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A Star Is Born

Award-winning musical tragedy with alcoholism at its core.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 1964
  • Running Time: 176 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie supports the idea that without the right treatment and behavioral changes, alcoholism can be a deadly condition. Loved ones, as well as the alcoholic himself or herself, need guidance and inspiration to overcome the harmful effects of the addiction ("Love is not enough"). The film reinforces the concept that show business can be a demanding and unforgiving career.

Positive role models

The loving, but naive wife of an alcoholic gives it her all in efforts to save her husband's career, his self-esteem, and his will to live.


One very brief fist fight.


Lots of loving kisses between a husband and wife.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One leading character is an alcoholic who struggles with his addiction. It ultimately costs him his career and his reputation. Many characters drink in social situations. Set in the early 1950s, smoking is pervasive.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this award-winning musical has a serious story about alcoholism at its core. While the film depicts the wondrous rise to stardom of a talented, earnest young woman, it also shows the decline and ultimate tragedy of her self-destructive husband and mentor. It's about alcoholism and the deadly results of one man's addiction. Instances of drunkenness are plentiful and, given the time period in which the characters live, there is frequent smoking.

Kids say

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What's the story?

In this musical drama set in the early 1950s, a talented young band singer (Judy Garland) is discovered by a major movie star (James Mason) who is also an alcoholic. Though they fall love and share idyllic moments together, he cannot maintain control over his alcoholism and its related bad behavior. Her singing and acting career soars as he falters and tragically self-destructs. This well-known and much-loved film is a remake of the Janet Gaynor-Frederic March 1937 drama of the same name, which was remade again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. This 1954 version nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Actor and Best Actress), which marked Judy Garland's triumphant return to the screen after her own difficulties with substance abuse and fragility, is the iconic version of the familiar story.

Is it any good?


Though acting styles and depictions of alcoholism have greatly changed since this melodrama was made, A Star Is Born remains a vibrant and moving film. It captures the true essence of Judy Garland's showmanship, vulnerability, and musical gifts. Some original songs, including Judy's show-stopping delivery of "The Man That Got Away," are introduced alongside a wonderful selection of American Songbook standards.

It's long, just minutes short of three hours, but for a one-stop intro to the magic that was Judy Garland as an adult icon and for dazzling musical production numbers, this is the movie to see.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the differences in treatment for alcoholism in 1954 and today. Do you think Alcoholics Anonymous, Al Anon, or other programs would have helped Norman and Esther? Are you aware of the resources in your community for substance abusers and/or their families?

  • Think about how the art of acting has changed over the years since this movie was made. What are some of the most obvious differences between Academy Award-nominated performances then and now?

  • What motivated Norman Maine's final decision? How might he have resolved his dilemma in a different way?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 16, 1964
DVD/Streaming release date:September 19, 2000
Cast:James Mason, Judy Garland
Director:George Cukor
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:176 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
Awards/Honors:Academy Award

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Educator and Parent of an infant and 1 year old Written byMommaOfTwoo November 20, 2012

Star Power

A wonderful musical story with a harsh look at alcoholism.... Judy Garland is a true star in this movie! While it is a bit long, anyone with an appreciation for a good musical will enjoy it.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking