Big Trouble in Little China

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Big Trouble in Little China Movie Poster Image
Violent 1980s martial arts movie is a campy guilty pleasure.
  • PG-13
  • 1986
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Loyalty and helping out a friend are briefly touched on as motives for moving from one fight sequence to the next. Mild stereotyping of Chinese culture (such as the "Egg Foo Yung" tour bus played for comedy or rival gangs fighting it out in the streets) is somewhat offset by the many positive Asian characters.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hero Jack Burton drives his big rig recklessly, once even while swigging from a bottle of wine. He mostly moves from fight to fight, supposedly to help his friend Wang Chi but also motivated by the money Wang owes him. Wang himself is a better role model, out to save his fiancée, and is usually the one who does the hard work and takes the hard hits. Love interest Gracie Law and reporter Margo are brave and intrepid.

Violence

Lots of martial arts fighting, some with fantastical and magical elements, but most is of the street-fighting or storming-the-fortress type. No blood or gore, but a few graphic close-ups of limbs breaking. Many fight victims shown lying on the ground afterward. Fantasy monster creatures are gross and will be scary to kids not old enough to appreciate the obvious fakery of the costumes. Lots of weapons brandished and used in fighting, including guns. Human-trafficking victims are shown in cages and tied up. A kidnapping at gunpoint. An underwater scene shows rotting corpses and skeletons chained up, and chained skeletons line the walls of a room. A magic ritual involves piercing a woman's wrist with a large bone needle. A few drops of blood are shown and the villain briefly drinks blood from the wrist.

Sex

A few passionate kisses. A woman's body in a teddy seen from the front and back. Some sexual innuendo when Jack poses as a customer in a bordello.

Language

"F--k" once, "s--t" and variations many times. Less frequent: "goddamn," "hell," "bastard," "Jesus Christ" as exclamation, and "pissed off." The hero's tractor-trailer with "Haulin' Ass" on the front grill shown several times.

Consumerism

Beer bottles shown occasionally with hard-to-distinguish labels.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jack shown driving his big rig while swigging from a wine bottle and seeming tipsy. Beer bottles on table at meals and at a gambling table. Beer and champagne in celebration. Villains smoke cigars a few times. Some brief background smoking. The good guys drink a magic potion and feel more powerful and aware. Knockout gas once or twice. Drugs mentioned as part of gang activity.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Big Trouble in Little China is a campy 1980s martial arts cult favorite from director John Carpenter. There's lots of fighting and weapons, although no blood or gore, but a few graphic close-ups show bones breaking. Some of the fighting involves magical elements and mystical beings. The plot involves forced marriage as part of a magic ritual. A few monsters are gross and may frighten kids too young to see through the obvious costumes. Human-trafficking victims are shown in cages and tied up. An underwater scene shows rotting corpses and skeletons chained up, and chained skeletons line the walls of a room. A magic ritual involves piercing a woman's wrist with a large bone needle. A few drops of blood are shown and the villain briefly drinks blood from the wrist. Drugs are mentioned as part of gang activity. Sexy stuff is light, with a few passionate kisses and mentions of attraction; a woman's body in a teddy is seen front and back. Language includes "f--k," with "s--t" and its variations used many times, as are other curse words.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGraduateReviews January 10, 2018

Yeah, it's campy... but what fun!

This movie is campy in a very John Carpenter way. It's not the Godfather, but is practically the best guilty pleasure movie out there, and that is what it... Continue reading
Parent Written byTed U. November 27, 2017

entertaining classic

Good family movie for children 12 and older.
Teen, 16 years old Written byBigmoist February 4, 2017

THE DANKEST

ITS JUST SO GREAT. THE MUSIC, GREAT, THE ACTORS, GREAT, JACK BURTON, GREAT. YOU CANT TELL ME WANG AINT THE GREAT PERSON TO EVER LIVE. AND DONT EVEN GET ME START... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLucasGodzilla September 8, 2016

A Great Cult Action Comedy!

Big Trouble in Little China is one of many Carpenter films that truly makes wonder why it flopped so badly in the box office. After all it's such a charmin... Continue reading

What's the story?

When trucker Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) delivers a load to San Francisco, little does he know he's in for BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Jack reconnects with his old buddy Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) over a game of chance. Wang loses the bet, but before Jack can collect from his pal, they'll have to face three masked kidnappers, warring street gangs, a powerful crime lord -- oh, and a 2,000-year-old spirit trying to return to his body.

Is it any good?

If you and your teens want to laugh while you cringe at something so bad it's good, you've come to the right place. Cheesy one-liners, lots of fighting, hokey dialogue, high-waisted jeans, more fighting, gloriously awful creature costumes, incomprehensible plot turns, and even more fighting make Big Trouble in Little China a fun popcorn movie for the right fans in the right mood.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Big Trouble in Little China. Are movies today more violent? If so, how?

  • What makes a movie "so bad, it's good"? Do you think that's what the director was going for? How can you tell?

  • Did you notice any stereotyping in the movie? Are the Asian characters shown differently from the white ones, or are they pretty much the same?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love martial arts and action

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