Sleepers (1996) Poster


Parents Guide

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MPAA Rated R for language, graphic violence and two scenes of strong sexual content

Sex & Nudity

  • The protagonist is shown being sexually abused in a childhood flashback. Not graphic. No nudity.
  • Even though the show is centered around boys, later in a boys' home - the only nudity is a female breast when they were peeking into the women's backstage dressing room at a theater.
  • A 13-year-old boy shown wearing only his underwear.
  • One of the child characters is asked by a guard to take off his underwear, which he does where only the guard can see. Offscreen Nudity.
  • A montage occurs as the boys sit in prison; the narrator describes the screams of the boys who are being raped and assaulted in the night.
  • Shakes and John sneak into a confessional and hear a young woman come in and state that not only has she slept with married men, but that she's pregnant. When asked who the father is, she replies that it could be any number of people.
  • Nokes and the other guard take the four friends down into the steam tunnels of the building. When Michael asks what they want, Nokes replies, "A blow job," and the boys are then forced to perform that act on the guards (not seen, but heard).
  • Though never really seen, it's implied (and also mentioned) that the boys had to endure repeated rapes at the hands of the guards. There are several quick flashback shots, but again nothing is seen.
  • There are several references to sexual abuse throughout the film and scenes where it is obvious that sexual abuse is about to take place
  • A group of boys spy on women through a peephole. Most women are shown in their underwear and a woman is shown topless both times.

Violence & Gore

  • There is a great deal of vengeful impact during a guards/inmates football game at Wilkinson. The friends have recruited a black player, Rizzo, to help them beat the guards. Afterwards, Shakes is seen in solitary confinement, bruised and bloody after the guards have beat him in retaliation for their loss. Later they learn that Rizzo was beaten to death by the guards for the same reason.
  • Nokes and the other guard take the four friends down into the steam tunnels of the building. When Michael asks what they want, Nokes replies, "A blow job," and the boys are then forced to perform that act on the guards (not seen, but heard) after being beaten.
  • The guards repeatedly beat and rape the boys (seen in flashbacks and quick shots) through their stay at Wilkinson and Shakes must endure being raped with a nightstick used by the guards as they ridicule him about his religion (Catholic).
  • Father Bobby says that he's got a friend who's serving time for killing three men fifteen years earlier.
  • It's said that as adults, John and Tommy are gang members and killers. John is noted for killing a man for stepping ahead of him in a movie line and Tommy is noted for killing his first victim at the age of seventeen.
  • It's said that when he was younger, King Benny was kicked down a flight of stairs and had his front teeth knocked out. We then see, in flashback, Benny finding his assailant in a bathtub and shooting him in each leg.
  • Shakes often hears his parents arguing and/or fighting and once sees his father remove his belt and beat his wife with it. She isn't seen, but he and his violent actions are.
  • Synder asks Benny what happens if he loses the case. Benny replies, "You go down for the dirt nap" (dead and buried).
  • There are only rare occasions violence is shown in this movie but most of these scenes involve children and can be intense.
  • A drug dealer is seen hanging from a street lamp after the "neighborhood" has dealt with his dealing heroin to the kids on the street.
  • There are a few scenes of domestic abuse (they are mostly heard).
  • Rizzo's older and now adult brother, Edward G. Robinson, enacts revenge upon a guard that helped kill Rizzo years before. The guard is seen bloody and with an eye damaged or missing and then is shot dead by several men.
  • An elderly man points a gun at two young men. He tells a third young man to run (we hear the sound of gunshots and it is assumed that the elderly man killed the two).
  • After one of the boys are put in the hospital by his stepfather, Father Bobby pays the stepfather a visit, telling him that next time he touches one of the boys, "he will need a priest to pray over his body".
  • Shakes steals a hot dog from a street vendor making the vendor chase him thus allowing the other boys to raid his cart. They then decide to steal the cart and end up losing control of it at the top of a flight of stairs down into the subway. It careens down the stairs and ends up crushing a man into a wall, injuring, but not killing him.
  • In the Wilkinson Home for Boys cafeteria, another boy upsets Michael's lunch tray, spilling his food on the floor. Michael slugs the kid and the two get into a fight and the other kids join in. Michael gets a bloody nose and his friends all have blood on their shirts.
  • Nokes then enters, stops the fight and orders Michael to eat the food from the floor. When he doesn't, Nokes hits him with his night stick on the head and then on the legs. He then forces the four friends to eat the food from the floor.
  • Scenes brutality involving children are shown, nothing too graphic though.
  • A football-match shows the boys and the guards violently tussle.
  • Several young boys are beaten by guards, sometimes onscreen. We hear one of them was beaten to death.
  • Tommy and John happen across Nokes in a restaurant and terrorize him for several moments before they begin to shoot him. They wound him at first by shooting him in the leg, arm and groin and then finally kill him with shots to the chest and head. It's a very bloody scene with blood spurting and running down the wall.
  • A man is shot in the head (blood sprays)
  • We see the bloody corpses of two young men at their 20s in black-and-white photos. One has been mentioned to have been drunken liquor to death by liver cirrhosis. Another image is a man shot to death by criminals with a puddle of blood.


  • Language is scattered through the whole movie in random sections.
  • "Punk," "Shut up," "Scum bag," "Bitch," "Little gimp," "Limp d*ck," "Bastard," and "You've got a real hard on for..."
  • Nokes calls a black guard "boy" and later calls Rizzo "sambo."
  • 50 "f" words (2 used sexually, 4 with prefix "mother"), 19 "s" words, 5 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and "p" words), 4 hells, 3 "ass" words, 1 crap and 3 uses of "Jesus," 2 uses each of "God damn" and "Christ," and 1 use each of "Oh my God," "Jesus Christ," and "Swear to God" as exclamations.

Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

  • There is a lot of smoking throughout the movie. Father Bobby, Nokes, and Michael (as an adult), amoung others, all smoke many times.
  • Several characters smoke a lot of times.
  • Several characters are known to suffer from alcoholism and/or drug abuse/addiction. No scenes of illicit drug use.
  • References to alcohol use, and several scenes of adults drinking at a pub.

Frightening & Intense Scenes

  • While most of the physical and sexual abuse of the children is not shown in graphic detail, the scenes are still incredibly intense. The narrator describing the childrens' inner feelings adds to the feeling of despair and terror. At one point the boys are gang-raped by four guards - even though none of it is shown, the narrator's description still conveys the horror. The child abuse overall is VERY upsetting.
  • A man attempts to pray in church, but he begins to experience traumatic flashbacks to being raped with a baton in prison, as guards told him to pray and mocked him when he did so. The portrayal of PTSD is intense.
  • The scenes at the home for boys are intense, and strong violence and sexual abuse against children play a major role in the plot throughout the film.


The Parents Guide items below may give away important plot points.

Sex & Nudity

  • In a flashback scene a young boy is taunted by four men, as one of them rapes him with a baton. He is told to pray out loud, and when he does the men mock him. Nothing below the waist is ever shown but the scene is extremely disturbing and upsetting. We do hear the sound of the baton entering the boy's anus, for a moment.
  • While it is not shown, it is implied that four adult men gang rape four young boys. We only see them being walked to the basement where the assault occurs, but the narrator describes the horror of the night. It's very upsetting even without the visuals.

See also

Taglines | Plot Summary | Synopsis | Plot Keywords

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