Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.


Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den; and I layed me down in the place to sleep: and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.”

Director Terrence Malick begins Knight of Cups with these words—words culled from John Bunyan’s classic Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. And the world Malick then shows us is no less wild than Bunyan’s, no less dreamlike. Rick is Malick’s pilgrim—a powerful figure in the entertainment industry, it seems, living a life of reasonable leisure and over-the-top hedonism. He’s invited to the coolest parties, hangs with the hippest crowds and can while away each and every evening with his choice of beautiful bedmates.

And yet he sleeps, we’re told. He dreams. He walks somnolent, moving from woman to woman, relationship to relationship. He “drank from a cup that took away his memory,” his father tells us. “He forgot that he was the son of a king.” And though he doesn’t remember, he was given a quest long ago—a quest to find a precious pearl.

“Where did I go wrong?” Rick wonders. He can feel that something’s amiss—that something’s missing. The women he’s with sense it too. He’s distant. Dreamlike. “Am I bringing you back to life?” one asks, playfully moving his arms on and off his chest, as if resuscitating him.

But after an earthquake shakes him to his core, Rick seems determined to remember what he forgot, to perhaps find his way back to the path he lost. To find that pearl, whatever shape it may take.

And it doesn’t matter how many more women Rick needs to meet to find it.

Positive Elements

It’s hard to cast what happens in this movie in purely positive or negative terms. Like all of Malick’s work, Knight of Cups feels more like a dream than a narrative—flashes of memory mixed with hope and fear, despair and exultation. And it may also be, as the director suggests with his allusion to Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of sorts.

But we can at least say with some degree of confidence that Rick wants more depth than his superficial life has provided him thus far. Also: Nancy, his ex-wife, is a doctor who tenderly cares for horrifically scarred patients—many of whom (according to the credits) are real-life burn victims. Rick admits to himself that Nancy gave him the closest sense of happiness he’d ever known. He says to her, “You gave me peace. You gave me what the world can’t give. Mercy. Joy. Love.” And it seems that, despite many false turns, Rick does begin to find his way back to something worth having—repairing some of the damage done inside his family and coming to better appreciate his flawed father.

Spiritual Content

Knight of Cups takes its name from a Tarot card bearing a character who plods along astride a white horse—a symbol of purity and spirituality. Taking things one step further, the movie's posters show Rick (the presumed knight) upside down. In fortune-telling lore, that upside-down card signifies a situation that at first seems wonderfully exciting but turns out to be quite unfulfilling—much like Rick’s life.

The Tarot is referred to regularly in the film: Rick visits a fortune-teller at one point, and every new segment of the movie begins with a subtitle screen referencing a new card (the moon, the sun, the high priestess, the hanged fool, death, etc.).

There are allusions to other belief systems and religions as well. Indeed, many of Rick’s dalliances with women can be taken as metaphors for flirtations with various religions. One woman, a stripper who says she changes her “reality” every evening, seems closely associated with Hinduism: They vacation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where a Hindu shrine appears in the background. We also see a man playfully slap a thin stone onto his brow, imitating the Hindu “third eye.” Another woman, calm and peaceful, is shown doing yogic exercises in front of a statue of the Buddha. She rejects Rick’s advances, saying, “I don’t want to wreak havoc in men’s lives anymore”—an echo of the Buddhist concept of peaceful, emotionless Nirvana. Rick visits a Zen garden with yet another woman and visits with a man who apparently played at being an Eastern monk for a while.

Rick also visits a museum filled with Christian artwork. And his father is shown praying, petitioning God for forgiveness. Quotations from the Bible and Christian prayers echo throughout the movie. And before the film ends, we meet a priest who says that suffering is a gift from God, not a curse—that it helps bind us closer to Him. We're presented with the overarching idea that even though Rick's dad may have walked along the Christian “path” like a drunk, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right path.

Sexual Content

As mentioned, Rick gets around. Each step on his journey involves—and revolves around—a different woman. And while these relationships may be metaphorical, they're also explicitly rendered when it comes to the sexual side of things. We see several women either without tops or fully nude. At least twice Rick seems to be involved with two women at once. Another liaison links him to a married woman. One woman—in an image seemingly separated from the rest of the movie—dominates the screen, her breasts obscured only by black paint, black X’s painted on her back.

Sex scenes include movements, sounds and partial nudity. Rick spends time in a strip club where panting patrons and aggressively moving dancers are sometimes sexually entwined. A modeling shoot depicts a heavily muscled woman in a bikini posing with a more petite model, with the photographer insinuating that the two are lovers. There's talk of pregnancy and uncertain paternity.

Violent Content

It's implied that a woman gets an abortion, and that it broke her heart. Rick’s brother, Barry, is emotionally scarred, and he asks Rick to help him feel “something.” Anything. He threatens playfully to jab a fork in Rick’s eye, then pokes his own hand with the utensil. He slaps at furniture with a machete. He breaks chairs across the dining room table. Rick’s father appears to wash his hands with blood.

Rick’s apartment is robbed at gunpoint. It’s also shaken by an earthquake, sending furniture and knickknacks crashing to the floor. (A potted plant from a floor above nearly crashes down on Rick).

Crude or Profane Language

A half-dozen f-words. One or two s-words. “A--“ is said a handful of times. Jesus’ name is abused once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Rick’s hedonistic lifestyle is saturated with all manner of alcohol. A one-night stand pours champagne down his shirt in an effort to wake him up. Revelers lie passed out around his apartment. There's talk of drugs letting you see things most people don’t. “It opened up this window for me,” a woman says. “I call it the window of truth.” She suggests that Rick may have had the same sort of experience.

Other Negative Elements


Terrence Malick movies are like onions. Remove a layer, and there’s always another one to explore. And sometimes they can make your eyes burn, too.

The nudity here is pervasive and lingering. Rick’s philandering, after all, isn’t just an unfortunate adjunct, it's inexorably entwined to the story itself.

Then there are the frequent allusions to the Tarot and counter-Christian spirituality.

Peel past those layers, though, and the movie moves from sour to sweet. Knight of Cups is ultimately the story of a man who, like some country song somewhere, was looking for love—and meaning—in all the wrong places. And, in time, that simple truth becomes obvious to him.

While we could leave it there, Malick seems to be trying to take it one step further—insinuating that love and meaning is found, finally, in God.

“My son,” Rick’s father tells us, even as he doesn’t directly tell Rick himself, “I know you. I know you have a soul.”

Knight of Cups—the name of which comes from that problematic figure of the Tarot whose garments are covered with symbolic fish—is ultimately a quest for a pearl, Rick’s own soul.

But the onion still stings.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range





Christian Bale as Rick; Cate Blanchett as Nancy; Natalie Portman as Elizabeth; Brian Dennehy as Joseph; Antonio Banderas as Tonio; Freida Pinto as Helen; Wes Bentley as Barry; Isabel Lucas as Isabel; Teresa Palmer as Karen; Imogen Poots as Della


Terrence Malick ( )


Broad Green Pictures



Record Label



In Theaters

March 4, 2016

On Video

June 21, 2016

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!