Buena Vista Social Club

Movie review by
Afsheen Nomai, Common Sense Media
Buena Vista Social Club Movie Poster Image
Cuban musicians tell their life stories in slow-paced tale.
  • G
  • 1999
  • 105 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Very positive and inspirational representations of the elderly and of people working together as a group.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The musicians are talented and don't let their age stop or define them.


A few song lyrics imply sexuality. A joke about someone "working on having another" child.




Some window shopping in New York.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some cigar smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Buena Vista Social Club is a 1999 documentary film that's in Spanish and subtitled in English, so kids need to be solid readers to follow along. Men smoke cigars. A few song lyrics imply sexuality. A joke about someone "working on having another" child. One "damn." The film is rather slow and requires a good deal of attention to follow, but has positive messages about teamwork and inspirational representations of the elderly.

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What's the story?

BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB pays tribute to one of the most significant bands in Cuban history -- the Buena Vista Social Club. Virtually forgotten by the country that reared them, members of the group are reunited by Ry Cooder to record a final CD. The story's trajectory takes viewers from the run-down streets and rusty cars of Havana to the flashing lights of New York City and opulence of Carnegie Hall. Part live musical performance, part fractured biography (the stories of 10 members are packed into 1 ½ hours), Buena Vista Social Club  paints, with very broad strokes, a portrait of a musical group whose members' passion for life and music is inspirational.

Is it any good?

Buena Vista Social Club is appropriate and enjoyable for all ages, although younger children might be bored by its pace. The film offers a wonderful opportunity for parents to not only expose their children to diverse musical styles, but also to examples of people who, even in their twilight years (some in their nineties), are very passionate and active musicians. Their unique perspectives on growing up as musicians in their native Cuba allow us to appreciate their talent to its fullest. Note: This film steers clear of any overt political commentary or controversy involving the island nation. The closest it comes is a brief account of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara playing golf.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music. How does music play a role in our everyday experiences? 

  • How do the musicians here model teamwork?

  • What did you learn about Cuban music? How could you learn more?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

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