Story

The Darkest Minds is set in a dystopian future, where children have started to die of a mysterious neurological disease. The children who don’t die develop powerful abilities that range from heightened intelligence to mind control. When the government deems these survivors a serious threat to others, they’re forcibly removed to prison camps, where they’re abused by soldiers and forced to work in sweatshops.

Ruby (Amandla Sternberg) is a 16-year-old survivor with rare mind control abilities. She escapes from a camp and stumbles upon some other runaways – Liam (Harris Dickinson), Zu (Miya Cech), and Chubs (Skylan Brooks). Ruby and her friends locate what seems to be a safe haven for children like them. The leader of this place is Clancy Gray (Patrick Gibson). His father is the President and responsible for starting the prison camps. Clancy is a mind reader like Ruby, and he offers to help her understand and control her powers, so she can interact with her friends without fear she’ll hurt them.

It soon becomes clear, however, that Clancy is the mastermind in charge of the soldiers who threaten the lives and freedom of the children. With the help of her friends, Ruby must escape from Clancy, join forces with a group she isn’t sure she can trust, and form a resistance against their common enemy.

Themes

Loss of a parent or child; separation from a parent; child abuse and maltreatment; murder; teenage romance; supernatural powers

Violence

The Darkest Minds has a lot of violence. For example:

  • There are several scenes where adults use guns to either hit or shoot people, including children.
  • Clancy repeatedly punches and kicks Liam in the face and stomach. Blood is visible. Other characters are physically assaulted in the same way.
  • Soldiers physically and verbally abuse children and teenagers – for example, by pulling a girl by her hair, screaming in children’s ears, punching, shooting and hitting them with guns.
  • People are burned alive. These scenes are quick, and not particularly graphic.
  • Characters are crushed by falling objects.
  • Adult characters are electrocuted.
  • When Ruby is 10, a doctor tries to give her a lethal injection. She escapes.
  • Adult characters forcibly ram their cars into a van that the children are driving.
  • Clancy is forced to undergo surgical procedures against his will.

Sexual references

The Darkest Minds has some sexual references. For example, older male guard verbally abuses Ruby, who’s aged 16, in a sexually threatening way.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Darkest Minds shows some use of substances. For example, when Ruby is 10, a doctor tries to give her a lethal injection.

Nudity and sexual activity

The Darkest Minds has some partial nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Ruby and Liam embrace intimately.
  • Ruby and Liam kiss.
  • Ruby’s bra is briefly visible while she’s changing.
  • Ruby and Liam flirt very briefly while Ruby is coming out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel after a shower.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in The Darkest Minds: Twinkies, Vitamin Water, an Eveready torch, a WeatherX radio, and an Apple MacBook.

Coarse language

The Darkest Minds has some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Darkest Minds is a science fiction thriller based on the first in a series of teenage fiction novels by Alexandra Bracken.

This movie is likely to be entertaining for older teenagers and young adults. But it has many violent scenes and distressing scenes that show children being threatened and harmed. These scenes make the movie unsuitable for younger viewers. It’s therefore not recommended for children under 13 years, and we also recommend parental guidance for children aged 13-15 years.

These are the main messages from this movie:

  • We should celebrate difference, rather than punishing or fearing it.
  • Family is who you choose to love, care for and support
  • It’s important to look out for and help people who can’t look after themselves.
  • Although it can be hard to resist bad, inhumane and unethical forces, it’s also vital to do so for the sake of everyone’s freedom and safety.

This movie could give you the chance to talk with your children about:

  • what happens when you use physical violence, including guns
  • when interactions with others become sexually manipulative or abusive, especially for younger girls
  • how the movie romanticises relationships between young teenage girls and young adult men and whether these relationships are inappropriate
  • how segregation and racism affect people.