Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
Beats Movie Poster Image
Scottish indie about '90s rave scene has cursing, drug use.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Friendship is at the heart of the movie, but also how some friendships come to an end. Although characters show kindness to each other, they also steal, take drugs, drink, and attend illegal parties.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Johnno is shy and sensitive. He looks up to, but doesn't always defend his friend Spanner. Spanner comes from a rougher background than Johnno, with a violent drug-dealing brother -- who he steals money from. Johnno's family look down on Spanner calling him "scum." Despite this, Spanner proves himself to be kind-hearted and loyal. Spanner helps Johnno come out of his shell as the two seek excitement at an illegal rave. Both drink and take drugs. The police are shown to be heavy-handed.


Fight scenes involving slaps and punches. A character has their face pushed toward a hot hob on an oven. A lava lamp is smashed over someone's head. Bottles and cans are thrown at a group of people as they drive away in their car. Suggestion of domestic abuse. Riot police break up an illegal party with shields and batons -- one police officer repeatedly hits someone as they lay on the ground leaving them with a bruised back and cut face. Real news footage on a TV shows rioting.


Some kissing. Characters are seen dancing in their underwear in their bedrooms. Party goers drape themselves over each other while dancing, but this is due more to being under the influence of drugs rather than anything sexual.


Strong language throughout including variants of "f--k," "motherf--ker," "c--t," "prick," "holy s--t," "bellend," "piss," "arse," "balls," "fanny," "slag," "d--k," and "pedo." "Jesus Christ" is also used as an exclamation. A character is referred to as "scum." Characters swear at each other with two fingers. Set in Scotland, the characters use local slang.


Sportswear from various manufacturers -- with clear branding -- are worn throughout. A family plans to move to a nicer, more expensive neighborhood. Set in 1994, a Nokia cellphone from that period is clearly seen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters -- including teens -- drink, smoke, and take drugs throughout the movie. A number of characters take what is assumed to be ecstasy and are subsequently shown experiencing positive effects of the drug. Someone drives while tripping out on an unspecified drug and almost crashes the car. A character downs a glass of champagne at dinner, much to the aghast of others. One character is a drug dealer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beats -- an excellent Scottish dramedy about the '90s illegal rave scene in the U.K. -- includes lots of drug use by both teens and adults. At the center of the story are two friends, Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), who attend their first illegal rave. Characters take ecstasy pills and are shown enjoying themselves with no negative consequences. They also drink regularly, and many of the characters also smoke. In one scene, a character is driving down a freeway while under the influence of drugs and almost crashes the car. Expect strong language throughout, including "c--t" and variants of "f--k." Local Scottish slang is also prominent. There's also some shocking violence. Spanner's drug-dealing brother, Fido (Neil Leiper), pushes Spanner's face toward a hot stovetop. Another character is hit over the head with a lava lamp after a fight breaks out. And during an illegal rave, Johnno is beaten by a policeman, leaving him with a bruised back and bloodied face. Despite the mature themes, there's a warmth and tenderness to the movie, with friendship at the heart of it.

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What's the story?

Set in 1994, BEATS tells the story of two Scottish teens, Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) who despite being best friends are soon to head in different directions. Recognizing that their friendship is coming to an end, the two decide to head to an illegal rave in search of the "best night of their lives."

Is it any good?

This Scottish indie comedy-drama will jolt the memory of some and shine a light on an often overlooked counter-culture for others. The British rave scene of the 1980s and early 1990s saw thousands of revelers regularly attend illegal gatherings to drink, take drugs, and dance until sunrise. With its banging soundtrack, questionable casual sportswear, and news bulletins playing in the background, director Brian Welsh captures this time period perfectly. The final rave is a sweaty mess of teens and 20-somethings putting all their troubles and worries to one side as they dance the night away. The scene is perhaps overlong but it captures the energy and out of body experience its ravers are enjoying -- Welsh interjects color imagery in what otherwise is a movie filmed entirely in black and white.

By setting the movie in 1994, Beats takes place at point where the illegal rave scene was coming to an end -- not least due to British Government legislation that banned mass gatherings where music with "repetitive beats" was played. But for central characters and first-time ravers, Johnno and Spanner, the story also marks the coming to an end of their friendship. Polar opposites -- Johnno shy and reserved; Spanner outgoing and kind, but from the wrong side of the tracks -- there's a subtle affection between the two friends rarely portrayed between male teen characters. A touching tale of teenage friendship told to the backdrop of some heavy beats.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the drinking and drug use in Beats. Are there consequences? Does it glamorize it?

  • Discuss the strong language in the movie. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • Talk about the friendship between Johnno and Spanner. What made them such good friends? What is the cause of their friendship to break down? How might this have been different if social media had been around? Have you lost touch with friends over the years? If so, what were the reasons why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories about friendship

Themes & Topics

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