A Fish Called Wanda

Movie review by
Elliot Panek, Common Sense Media
A Fish Called Wanda Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Crime caper has a wicked edge, lots of mature humor.
  • R
  • 1988
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There's not really any positive message to be found here, unless it's that love can be found in unexpected places. But that's secondary to the constant double-crossing, lying, stealing, cheating, betraying, and other iffy stuff.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters aren't meant to be admirable, and they fully fulfill that intention. Characters commit crimes, cheat, and lie; some are punished, others aren't. Wanda is a strong female character, but she uses her sexuality to get ahead and shows no qualms about double-crossing whoever it takes to get ahead. A character with a stutter is repeatedly mocked. Archie is a barrister, but he's quick to disregard the law when lust proves stronger than ethics. Otto is violent, short-tempered, and crass.


Mostly cartoon-ish gunplay, but it sometimes gets a bit brutal. Lots of threats. One character tries to engineer situations in which an old woman will be killed; when the schemes go awry, her dogs pay the price. Some hitting/tackling and rough treatment of characters.


Simulated sex, with frequent allusions to sexual attraction and arousal. Lots of kissing and making out; in one scene, a male character is shown naked from the rear (he's also shown from the front, but there's a strategically placed object blocking his groin). Infidelity.


Language is strong and colorful ("f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," etc.) but not constant.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Limited casual drinking and smoking by adults.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fast-paced heist comedy from some of the folks behind Monty Python's Flying Circus isn't intended to provide positive messages or role models -- just to be funny. Much of its humor is of the envelope-pushing variety: There's sadistic treatment of a stuttering character, dogs and fish are killed, guns are wielded, and characters are roughed up and targeted for murder. There's also a fair bit of strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), some simulated sex, infidelity, kissing, explicit sex talk, and a scene in which a man is shown naked from behind. Characters frequently betray and double-cross each other; they also get away with crimes without being punished. But it's all presented in a comic way, so as long as they're ready for edgy, British-flavored humor, mature teens should be able to handle it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 14-year-old Written byDylan1226 March 27, 2020

Hilarious, racy movie, most teens can handle it...

This was one of my favorite comedies growing up and I showed it to my sons, 14 and 12 recently... They both thought it was hilarious. It's racy at times, l... Continue reading
Adult Written bysarge123 October 23, 2015
Teen, 14 years old Written bycalm down January 8, 2021

Hilarious crime film

I watched this movie when I was 9 and found it hilarious, I'm from Britain so I was brought up on this sort of stuff but I guess children used to american... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 21, 2020

Very funny, but be careful

This film is very entertaining, but it does not display any sort of good message or moral. I do think I was a bit too young to watch this movie, but I think oth... Continue reading

What's the story?

After pulling off a daring daylight diamond heist, a team of theives -- including sexy Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), unpredicatable Otto (Kevin Kline), and mild-mannered Ken (Michael Palin) -- starts double-crossing one another in order to claim the loot for themselves. An unsuspecting barrister (John Cleese) gets pulled into the fray, and as lying begets more lying, it all turns into a delightfully loopy farce.

Is it any good?

A FISH CALLED WANDA is a British crime caper that features a comedic tour de force performance by Kline. Cleese's character is a distant cousin to the one he played in beloved Britcom Fawlty Towers, a brow-beaten husband whose efforts to hide an indiscretion result in hilarity. These familiar situations benefit immensely from Cleese's skill; he carries off such scenes with aplomb.

Kline, though, is the real star here -- his elevation of obnoxiousness to a high art won him a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His amalgamation of overconfidence and kinetic energy is so extreme, his shifts in manner from faux-Buddhist to faux-Italian so abrupt, that you can't help but laugh. Without him, the movie would be a bit plain, with the familiar twists and turns of the double-cross jewel-thief escapade. But with him, it's a comedy treat sure to entertain Monty Python fans and British humor enthusiasts alike.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters. Are any of them intended to be role models? If not, are they still sympathetic? Why? How do movies get us to root for "bad" guys?

  • What kind of consequences would these characters face in real life for their actions?

  • Do you find this movie funny or over the top? Why do you think different people find different things funny?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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