18 to Party

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
18 to Party Movie Poster Image
Drama about '80s teen life is no party; smoking, profanity.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 80 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Eighth graders process events in the world, their town, and their own lives, but there are no overtly positive messages. 

Positive Role Models

Characters are all White teens. None of them behave in an exemplary fashion. 


A BB gun is shown to be cool and is used in a threatening way. Fistfights involve punching in the face. Conversations about the deaths of several teens, including via suicide. Hostility. 


Subplot about confronting feelings about a crush. Eighth graders kiss. Extended conversation between two boys about "fooling around" with a girl. It's implied that a boy has a pornographic magazine, but no images are seen.


Frequent strong language by 13-year-olds, including "ass," "a--hole," "bullsh--t," "f-ggots," "goddammit," "hell," "piss," "s--t," and many uses of "f--k." Middle-finger gestures. A joke with the word "Jew."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens are seen with cans (implication is that it's beer) and cigarettes outside a nightclub. A troubled eighth grader smokes cigarettes; the same character smokes pot "dipped in dust," which leads to erratic negative behavior. A teen laments a relative's alcoholism.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 18 to Party is a dialogue-heavy drama about eighth graders in small-town America in 1984. The kids are hanging out in a parking lot waiting for a club to open in hopes they'll be allowed in, despite being underage. They pass the time by chatting, sometimes opening up and sometimes attacking each other, similar to The Breakfast Club. The overarching theme is suicide's impact on a community, and the story subtly links lack of parental attention to the era's spike in teen deaths. Although the film is peppered with authentic elements like Hard Rock T-shirts, acid-washed jeans, and mentions of Judas Priest and The Fixx, it doesn't deliver a truly accurate sense of what it was like to be a teen in the '80s. Expect frequent profanity from the 13-year-old characters (including "f--got" and "f--k"), the use of BB guns, fistfights, conversations about death, and a teen smoking and doing drugs. Some of them also kiss, and it's implied that a boy has a pornographic magazine.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGDSpain December 2, 2020


The best movie I’ve seen about youth since The Breakfast Club.

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What's the story?

Set in 1984, 18 TO PARTY is about a group of eighth graders sitting in a parking lot in hopes they'll be let into a nightclub. While they wait, they debate whether their town is jinxed, talk about the recent deaths of several local teens, and discuss the UFO sighting that's preoccupied their parents.

Is it any good?

Its title suggests a Superbad-like quest for underage partying, but this film is actually a talky, dismal take on what it was like to be a kid in the '80s. Writer-director Jeff Roda tries to evoke The Breakfast Club-style confrontational conversations that draw out empathy, but too often, it just seems like the actors are running lines. The dialogue doesn't sparkle; in fact, it's incredibly redundant: Characters talk by repeating the same words to each other. And with everything taking place in one location, there's not a lot of action.

That said, the scene setting is tremendous. Costume designer Eva Lopez hits a home run, re-creating 1984 styles as they were rather than the fabulous way we want to remember them (see: the Valley Girl remake). And the movie's score is right on the money, using unknown dream pop tracks from The Alarm, Big Audio Dynamite, and The Velvet Underground to create the environment for anguished insecurity to take root. Roda also succeeds in taking Gen X viewers down memory lane by including mentions of pop culture moments past, like Watership Down and The Clash. But ultimately there's nothing to get your hooks into, no character whose story takes off. For older viewers, the game will be to spot something familiar, whether it's a reference or a situation. Younger viewers may look for an inroad to understanding the decade but leave wondering "where's the beef?" 18 to Party connects the dots but doesn't complete the picture. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the realities of the 1980s versus the way pop culture likes to paint the decade today. How does nostalgia impact our view of the past?

  • Did you know that in 1984, federal law changed the drinking age from 18 to 21? Before then, you had to be "18 to party." What do you think about the law? Is it justified?

  • What is the movie saying about parenting in the 1980s? Many '80s teens grew up to become "helicopter parents." Why do you think that is?

  • How are pot and cigarette smoking depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • How is communication on display in this film? How does communication help us understand others' actions? How is communication shown as an outlet for processing grief?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love films about teens in the '80s

Themes & Topics

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