A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Environmental message at varying decibels, starting with the fact that the polar ice caps have melted (although "global warming" is never explicitly mentioned). The savage-thug villains, working out of a notorious real-life oil tanker, identify themselves with industrialization, "development" and, presumably, capitalism.
Positive Role Models
The main character is a lone-wolf nomad who keeps saying he's looking out only for himself, though when necessary he turns out to be chivalrous and noble. Mariner is described as a relentless killer who tracks down and kills enemies without mercy. People of color seem notably absent in this future world.
Violence & Scariness
Explosions, gunfire (with human casualties at close range), people and craft impaled by spear guns. Hand-to-hand combat and knifings. The evil Deacon loses his eye, and we see the bloody socket from time to time. A threat of execution by drowning in disgusting sludge.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rear-end nudity only as Helen strips naked to trade sex with the Mariner in return for safety on his craft, and she wears fairly skimpy clothing throughout. Later another seagoing drifter expects to have sex with Helen in a swap, but the hero interrupts the near-rape. Later Mariner and Helen make non-explicit, more consensual love.
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The F-word uttered once by a bad guy; several s-words, as well as "hell," "damn," "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The villainous "smokers" live up to their names, chain-smoking cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this post-apocalyptic epic postulates a semi-barbarous future where everything is traded and bartered -- including sex. The heroine is glimpsed naked from the rear as she tries to use her body to bribe the hero (he declines the offer), and there's a near-rape of her by another man in a similar "business" arrangement. Frequent violence includes death by machine guns, spears guns, bombs, crashes, knife slashes, drownings, and fireballs. There's a gruesome threat of execution by drowning in some sort of sludge made from human decomposition, and a mutilated main villain demonstrates graphically that he's lost an eye. A little girl is occasionally threatened with danger/death, usually via drowning. Swearing includes one use of the F-word, multiple S-bombs. Much cigarette smoking, and some drinking-carousing happens among the bad guys. The flamboyant lead villain, at one point, is made to look like a Christian evangelical preacher. Some viewers may be grossed out by the introduction of the Kevin Costner character, urinating and then distilling/drinking his own urine. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Despite its bad rap, WATERWORLD does offer solid entertainment (and it did find minor box-office success). It's got fun swashbuckling and cool low-tech nautical gadgets and imaginative production design that is indeed otherworldly. Dennis Hopper does an amusingly comic-scary villain -- even if his bloody eye socket is one of several gross-out moments for kid and adult viewers. Only as it slackens toward the end (and piles on the bad-science snafus) does the movie begin to feel as ponderous and self-absorbed as critics complained. It helps if one hasn't recently seen Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which was a too-obvious inspiration.
Like the 1963 Cleopatra, this ecologically-tacking sci-fi flick become a symbol of Tinseltown waste and epic ego, as the original director left the production and the budget ballooned way over estimates. Thanks to all the gossip the film was labeled a bomb by many before it had even opened.
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.