Breaking Away

Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
Breaking Away Movie Poster Image
Rousing bicycle-race tale has some profanity, mild violence.
  • PG
  • 1979
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The importance of being true to yourself and your background is shown through discussion and example throughout the movie.

Positive Role Models

After pretending to be Italian through much of the movie, Dave Stohler learns to accept and like his background as a "Cutter," aka a townie who has grown up in the college town of Bloomington, Ind. He also trains as hard as he can to be a winning bicyclist.


One of the main characters initiates a cafeteria-wide brawl after some college guys beat up one of his friends off-screen. Lots of punching and kicking. Some blood is seen, but no one is seriously injured. There also are some bike-related injuries: bruises, cuts, bleeding, and a near-miss with a car. During a swimming race, Mike hits his head on a rock and almost drowns. Katherine slaps Dave.


Dave and Katherine kiss once. Characters drive around a college campus and discuss women's breasts.


Mild profanity on occasion: "s--t," "s--theads," "damn," "hell," "crap," "t-ts." Name-calling includes "retards" and "p---y cop." The father of an Italy-obsessed son refers to Italians as "eye-ties."


Characters drive past a Marlboro billboard; one of the characters points at it and salutes. Later in the movie, one of the characters points out an advertisement for Marlboro on the back cover of a magazine.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke throughout the movie. Characters are shown drinking beer in a bowling alley but do not act intoxicated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this tale of redemption offers a lot in the way of scary, tense, and violent scenes. Although no one gets critically injured, there's lots of fighting. Some kids also may want to imitate the dangerous things characters do in this film: Dave doesn't wear a bike helmet, use a bicycle headlight at night, or wear reflective clothing, and he races in front of cars on a red light. During a bicycle race, a cyclist puts a bike pump in the spokes of Dave's wheel, causing him to crash. Dave races while injured. There's lots of punching and kicking; some blood is seen, but no one is seriously injured. Characters drive around a college campus and discuss women's breasts. Several swear words are used, including "s--t," "hell," "t-ts," "goddamn," "bastards," "son of a bitch," and "damnit." Characters also call others "retard," "p---y cop," and "s--thead."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysilvermoon72 April 25, 2021

Great movie

This movie was out in 1979 and I was born in 1972. Honestly it's a very wonderful breath of fresh air to return to those times. This movie is like a trip t... Continue reading
Adult Written bySpencer H. February 5, 2021

Worth seeing at least once but NOT a film for families or small children

I am surprised at the reviews here on CSM saying this is a family movie. Even the DVD cover said so. This is not a family movie by any means and it is absolutel... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 7, 2011
Teen, 14 years old Written byiheartchocolate198 November 5, 2009

Love it!

I love this movie! My humanities teacher showed it to me, and I absolutely love it! I guess the fighting scene with Mike and Dave at the quarry is a bit intense... Continue reading

What's the story?

Dave (Dennis Christopher) and his friends have just graduated from high school. While his buddies amuse themselves by swimming in the rock quarry, Dave has bigger plans. Having won a racing bicycle, Dave has dedicated his life to learning to race it. He reveres the top racers on the Italian team from Cinzano so much he speaks in a cheesy Italian accent, listens to Italian music, and irritates his former stone-cutter father by calling him "Papa" instead of "Dad." While Dave's Italian act woos college girl Katherine, his dedication to his new identity isn't enough to get him noticed by the Cinzano team. Disillusioned -- with snobby, bullying college kids there to rub it in -- he feels like he has a lot to prove to get the respect he deserves.

Is it any good?

There are some wonderfully realistic touches to BREAKING AWAY. Anyone who's spent any time with teens knows they try on new identities like new outfits. But it's rare to see a film that shows a teen so deeply in the thrall of his latest obsession -- without it becoming something sinister or dangerous. Similar to the fact that there's no gratuitous sex or nudity in the film, Dave's love of cycling is innocent and pure. He's a character you can root for who still seems real. It makes this cycling movie much more than a good sports movie -- though it's that, as well. It's no surprise that Breaking Away won the Oscar for Best Writing and was nominated for four more, including Best Director and Best Picture.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Dave felt the need to pretend to be someone he's not. Do you ever feel like doing that? When is that acceptable, and when could it be harmful? 

  • What similarities and differences do you see between this film and other "coming-of-age" movies?

  • What are the differences between "Cutters" -- "townies" who grew up in the college town of Bloomington, Ind. -- and the college kids who live there to attend Indiana University?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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