A year after Kale Brecht’s (Shia LaBeouf) father is killed in a car accident, Kale is arrested after attacking a teacher who made a remark about Kale's father, saying "What would your father think?" Pleading guilty to the assault charge, and six months away of being eighteen, the maximum penalty is a year in juvie, considering his prior criminal record, three, but The judge is sympathetic towards Kale, sentencing him to three months of house arrest. He is then secured with an ankle monitor and a proximity sensor which prohibits him from leaving a 100 foot radius of his house.
Kale initially satiates his boredom by playing video games, but his mother, Julie Brecht (Carrie-Anne Moss), cancels his Xbox Live and iTunes accounts and cuts the cord of his television, forcing him to find something else to do. This leads Kale to start spying upon the surrounding neighborhood, including his new neighbor, Ashley Carlson (Sarah Roemer).
Kale begins to become suspicious of his neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), after several weird occurrences at his house leads Kale to believe he is a serial killer. Kale and his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) begin to research information on Turner and his possible victims. After being alerted to Kale and Ronnie’s spying, Ashley confronts Kale, and subsequently joins the pair in helping them investigate Turner. That night, Kale observes a date of Turner's in a panicked state. After Turner turns off his lights, Kale uses his binoculars to see what's happening. As Kale pans from window to window, he sees Turner looking straight at him. After Kale hides, he sees Turner's date leaving. The next morning, Kale is shocked after he enters his kitchen to see his mom flirting with Turner. Before Turner leaves, he implies threats to Kale that go unnoticed by Julie.
That night, Ashley confronts Kale after he attempts to ruin a party she is throwing. He tells her of his burgeoning feelings for her, and they start kissing. Later, with Kale and Ashley watching, Turner drags a heavy bag to his garage with blood on it. The next day, Kale insists that Ronnie break into Turner's car to get his garage door opener, while Ashley follows Turner to inform Kale if he goes home. Ronnie manages to get the garage code, but accidentally leaves his cell phone behind. Meanwhile, after Ashley loses Turner, he suddenly appears in front of her car. He gets in and tells her that all he wants is privacy, while insinuating that harm may come to her if she continues to spy on him.
That night, realizing that he left his phone in Turner's car, Ronnie attempts to get it back. In Turner’s garage, video camera in hand, Ronnie recovers his phone when the garage door suddenly shuts. Ronnie thinks somebody is there, leading him to run and hide in Turner's house. As Kale attempts to rescue him, his ankle monitor goes off. The police arrive, and Kale informs them that Ronnie is in danger. Hearing the noise, Turner comes out and allows the officers to search his garage. Ronnie is nowhere to be found, when Kale suggests they look in the bloody bag. They open it to reveal it contains the remains of a deer that Turner had hit with his car.
Later, Julie goes across the street to talk to Turner, with the hope of steering him away from pressing charges. Kale’s fears of Ronnie being dead are satiated, when Ronnie reveals himself to be alive and unharmed. Kale then watches Ronnie's videotape; in the video, as Ronnie falls over, he accidentally filmed something hidden behind an air vent. Kale zooms in and sees what looks like a clear bag with a dead body inside. At the same time, Julie turns her back on Turner, and he knocks her out.
Turner goes to Kale’s house where he knocks out Ronnie with a bat and after a struggle between the two, binds and gags Kale with duct tape. Turner begins to reveal his plan to frame Kale, when Ashley distracts Turner. Kale attacks Turner, and with Ashley's help, manages to subdue him. With Turner slowed down, Kale and Ashley hide in Kale’s room, and she frees Kale from the duct tape binding him and taping his mouth. Turner suddenly returns and breaks down the door with the baseball bat, as Kale and Ashley escape by jumping out a nearby window down to Ashley’s pool.
Kale grabs a pair of garden shears and goes to search for his mother, while Ashley goes to warn the police. Meanwhile, an officer (the cousin of the teacher Kale attacked) alerted to Kale’s bracelet, arrives and enters Turner’s house. As he walks through, Turner sneaks up behind him and breaks his neck. Proceeding to the basement of Turner’s house, Kale falls through the floor and lands in a pool containing several dead bodies in various states of decay. He climbs out and eventually finds Julie bound and gagged. Turner suddenly appears and Julie stabs Turner in the leg, giving Kale time to kill Turner with the gardening shears. Kale and Julie exit the house as the police arrive.
Kale's ankle monitor is finally removed and he is released from house arrest for "good behavior". Later, Kale gets revenge on the three kids who egged his house by calling their mother about them watching porn movies posing as a satellite TV operator. After, Ashley and Kale begin making out on a sofa when they are interrupted by Ronnie filming them. Kale flips him off as he continues to kiss Ashley.
- Shia LaBeouf as Kale Brecht, a 17 year old high school junior. Caruso auditioned over a hundred males for the role in five weeks before settling on LaBeouf as he was looking for someone "who guys would really like and respond to, because he wasn’t going to be such a pretty boy". LaBeouf was attracted to the role because of the director's 2002 film The Salton Sea, which he complimented as one of his favorite films. Before filming started, the two watched the thriller films Rear Window, Straw Dogs and The Conversation starring Gene Hackman. They also viewed the 1989 romantic film Say Anything... and "mixed all the movies together." LaBeouf says he spoke to people on house arrest and locked himself in a room with the bracelet to feel what the confinement of house arrest is like. He commented in an interview, "it’s hard. I’m not going to say it’s harder than jail, but it’s tough. House arrest is hard because everything is available. [...] The temptation sucks. That’s the torture of it." Caruso gave him the freedom to improvise whenever necessary to make the dialogue appeal to the current generation. During filming, LaBeouf began a program that saw him gain twenty five pounds of muscle in preparation of his future films Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull''.
- Sarah Roemer as Ashley Carlson, Kale's neighbor and love interest.
- Aaron Yoo as Ronnie, Kale's best friend.
- David Morse as Robert Turner, Kale's neighbour and the serial killer next door.
- Carrie-Anne Moss as Julie Brecht, Kale's mother.
- Matt Craven as Daniel Brecht, Kale's deceased father.
- Rene Rivera as Señor Gutierrez, Kale's Spanish teacher.
- Jose Pablo Cantillo as Officer Gutierrez, The cousin of Señor Gutierrez.
- Viola Davis as Detective Parker
Disturbia was filmed on location in the cities of Whittier, California and Pasadena, California. Filming began on the morning of January 6, 2006 and ended on April 28, 2006. The homes of Kale and Mr. Turner, which were supposed to be across from each other, were actually located in two different cities. Most of the movie was filmed in Whittier, California.
Disturbia was released on April 13 in the United States and opened at #1 in its first week at the box office with $23 million. Despite a 10 million decrease in its second week, it remained on top of the box office. In its third week, it held on with $9.1 million. In its fourth week, it earned $5.7 million and finished second behind the record-breaking Spider-Man 3.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 68% based on reviews from 165 critics, with the consensus that the film is "a tense, subtle thriller with a noteworthy performance from Shia LaBeouf". On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 62%, based on 28 reviews.
The film earned a "two thumbs up" rating from Richard Roeper and A.O. Scott (filling in for Roger Ebert), with Roeper saying, "This is a cool little thriller with big scares and fine performances." Many criticized the change of atmosphere two-thirds of the way into the film, when the initial pacing and action morphs into that of a "run-of-the-mill slasher horror film".
The Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust filed a lawsuit against DreamWorks, its parent company Viacom, and Universal Studios on September 5, 2008. The suit alleged that Disturbia infringed on the rights to Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder" (the basis for the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window), and that DreamWorks never bothered to obtain motion picture rights to the intellectual property and evaded compensating the rights holder for the alleged appropriation. (Ownership of the copyright in Woolrich's original story "It Had to Be Murder" and its use as the basis for the movie Rear Window was previously litigated before the United States Supreme Court in Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990).)
In the 'Making of Disturbia' section of the DVD's 'special feature's' section it is revealed that LaBeouf and Morse did not have much contact off-set as to make the fight scenes at the end of the movie as real as possible.