By Tracy Moore,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Campy sci-fi cult classic features violence, nudity.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Barbarella is a sci-fi send-up meant to spoof more than inspire, but it does offer positive messages about communing with other humans.
Positive Role Models
Characters are good, bad, ridiculous, kind, oversexed, or evil.
Violence & Scariness
The film contains multiple, pervasive scenes of cartoonish violence played for humor or humorous peril, and there is a consistent use of space-age rockets, lasers, and guns. In one scene, a woman is hit in the face with a rock. In others, magnetic disturbances toss her about a spaceship. There are creepy porcelain dolls with razor teeth that surround a woman and administer bite-size wounds, with blood shown. A man whips a group of feral children (with the whipping motion shown; contact with the children is not shown, but their screams are audible). Space-age creatures are blown up with space rockets. A man lies on the ground dead, covered in blood. An angel is shown strung up crucifixion-style by his bloodied wings. A woman is placed in a cage and then attacked by birds and shown bleeding. A woman writhes and sweats when hooked up to a machine meant to make her orgasm to death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Multiple scenes with bare breasts, naked silhouettes, implied intercourse, discussion of intercourse, and sensuality and suggestiveness. In the opening scene, a woman's space suit is slowly removed to reveal nothing underneath, with shots of breasts from multiple angles throughout the introduction. Elsewhere, the film figures heavily on a variety of women wearing various items of see-through clothing, wrapped in cellophane, or lounging about half-naked and beckoning. In multiple scenes, a man offers to make love to a woman or a woman offers a man sex as a reward, which is indicated by the characters beginning to undress and then the scene cutting away to a bed. Several instances of shirtless men, as well as a labyrinth of naked people in sheer clothes. In one scene, several women are hanging from a ceiling in cellophane, writhing.
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Only very mild language, mostly for its sensuality involving the frank discussion of intercourse and how it should be performed.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Only minor references to drug-like substances, such as a scene in which people drink out of goblets that appear to have something alcohol-like in them. Discussions of intercourse involve taking exaltation-transference pellets. In one scene, a group of women smokes a hookah described to contain "essence of man."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Barbarella is a 1968 French-Italian sci-fi cult flick (based on a French comic of the same name) featuring Jane Fonda, lots of nudity, sensuality, absurdity, and the generally wacky irreverence of 1960s cinema. Because of its mature themes, bare breasts, frequent sensuality, and direct discussions of intercourse, as well as a plot development that includes a woman being given a fatal orgasm, this is a movie best reserved for very mature teens or adults.
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What's the Story?
Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is a libidinous intergalactic space agent on a mission to find a missing inventor, but along the way she meets a curious slew of extraterrestrials, creatures, and eccentrics and navigates the sexual politics of the expansive galaxy.
Is It Any Good?
BARBARELLA is worth a watch for fans of cult flicks, old sci-fi, and the just plain weird. Although the set design, costumes, and swingin'-'60s aesthetic age well and fascinate, the plot itself and its attitude toward women and free-spirited sexuality -- with the protagonist being a sexy, up-for-sex glamazon on a mission involving a lot of weird, bizarre sexual situations, including being bitten and bloodied a lot -- feels excessively retrograde and punitive. Plus, don't be fooled by the PG rating -- there are bare breasts and lounging, beckoning, half-naked women at nearly every turn.
That said, it's not for kids. Although parents and their very mature teens may enjoy this cultural romp as artifact, the jokes, references, and frank discussions of futuristic sex (which, bewilderingly, is always assumed to require medication and machines) simply won't make sense to younger kids. Possibly, it won't make sense to anyone.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the film's attitude toward women. What social and cultural changes for women are you aware of from the 1960s that might explain some of the film's bleaker set pieces? How does it compare to women in films today?
How does the violence of the film compare to violence in films today? Does it seem tamer? Weirder? How so?
Does the film's sense of humor ring funny to you? What kind of statement do you think the movie is making about science fiction as a genre or about the future of Earth viewed from the 1960s?
- In theaters: May 10, 1968
- On DVD or streaming: June 22, 1999
- Cast: Jane Fonda, Marcel Marceau
- Director: Roger Vadim
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Classic
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: January 27, 2023
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