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Why Is Shutter Island Rated R? What Parents Should Know Before Letting Their Kids Watch

While Martin Scorsese is primarily known for gangster movies like "Goodfellas" and "The Departed," the writer-director also occasionally skirts into less likely genres. In that vein, the auteur adapted Dennis Lehane's 2003 neo-noir "Shutter Island" to the silver screen in 2010 and dug into the psychological horror of the novel while also offering rare moments of dream-like beauty amid the tragedy.

Though the big twist in "Shutter Island" might be one that many viewers see coming, there are plenty of things in the film that parents may want to be aware of before letting their kids sit down to see it. After all, given its adult subject matter and disturbing content, there's some pretty solid reasoning behind the film's R rating.

Perhaps the most chilling of all is why Teddy/Andrew (Leonardo Dicaprio) is really in the facility in the first place. Teddy was once a cop and family man who relocated after his manic-depressive wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams), burned down their apartment. While he thought a serene home in the suburbs would help to cure her blues, she proves his shallow strategy wrong by committing matricide and deliberately drowning their three children.

Shutter Island has plenty of disturbing content

Naturally, the horror of this grisly discovery and Andrew's subsequent murder of Dolores causes him to develop a new personality, Teddy, to allow him to cope. While this might already be enough to make parents second guess letting their kids watch "Shutter Island," there is even more horror to consider.

Though few viewers will sympathize with Nazis, the memories Teddy has of his platoon gunning down enemy troops after seeing the depravity of the Dachau death camp leads to piles of dead bodies and a recurring vision of a Nazi commander with a gaping gunshot wound to the head throughout "Shutter Island."

Finally, there is also the gaping, stapled-up facial wound of George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley), which is later revealed to be the result of an attack from Teddy. With these factors in mind, adults on Common Sense Media recommend the film to teens who are 16 or older. Meanwhile, kids suggest that "Shutter Island" is appropriate for viewers 14 years of age or older. 

Either way, with critics and audiences offering a fairly positive take on the film, you might decide that the many disturbing aspects of "Shutter Island" are worth the watch, particularly if your kids haven't seen similarly themed movies like Christopher Nolan's "Memento" or Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."