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Content Caution

Boston Strangler 2023 movie


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

In 1962, three women were murdered in their homes. All were elderly. All lived alone. And all were strangled, their killer tying neat bows around their necks.

Loretta McLaughlin, a lifestyle reporter for the Record American, linked them together. Convincing her boss to take a chance on her, she busted the story wide open, scooping every other paper in town and embarrassing the Boston police department for not connecting the attacks themselves.

Unfortunately, knowing there’s a killer on the loose isn’t the same as catching the guy.

Over the course of the next 18 months, 10 more women were murdered. Their profiles began to vary—some were younger; some had dark hair, others didn’t—but all were found with the same trademark bow tied around their necks.

Loretta and Jean (another, more experienced female reporter) are assigned to cover the full story. But what they discover isn’t just the identity of the serial killer. It’s a level of corruption, neglect and disinterest within Boston police department that eventually allows 12 of these 13 murders to go unsolved to this day.

Positive Elements

Several people working for police departments and newspapers put their personal lives on hold in order to pursue justice for the murder victims. When a woman’s neighbor hears disturbing sounds, he bravely knocks on her door and calls the police. A few people risk their jobs to provide information to Loretta and Jean.

Loretta and Jean are grateful to the people in their lives who convinced them to become reporters.

Spiritual Elements

A scene takes place in a church with a choir singing. A man says he’d walk out of his own child’s christening for a lead on a case.

Sexual Content

Loretta overhears two people having sex through a wall. We hear about an extramarital affair that resulted in pregnancy.

A woman begins to undress for a bath (we see her in a slip). Other women are seen in similar states of undress. We see a painting of a naked woman. An unclothed, female mannequin sits in a man’s home. We see a man’s bare chest.

The police commissioner insinuates that Loretta flirted with the officers that confirmed her story—suggesting they even exaggerated the evidence pointing to a single killer because they wanted to sleep with her.

Loretta kisses her husband several times.

We hear the police commissioner ordered a raid on every gay bar in the city. Post-film credits state that Loretta was one of the first reporters to cover the AIDS crisis. We also learn that Loretta and her husband eventually divorced.

Violent Content

Though most of the murders in this film take place offscreen, we do see one strangling. For many of the others, we hear the struggle happening. We see the corpses of these women either directly on screen or through crime scene photos. All of the victims are stripped to their underclothes, and many of them show signs of sexual assault. A man who found one of the victims says that a broom was stuck between the woman’s legs, and later, we see another woman’s body found in the same state.

A man is repeatedly stabbed with a makeshift knife in prison. We hear a man murdered a gas station attendant during a robbery. Cops arrest several suspects with guns raised. Loretta arms herself with a bat after spotting a stalker outside her home. (And she finds the man left a picture of herself and Jean with X’s over their faces.

A man is arrested on rape charges. We hear about “thousands” of sex offenders. And Loretta listens to specific stories about men harassing women. A man pretends to be a modeling “measurer” (someone who takes a girl’s measurements for modeling agencies). However, instead of using a measuring tape, he uses his hands, making a woman understandably uncomfortable as he touches her.

A mother ices her son’s lip, and we hear his brother hit him.

[Spoiler warning] Loretta eventually realizes that the Boston Strangler isn’t one man, but several men. Except for the first five women (who really were victims of a serial killer), most were killed by ex-lovers who then framed it to look like the Strangler to throw off police.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word is used twice, and the s-word is used 11 times. There are also multiple uses of “a–,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused three times, and Christ’s name is abused four times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Many characters smoke and drink throughout the film. Several scenes take place in bars. We hear someone got high. Police report a man was killed in prison over drugs.

Other Negative Elements

The Boston Police Department (and the criminal justice system at large) fails in several ways. They don’t take the murders seriously because the victims are “nobodies.” They refuse to share information with other departments, allowing some suspects to go free. And their desire to end the city-wide panic outweighs their search for justice.

Many women in Boston write to Loretta and Jean in fear after reading about the “Boston Strangler” in the news. Loretta’s own mother installs a chain on her door after learning about a neighbor’s murder. We see some women stalked by men.

Loretta and Jean are stalked themselves. After their bosses print pictures of them working the story, Loretta receives a phone call with nothing but heavy breathing on the other end. Jean isn’t surprised by this, stating that the pictures help to sell papers and that her own number has been unlisted since her first big story. Although Jean later changes her mind and demands their pictures be removed after someone stalks Loretta at her home.

Part of the reason the Boston PD doesn’t pursue the killer more fervently is because the victims are “nobodies.” The mother of one victim is devastated when her daughter’s suspected murderer isn’t charged with the crime.

We hear the Strangler has pretended to be a maintenance worker to gain access to his victims’ homes. We also hear from a professional profiler that the killer likely chose his victims based on a trauma from his own life. (And we hear that several police suspects have been to mental institutions before.)

Initially, Loretta’s husband, James, is proud of her achievements. He defends Loretta when his sister says she works too much. And he covers for her whenever she runs off to chase a lead. However, James eventually tires of Loretta’s absences. He takes a promotion requiring him to travel more without consulting her. And although he never asks her to quit her job, it appears that he wishes she would.

We see instances of sexism in the workplace. Loretta and Jean are the only two female reporters not working the lifestyle section. And the police commissioner, embarrassed by their articles, tries to discredit their reporting as “barstool gossip.”

A man makes arrangements for his child to be adopted to hide his affair. A woman says her daughter-in-law isn’t “family.”

People lie. A man tries to steal evidence. Some people take advantage of the Boston Strangler case, arranging for the wrong man to take the blame, to make money.

Loretta and Jean commiserate their difficulties in having families and being career women. A detective quits after losing hope in the Boston PD.

[Spoiler warning] The police knowingly accept a false confession. (The man in question didn’t commit every murder he confessed to.) And this allows 12 of the 13 murders to go unsolved.


Boston Strangler reminds me a lot of She Said.

You have two female reporters chasing after a man guilty of assaulting women. The victims are unable to speak for themselves. The reporters are harassed for their efforts, even threatened. But no matter what, they pursue the truth, hoping to make things better—to make women safer—in the future.

Content-wise, the films are pretty similar, too: There’s coarse language, sexual assault (never seen on screen but heard) and a disturbing amount of corruption that allows the attacker to go unpunished for far too long.

Of course, the films have their differences.

In Boston Strangler, the victims aren’t able to speak for themselves because they’re dead. And even though we only see one murder take place on screen, the aftermath of the other assaults is hard to witness.

And while neither film could be said to have a “happy” ending, Boston Strangler is even sadder since most of the victims never get any kind of justice.

Both films are intriguing, based on true events and feature strong writing and acting. However, neither film is one I would recommend. Because while the subject matter is important, the way these stories are presented brings a lot of issues.

Seeing the aftermath of a sexual assault on screen is difficult—more difficult than many might realize. (Real-life police officers are trained to handle this sort of situation and offered counseling, if necessary, after witnessing it first-hand.) And even if you believe you’re prepared to handle the content outlined in this review, consider the fact that films like this could be largely contributing to your own desensitization and it might just be better to pass.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.