More Info


Transfiguring Adoption awarded this movie 1 Hoot out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

Movie Info:

  • Rating: R (Drug Use, Brief Graphic Nudity, Language Throughout, Some Sexual References, Strong Violence and Gore)
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
  • Runtime: 132 minutes
  • Studio: Warner Bros., DC Entertainment

From the Cover of The Suicide Squad (2021) by Warner Bros./DC Entertainment:

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave… and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:

The Suicide Squad (2021) functions somewhat as a sequel to the film Suicide Squad (2016). However, this is a continuation of the Task Force X program as led by Amanda Waller. There is a return of fan-favorite Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, and Rick Flag but the rest of the characters may not be as familiar to non-comic book fans. Additionally, this film is rated R and for good reason. This film is strictly an action film for adults with intense blood splattering, brain matter smashing, and graphic mass killings among other ultra-mature plot points. This is NOT a movie you should allow your child or teen to view.

The target audience appears to be adults 18 and up. Caregivers should note this is not a “kids’ movie” at all and will have more mature themes and a longer run time due to this being a film for a more mature audience. This movie is not recommended for family viewing.

Overall the film itself was a great action film but this is a very different league compared to most Marvel (or even other DC) films that families have been likely to allow viewing because it’s “just violence”. I urge caregivers to reconsider this approach for children with trauma frequently but in this case this film is completely inappropriate for children or teens and parents really need to stick to the rating recommendation for adults only. Even if you have a teen who claims maturity this will not be a film that in any way benefits a teen due to graphic violence, very adult situations, and some moral dilemmas that I guarantee you are not ready to navigate with a teen, let alone a traumatized one.

** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **

How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?

Unfortunately there may be some children in your care who are permitted to see this film before they come into your care and may have a lot of big feelings about what they have seen. Remember, though they may not remember, the body often can remember tense, stressful situations and react to trauma stimuli even without visual memories. This means your traumatized child may have been further traumatized by viewing a graphic, profane movie and not connected their own behavior to this trauma exposure. So for the caregiver, this will be less of a matter of learning and growing and more of helping a child or youth calm down their cortisol and adrenaline-filled bodies, relating to these big emotions associated with trauma, and connect the feelings to behavior to help your child confront future triggers with more knowledge and readiness.

Discussion Points:

  • Finding Calm when Nothing is Calm
    When a child experiences stress over and over, this causes their brain to primarily respond to stimuli with an acute stress response. That’s the fight-or-flight response you may have heard before. While this is great when you are in danger and run into a bear in the woods when your brain is seeing the bear regularly, multiple times a day, this can cause some intense wear and tear on your child’s body and mind. This floods your child’s body with adrenaline and cortisol so much that it can alter how their brain works. So your child’s acute stress response will be set off not only by negative stimuli, like pain or fear, but also by exciting things like their own birthday party! While the brain can heal with lots of time, care, and structure, this response can be very maladaptive to a child adjusting to a non-abuse/neglect situation where the acute stress response previously meant survival. This means caregivers will need to be attuned to their child’s needs and often help them find calm when their brain is telling them they are in immediate danger, because only when they are calm can learning and growth happen.
  • Setting and Reinforcing Strong Boundaries
    Perhaps the only useful conversation point that directly comes about from this movie is during the sequence with Harley confronting Presidente General Silvio Luna. After the whirlwind romance sequence, Silvio reveals that he would kill children to maintain his power and Harley immediately shoots him. She states that after her experiences with Joker she has learned to watch for “red flags” and that this certainly would count as one. While it was not great that Harley just shoots this guy, it is good to see Harley have some sort of growth from her previous relationships with bad guys such as Joker and taking steps to better herself and those she keeps in her sphere of influence. This is an area children with trauma will also struggle with due to experiences of abuse and neglect normalizing unhealthy relationship dynamics. Caregivers will need to frequently help their teens navigate how to identify positive relationships or “red flags” like Harley mentions.

Cautionary Points:

  • All the Violence!!
    I cannot state this enough: THIS IS NOT A KIDS’ MOVIE!!! There is so much intense gore and varying violences I’m not even going to list them off in this section like I normally would. There are so many instances and types of bloodied, graphic, fatal violence that the list would likely be as long as the rest of the review.  Remember, children and teens that have been through trauma sometimes can self-sabotage in response to bursts of adrenaline even from fun experiences like enjoying an action movie because this is the same neural pathway their traumatized brain goes through when they are experiencing fight-or-flight responses to danger. This means your child could potentially act out with survival behaviors or have nightmares in response to the violence depicted in this movie. So with a movie with this level of violence you are also risking your child becoming retraumatized from past events and responding to all of the various trauma triggers plus associating a fun experience with all of it. And again, this movie is rated R for a reason. Don’t take your kids to this if you have any say over it. My teenager is not watching it either.
  • Several Character Deaths
    With the title it’s likely implied that there is a lot of death but there are many onscreen, graphic deaths of Task Force X members, military militia, Corto Malteseans, and other characters.
  • Several Descriptions and Depictions of Child Abuse and Neglect
    It certainly appears that most of Task Force X have suffered severe traumas even before adulthood. Ratcatcher 2 witnessed her father’s drug abuse and eventual overdose before being left to fend for herself as a child. Bloodsport describes multiple instances of abuse from his father including being locked in a crate with a hungry rat for over 24 hours. Polka Dot Man’s mother intentionally infected him with a virus from another dimension while she worked at S.T.A.R. Labs as she was obsessed with her son becoming a superhero. The abuse was so much that, though Polka Dot Man hates killing people, if he imagines a target is his mother he has no trouble killing them. There is also a scene with footage of Corto Maltese children being hung in front of people for being related to government officials during a take over. Needless to say, all of this can be highly triggering for children and youth that have survived abuse and neglect situations.
  • Depictions of Human Trafficking
    It’s pretty clear that humans are being trafficked from Corto Maltese to be experiments in Project Starfish and the experience is completely unethical. The project is so problematic it turns out that Task Force X is involved to make sure the US Government isn’t implicated in their part of this gross, unjust treatment of people. The bottom line regardless of how anyone feels this is forced labor and therefore human trafficking and could be highly triggering to kids and youth that have been a part of or exposed to human trafficking, whether renegading or forced by traffickers.
  • Negative Association with Police/Authority
    This entire film is about not trusting police or the government because they abuse prison systems for forced labor (i.e. – Task Force X) and use these high-profile inmates to destroy evidence of unethical human experimentation. Amanda Waller also abuses her authority to blackmail Bloodsport into “opting in” to Task Force X by threatening to enlist his 16 year-old daughter for stealing. This is not going to help a child or youth recover from fear and distrust of police or authority when your child likely has learned that most adults are not trustworthy due to past experiences of abuse and neglect.
  • Poor, Very Triggering Depiction of Father-Child Relationship
    During a visitation scene between Bloodsport and his daughter they begin screaming at each other using profanity and the daughter calling Bloodsport a bad father in very intense terms. As they scream at each other Bloodsport describes the abuse he suffered from his father and blames his daughter’s mother for her existence. This can also be very triggering for youth with poor experiences with a parental figures. 
  • Depictions of Prison Life
    All of the characters are dangerous prisoners who have killed several people. There is violence implied and seen between inmates in addition to seeing a very painful visitation scene between Bloodsport and his daughter, prison yard recreation time, and cell rooms. This may be triggering for children and youth who have parents or other relatives who have been in and out of the prison system, especially because it is clear that prisoners are not treated well at Belle Reeve.
  • Brief Nudity and Underwear Scenes
    There are scenes of characters running through strippers’ dressing rooms, Peacemaker only wearing “tighty-whities”, a bare male butt post-sex, and lots of depictions of cleavage and persons partially clothed due to battle.
  • Inappropriate/Gross Humor
    This ranges from Polka Dot Man keeping his virus under control by vomiting/pooping the polka-dots all the way to Harley exclaiming, “I love the rain. It’s like angels splooging all over us.” Across the board there is a lot of gross humor. Harley also announces that a character has a “beautiful monster” between their legs to refer to their penis, and Captain Boomerang calls Task Force X members “dead, hanging hogs” in reference to how they are all likely to die and the newer members don’t know yet. 
  • Implied Domestic Violence
    Harley lists off several of the abuses she suffered from Joker when she shoots her new lover upon him announcing he would kill children. While we agree that we should watch for “red flags” when dating, we certainly do not condone children and youth hearing some of the graphic things Joker has done to Harley nor killing your date. 
  • Drug & Alcohol Use
    There are several scenes that involve drinking and smoking cigarettes, including in a bar scene. There is also a scene where Ratcatcher 2 discusses her childhood and we see her father shooting up drugs using a tourniquet and needle. In particular there are scenes with people being injured with lit cigarettes. Children who have been through trauma sadly have seen what happens when an adult uses alcohol to cope with hard situations and potentially have seen graphic reactions to drinking and substance abuse so this can potentially be triggering to some teens in this context. 
  • LOTS of Foul Language
    There are a few words in Spanish but most of the language is very foul and in English. About every word in the book, especially the “f-bomb”. Please be aware because while most teens can probably handle hearing some foul language this is very excessive.
  • Sex Scene
    There is a scene where Harley and a male character start making out and knocking each other around very violently and are implied to have sex in the same room, on the floor, where they broke glass and other items everywhere. Not only is this a very exaggerated example of how sex works this can also be triggering for your kiddos who have sexual abuse backgrounds due to how violent this scene is inherently.
  • Implied Rape
    This is the implied-death rape of a human being experimented on by Thinker. While the victims of the Starfish Project talk about what is done to them one says “He had his way with me.” While this is an implied rape not seen onscreen, caretakers should still be aware as themes of rape and intense abuse may be triggering for your teen.
  • Implied Mental Health Issues Glamorized
    In addition to Harley being portrayed as an anti-hero and kind of glamorized in general, while she escapes from the Corto Maltesean government she hallucinates birds and flowers with a cartoon, princess-y quality that certainly lightens the tone of the bloodbath she creates as she seamlessly makes her escape. This can also be harmful for youth who struggle with mental health concerns like hallucinating or other issues that could be associated with “crazy”.
  • Animals Harmed/Killed
    There are multiple instances of animals being killed on and offscreen by characters. In the beginning of the film Savant kills a bird with a bounce ball while in outdoor recreation time and an enemy kills a huge enclosure of beautiful birds by lighting them on fire with gasoline about midway through the film. Please remember that harming animals can be very upsetting and could also be triggering for children or youth who have a history of harming animals.
  • Indecent Human Behavior Across the Board
    All of the above, plus you have A.R.G.U.S. employees taking bets on Task Force X deaths, condoning Waller’s abuses and behavior, and flipping off/disrespecting images of the prisoners who literally cannot defend themselves. While the employees redeem themselves somewhat by knocking Waller out to allow Task Force X to save civilians they are still pretty gross as people too and will not help your child trust adults.

Discussion Guide:

  1. What was your favorite character? Why is that?
    Caregiver Note: While this question will appear to be “fluff”, this is a good way to start discussing hard topics. Just jumping into hard questions is often difficult for most adults, let alone youth who struggle with interpersonal relationships and trusting adults. Allow your youth to discuss characters they appreciate and why to gain insight into where your youth may be emotionally and mentally with associating with such characters. I don’t advise this as clinical advice, but if you talk more about the movie this may help you make other connections later as a caregiver. 
  2. How did you feel after watching the movie with all of the explosions and death? Was there anything in particular that was hard to see?
    Caregiver Note: This is a question to help introduce talking to your teen about calm down techniques when our body is overwhelmed by a potential trigger. The body can actually remember stressful situations without visual memories, so there may be times your teen is reacting to a trigger and has no idea why they feel so on edge. 
  3. How did your hands feel while watching parts of the movie that were intense? Your face? Your stomach?
    Caregiver Note: These are various areas of the body where sometimes your kiddo may have a physical reaction to what they are watching. Do you ever clench your fists when you are angry? Or have headaches or scrunch up your face in fear or anger when someone gets hurt? Have an upset stomach when you feel anxious? These are all what we call psycho-somatic responses to stress. It’s when the body manifests stress in different ways. While adults can often identify these responses and attach feelings to behavior a child or youth with traumatic backgrounds may not have been taught such self-awareness and need your help identifying when they feel anxious or angry. 
  4. What are some things that help you feel calm when you are feeling intense feelings? How can I help remind you of these things that can help?
    Caregiver Note: Your teen should lead this part of the conversation. If you already have a safety plan from therapy or from placement paperwork this can be a great tool to help you and your teen plan around specific stressors with helpful activity to help them come to calm. 
  5. ACTIVITY: Square Breathing Technique
    Caregiver Note: This is a great technique that works best in a quiet, comfortable space but can ultimately be done almost anywhere when things are feeling chaotic. In my experience, children often learn that “deep breaths” are good but when discussing the mechanics of such exercises they often struggle with steps on how to know how to do these breaths to reach a state of calm. The square breathing technique will help give something more tangible for a child to understand how this works.

    First, sit upright in a comfortable chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Then, place your hands upwards on your lap and close your eyes. Take a deep breath for 4 seconds through your nose, noticing how your body feels as air floods your lungs and abdomen. Hold for 4 additional seconds. Release your breath for 4 seconds through your mouth, noticing how your body feels as the air escapes your belly and chest. Hold for 4 more seconds. Repeat this sequence 3 more times. Once you finish, take note of how you feel. Where are your shoulders? Do you feel dizzy? How does your neck feel? If you do feel dizzy, take a few moments with normal breaths to come back to baseline. Deep breaths help regulate our Autonomic Nervous System, which is a part of that fight-or-flight response so we often will experience calm after doing such an exercise.

    If your kid needs help, here is a clip you can loop for a visual tool for breaths! 
  6. What did Harley mean by “red flags”?
    Caregiver Note: When Harley is discussing “red flags” you can tell some of the psychiatry background is surfacing as she discusses maladaptive relationship patterns she has had. Sometimes Harley does this for some comedic effect in her character but these nuggets can still be useful when talking to others about behavior. Harley is referring to behavior or statements others reveal about themselves to show they are not a positive source for relationship. This is a skill that, as Harley has learned, is not easy by any means. Usually when dating, someone is putting their best foot forward so we may not see the “red flags” quickly, as we see with Harley’s whirlwind romance with Silvio. However, killing children became something that even Harley can identify as a negative trait in a partner and she is quick to stand by her guns (literally) on that fact. 
  7. What are some of the red flags Harley listed directly? What about some of the red flags from Joker?
    Caregiver Note: This is a tricky question because Harley specifically lists killing children in relation to Silvio but there are several red flags that we, the viewers, can see as well as what we hear her say about her past relationship with the Joker. While this may seem easy to the audience, since we are watching the culmination of these abuses, this has not been so easy for Harley as the one slowly sinking into a relationship that grew more toxic over time.
  8. What are some red flags that Harley probably missed about Silvio upon meeting him?
    Caregiver Note: This can be one you and your kiddo can work together on. Let them take a crack at it first but certainly point out more that you observed if you watched the film. If you didn’t, there’s the fact that he was a part of a military coup and was an evil dictator, he clearly flaunts his appearance and deflects responsibility or seriousness with how attractive he is, the lives in a huge mansion while his people live in poverty, and he’s permitting the US government to experiment on Malto Corteseans. Additionally the violent sex lead up and such is pretty alarming. 
  9. How could Harley have discovered more of these red flags sooner before discussing engagement and sleeping with Silvio?
    Caregiver Note: Discuss the positives of taking things slow with new connections, not divulging too much personal information, asking questions, making a point to observe how someone treats others (especially those they consider beneath them), how they treat their friends, who they spend time with, how they spend their time, etc. This is not a skill that is innate as humans are social creatures and must be taught so we cannot take for granted that children who have learned how to do this, whether they are 12 or 22. 
  10. What are some red flags you need help watching for in friends and future dates?
    Caregiver Note: Feel free to use Harley as a starting point but talk through different ways you, the caregiver, can help your teen navigate identifying red flags and how to respond to them. Take this time together to work through this. Feel free to write this down to help be a reference for things later when emotions are running high.

Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its reviews nor this discussion packet to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.

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