A Streetcar Named Desire

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
A Streetcar Named Desire Movie Poster Image
"Stella!" classic is powerful tale of abuse, alcoholism.
  • PG
  • 1951
  • 122 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Though in the end, a woman leaves her abusive husband, the length of the movie details her submissiveness as well as the helplessness of her sister, whose negative experiences with men seem to have propelled her toward alcoholism and a detachment from reality.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stella, the least assertive of all the badly flawed characters, comes across as the most worthy (though she's largely a doormat until the end). Stanley, proud, brutish, combative and not without some good sense (when not drinking) ends up being the villain. Snobbish, mannered Blanche turns out to be a fallen woman (who, as a teacher, seduced a student) and a prostitute. Being female, over 30, and unwed is regarded with horror, and a somewhat nice guy who could have turned Blanche's life around spurns her cruelly instead.

Violence

Volatile, drunken Stanley initiates a brawl and beats on his wife at a card game. We hear more than see other examples of neighborhood domestic violence and household brutality. The suggestion of offscreen rape.

Sex

Stella is naked under bedsheets in one scene; it's pretty obvious she and Stanley have had sex. Lots of euphemistic innuendo in the dialogue, with references to prostitution and even a scandal of a teacher romantically involved with a teen student.

Language

A few ethnic slurs: "Polack" and "Chinaman."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Heavy drinking and smoking by all, especially alcoholic Blanche. A cigarette case is especially romanticized.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is no healthy male-female dynamic anywhere you look in this once-scandalous drama. Husbands drink, smoke, fight, and beat their wives as a regular occurrance. Though nothing explicit is shown, the viewer understands that sex (and rape) have occurred offscreen. Prostitution, suicide by gun, and student-teacher sexual relations come up in dialogue (often in innuendo-heavy terms). There are a couple old-fashioned racial epithets.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrivyuwer October 24, 2011

STELLA

Marlon Brando. Mmmmmmm. If anyone actually knows the Tennessee Williams play and can decipher what's going on behind the Transatlantic accents, it really i... Continue reading
Adult Written byPastorClark July 30, 2011

Hot stuff.

Brando is a hot, sweltering mess in a sweaty t-shirt that's about two sizes too small. If you have a pre-pubescent, be careful, the child will understand s... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byvictoliva May 19, 2013

Great movie

This movie deals a lot with abuse, smoking and drinking. It's an intense movie all the way through it could be hard for a sensitive person to handle. There... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byHenry Hill15 February 15, 2018

Great classic Movie

Great film with excellent performances and script. The original play is preserved on film for future generations to see. The film contains some mature themes bu... Continue reading

What's the story?

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE came to the screen fresh from a hit two-year run on Broadway, with the whole stage cast transplanted to the screen except for a newcomer, Gone With the Wind icon Vivien Leigh. She plays the pivotal part of Blanche, a fragile leftover of a once-great southern dynasty, who, after the deaths of their parents and the loss of their mansion, makes her way to New Orleans to live with her only sister Stella (Kim Hunter). Stella, nowhere near the southern-belle type Blanche is, has abandoned her high-society pretensions to marry Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), a passionate, but domineering, often drunk, and sometimes even animalistic laborer. Stanley and Blanche both attract and repel each other. Stanley, irritated and perhaps feeling threatened by the changes Blanche brings to his little apartment, suspects there are worse things in the sister's background that she admits, and he's right.

Is it any good?

Some critics say A Streetcar Named Desire has the best-ever acting in a Hollywood movie; it certainly shows why the dynamic young Marlon Brando become a legend. (And that was despite increasing eccentricities, scandals and grotesque career choices.) One can hardly look away while he's on show as the hyper-macho, sometimes-magnetic, sometimes-loathesome Stanley. The acting would need to be the film's strong point, since it's basically setbound (though beautifully photographed in black-and-white) and mostly dialogue, full of quotable epigrams ("Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable") and favorite lines ("Stella!"). For modern-day viewers, especially kids accustomed to more explicit content and less poetic treatment of mental illness/nymphomania (or whatever Blanche, the original drama queen, is afflicted with), the film may take some getting used to, but it still commands attention and respect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this movie was considered so racy in its era. Does it stand the test of time? Would it have been more effective if eroticism and language were more explicit?

  • Is Stanley really such a monster, or is he correct to some extent in unmasking Blanche's lies and delusions?

  • There is much ado about Blanche's age and the scandal of her being unmarried and over 30. Is this still a stigma?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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