By Common Sense Media,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Hip-shaking guilty pleasure has mature themes, racy scenes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
People from all walks of life can come together and fall in love. Be courageous and stand up for others in the face of inequality and sexism. Honesty and integrity are rewarded.
Positive Role Models
The daughter of an affluent Jewish family is exposed to the harsher realities of life during her stay at an exclusive summer retreat, where the working-class staffers are treated as second-class citizens. As dance instructor Johnny teaches Baby how to mambo, she becomes aware of what she wants and who she wants in life, though not without making some naive mistakes along the way. Baby begins questioning the values she was taught growing up and learns to use her privilege to help others. Despite his "bad boy" persona, Johnny later reveals a more tender side to Baby as the two fall in love. Both characters have their strengths and flaws, but they grow for the better from their relationship. Baby's curiosity leads her to mature and learn compassion; Johnny gains some courage even when his integrity is challenged.
A Jewish teenager falls in love with someone outside of her upper-middle-class world and is exposed to inequalities from which she was previously sheltered. Working-class dancers and performers come from racially diverse backgrounds. Baby ultimately asserts her agency and independence as she matures into a young woman.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
After one character insults another for going "slummin'," two men get into a fistfight. A young woman witnesses her older sister being sexually coerced by a waiter.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Suggestive dancing; a teenager loses her virginity; several scenes of people in bed. A character gets pregnant and has a dangerous abortion, with complications afterward. An older married woman propositions younger men on staff at the resort and sleeps with one.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Profanities such as "s--t," "ass," and "goddamn" are uttered. Characters also use sexual euphemisms "ball" and "humped." Several instances of "God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult guests are served wine and champagne. Staff members drink beer and smoke cigarettes. Men smoke cigars, including while they're playing cards and gambling.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dirty Dancing is a 1960s-set star-crossed romance starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. It's a guilty pleasure for many due to several campy scenes, flashy dance sequences, and appealing performances by its main characters. Although some parents may find the dancing a little too dirty, teen viewers will likely be captivated. Sex-related content abounds: One character has a botched abortion, the main character loses her virginity, and another experiences being coerced by someone she's dating. An older married woman propositions younger men on staff at the resort and sleeps with one. Language includes "s--t," "ass," and "goddamn." Through its exploration of mature subject matters, the film celebrates characters who demonstrate compassion, courage, curiosity, and integrity.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 26 parent reviews
Uncomfortable for me; OK for my Kid
Report this review
Report this review
What's the Story?
In DIRTY DANCING, Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her family spend their 1963 summer vacation at a Catskills resort, where Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) works. Baby runs into this handsome dance instructor from the wrong side of the tracks at a forbidden, wild "dirty dance" party that fellow staffers throw after work. To supplement their meager earnings, Johnny and his friend/dance partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), do a mambo show at a neighboring hotel. But then Penny gets pregnant, and the only time she can arrange an abortion is the night of a big mambo show. The naive Baby steps in, determined to help, asking her father (Jerry Orbach) for money to help Penny, no questions asked, before desperately trying to learn the mambo in time. Romance takes off on the dance floor, accompanied by a great 1960s soundtrack. Johnny is drawn to Baby's fierce optimism and Baby is drawn to -- well, he's Patrick Swayze! What will happen when they're found out?
Is It Any Good?
Unabashedly schmaltzy, this movie is also a lot of fun. Grey is touching as the shy and idealistic Baby, whose sexuality is awakened by the charismatic Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Both are exceptionally well cast, and their skillful and convincing performances bolster some of the story's weaker elements, like the many stock characters and predictable events. Johnny gets some of the worst dialogue, and it's remarkable that he's able to make the immortal line "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" sound almost natural. Teens will get past such corny dialogue because of the dance sequences, which effectively mirror Baby and Johnny's emotions. (A cute touch: Many of the soundtrack tunes have "baby" somewhere in the title.)
As the two become drawn to each other, the dancing becomes more seductive, culminating in the liberating energy of the final scene. All of that said, Dirty Dancing's content may well be more mature than many adults remember; be sure to talk to kids about Penny's situation, and why things are so dire for her.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Dirty Dancing's sexual themes. How is sex treated here? What are the different aspects it takes? What are your own values regarding sex and relationships?
As a teenager, what would you do if you were pressured to have sex?
How do you feel about the conflict between Baby and her father? Is one right and the other wrong, or is it more complex than that? Does their relationship feel realistic?
How do the characters demonstrate compassion, courage, curiosity, and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: January 1, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: February 7, 2017
- Cast: Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Patrick Swayze
- Director: Emile Ardolino
- Studio: Vestron Pictures
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Brothers and Sisters, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Curiosity, Integrity
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature themes and sexuality
- Last updated: May 25, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate