mentioned. A character’s arms show multiple scars from injections.

Page last updated

Spotlight Parents' Guide

How did worrying about the “greater good” (all the good things the Catholic Church provides) influence the decision to pay less attention to “the one” (the victims of the priests’ abuse)? In the long run, how did ignoring the smaller problem lead to a greater problem? Is the same true for our individual concerns? How might neglecting the little things eventually affect our big goals?

Is any movie (or documentary for that matter) completely free of bias? Do viewers always get the complete truth? To answer that question, you may want to check these two online articles. One describes how the Marty Baron was involved in the making of this movie and how he views the finished product. The other, from the right-leaning Media Research Center, asserts there are other mitigating issues relating to the abuse that were not included in the script.

How has the popularity of the Internet changed the way news is delivered? Although there are many more sources than their used to be, are they all credible? How in-depth are the stories? How might personal biases affect what is written? How do your personal biases influence what you chose to read?

If the reporters had not investigated these allegations, would the victims’ stories ever have been told? What did the press do that the legal system could not? How important is investigative journalism to you? Why is this industry dying?

Read the Boston Globe article the movie Spotlight is based on.

From the Studio:
Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci, SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times. Written by Open Road

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Spotlight movie is February 23, 2016. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes: Spotlight
Release Date:  23 February 2016
Spotlight releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) with the following extras:
- Uncovering the Truth: A Spotlight Team Roundtable
- Spotlight: A Look Inside
- The State of Journalism

Related home video titles:

The credibility of another priest is questioned in the movie Doubt. Journalists tackle other hot topics in the films The Help, Frost/Nixon and Good Night and Good Luck.

Related news about Spotlight

Best of 2015 - Golden Globes

Best of 2015 - Golden Globes


Parent Previews’ Take on the Top 10 Movies of 2015.

Parent Previews’ Take on the Top 10 Movies of 2015.


Best of 2015 - Academy Awards 2016

Best of 2015 - Academy Awards 2016


Best of 2015 - Critics Choice Movie Awards

Best of 2015 - Critics Choice Movie Awards