Breakfast at Tiffany's Movie Poster Image

Breakfast at Tiffany's

(i)

 

Fabulous, but lots of drinking and cigarettes.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1961
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film takes a hard look at the way in which emotionally damaged people attempt to find meaning in their lives. It asserts that fear and lack of trust result in self-destructive behavior. Only love and opening your heart can lead to happiness.

Positive role models

In spite of her endearing ways and charming exterior, the film's heroine is a dubious role model. Holly Golightly drinks too much and smokes a lot; she earns her living in a questionable way; she frequently behaves irresponsibly, including an instance of lighthearted shoplifting. Still, the film reveals some of the causes of her amoral behavior, and she finds redemption. Her male counterpart is also far less than perfect. However, by rescuing Holly, he, too, earns redemption. An Asian stereotype is played for comic effect; even more offensive, the actor in the role is Caucasian. The film is generally an unflattering portrait of New York’s "jet set."

Violence

Holly Golightly has an uncontrollable, hysterical reaction to very bad news. She destroys her apartment and throws her cat against the wall. In a second emotional scene, she sends the cat off in the rain alone.

 
Sex

Implied throughout is the fact that both main characters use their sexuality as a source of income. In Holly's case, she is a glamorous escort, though there is never a mention of her actually having sex with any of her customers (whom she calls "rats" and "super rats").  Paul is the "kept" sexual companion to a wealthy woman. There is some kissing; some scenes in which characters are seen in bed. A nightclub striptease is seen in its initial stages, revealing the stripper's bare back.

 
Language

One "damn."

 
Consumerism

Greyhound, Cracker Jack, Tiffany’s, Carter's Five-and-Dime.

 
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink and smoke in scene after scene. Consumption of alcohol is a primary activity of the players. There is one lengthy party in which everyone is shown to be drinking heavily and many people are very drunk. Holly Golightly plays one lengthy scene completely inebriated. Her long cigarette holder is played as part of her "wild" girl character.

 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1960s romantic comedy is the story of a paid "party girl" who falls in love with a writer supported by a wealthy society woman in return for an intimate romantic relationship. There is no actual sexual activity other than kissing or cuddling, and no nudity (except for a sequence in which a stripper starts to undress and reveals her back). People smoke continuously -- Holly Golightly's cigarette holder is a character trademark. Drinking and drunkenness figure prominently in multiple scenes. In one intensely emotional scene, Holly destroys everything in her apartment; in another she forces her cat onto the streets alone. In a throwback to mid-20th century sensibilities, a Caucasian actor portrays an Asian as an offensive stereotype.  

What's the story?

Paul Varjack (George Peppard), a writer who is being supported by a wealthy woman (Patricia Neal), is intrigued by his upstairs neighbor, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn). Holly is an enchanting combination of breathtaking elegance, glossy Manhattan sophistication, and an engaging willingness to confide in Paul because she says he reminds her of her brother Fred. Still, she doesn't really tell him anything about herself, except that she likes to go to Tiffany's when she has "the mean reds" and needs to be surrounded by something comforting. Along comes a stranger who reveals a secret from Holly's past -- he was once Holly's husband, and he took care of Holly and Fred when their parents died and married her when she was 15. He has come to take her back home to rural Texas. But she tells him that she is a "wild thing" and cannot be kept in a cage, and sends him home alone.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

The things Holly says might sound tawdry from most people, but Audrey Hepburn manages to make it seem as though she found it all a delicious adventure. She tries hard to protect herself from her feelings, categorizing all the men she considers possible partners for her as "rats and super rats," planning to marry a man she does not love, refusing to give Cat a real name, trying to create a world for herself that is a perpetual Tiffany's, where "nothing bad could happen to you." She does give way entirely when Fred is killed in an outpouring of real emotion that scares away the man she is cultivating.

Paul sees this because it parallels his own experience. He once cared about writing, but as the movie opens, he's given up any notion of personal or artistic integrity to allow himself to be kept by a wealthy woman. His relationship with her is his way of protecting himself from taking the risk of feeling deeply, as an artist or as a man. Paul and Holly understand each other, and that understanding makes them ashamed of the hypocrisy of their lives. Holly describes "the mean reds" as "suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of." Everyone has this feeling from time to time, but it resonates particularly with teenagers, who are experiencing more volatile and complex emotions than any they have known before, and who tend to conclude that since they are new to them, they have never been felt before. This movie provides a good opportunity to talk about those feelings and strategies for handling them.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about "the mean reds." Have you ever felt that way? Why does Tiffany's make Holly feel better when she feels that way? What makes you feel better? Why did Holly marry Doc? Why did she leave him? What makes Paul decide to break up with the woman he refers to as "2-E"? What did O.J. mean when he called Holly a "real phony?"

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 5, 1961
DVD/Streaming release date:April 10, 2001
Cast:Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal
Director:Blake Edwards
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Classic
Run time:115 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Breakfast at Tiffany's was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byThinker96 November 23, 2009

STOP EXAGGERATING!

What is wrong with you people??? These days kids get offered their first cigarette on average in 3rd grade! Yes, Mickey Rooney's character is totally racist, but that is the ONLY problem with the movie. If you honestly think your child is going to want to become a call girl, alcoholic, or smoker, then fine, don't let them watch it. This movie is FANTASTIC. It deals with some serious subject, but in a very mild manner. I saw this movie when I was 11, and I was not at all naive, but I didn't quite get that Audrey was a call girl, it's so mild. And the sexual content is that 2.E. is cheating on her husband with Paul, which he breaks off, and we see him shirtless (which no one should be complaining about if your child has seen Twilight) once. I have no clue what this "kissing/groping" person is talking about. There are about 2 kisses and groping is NOT involved unless you call putting your arms around someone groping. At this time period people didn't really know how damaging smoking and drinking(excessively) were to your health. Plus, it's JUST A MOVIE. If your kid wants their life to be like Holly's(which wasn't much until she loved Paul back) then they have problems that have nothing to do with the content of this movie. It's your decision, but this movie is AMAZING.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent of a 9 and 14 year old Written bylioness57 April 9, 2008

Stereotyping and sexual references not right for today's tweens

A favorite movie of mine from long ago, I found it excruciating to watch with my 12 year old daughter and we decided to turn it off. She was extremely shocked and troubled by Mickey Rooney's insensitve characterization of a Japanese man and it was painful for me to watch too. The sexual innuendo was more explicit than I remembered and in many ways made us both more uncomfortable than the fleeting kiss/groping scenes that are standard fare in today's PG-13 movies. We decided to turn it off. So be a little cautious with this old favorite with your tweens. It's a more adult movie than you probably remember.
Kid, 11 years old May 18, 2011

The Best Movie Ever

How is this innapropriate? I love love love this movie, it's my favorite movie ever. Holly Golightly/ Audrey Hepburn is the epitimome of elegance, glamour, and sophistication. It is touching and romantic, without being like Twilight or My Sister's Keeper. It's really sweet. I think this should required watching for every child to learn grace and elegance. It is wonderful.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models