Coming to America

Movie review by
Common Sense Media Editors, Common Sense Media
Coming to America Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Silly but dated '80s Eddie Murphy comedy; cursing, sex.
  • R
  • 1988
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 27 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Being independent, learning to earn a living rather than being dependent on others. 

Positive Role Models

Successful African American characters who run countries, own businesses, work hard, look out for family members. Aspects of African American culture, such as barber shops and church gatherings, are playfully and hilariously parodied. A trans woman is treated as a punchline.

Violence

Attempted armed robbery in a fast-food restaurant -- would-be robber fires a shotgun before he's stopped Akeem, who wields a mopstick. 

Sex

Topless female servants tend to Akeem in the pool, in charge of washing his penis. While on a date at a basketball game, the sister of Akeem's love interest places her hand underneath his jacket; strongly implied sexual act. The father and king of Akeem's home country talks of the sexual relations he has with his servants, as does Akeem and Semmi. In a montage of women Akeem and Semmi meet while in a bar, women talk of sexual prowess and stamina. Joke about being "free from infection." Nude female backside.

Language

"F--k" frequently used. "Motherf---er" used a few times. Also: "s--t," "a--hole," "goddammit," "hell." One-liner references "sweat from a baboon's balls." 

Consumerism

Akeem gets a job (and meets his love interest) at a fast-food restaurant that's a McDonald's ripoff, and the owner of the restaurant basically acknowledges this. Coca-Cola ordered and consumed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are shown drinking cocktails and beer at a bar and at home. Binge shot drinking in a bar. Champagne drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Coming to America is a 1988 comedy in which Eddie Murphy is a prince in an African nation who goes to America for true love instead of agreeing to an arranged marriage. Akeem is shown in a pool with three topless female servants, getting his body washed, including his penis. In addition to this, brief female nudity (buttocks). Akeem and his father talk about how they have sex with their maidservants. In a montage of undesirable women in a single's bar, women binge drink shots, talk about sexual desire and prowess, and a trans woman is treated as a punchline. At a basketball game, the sister of Akeem's love interest reaches underneath Akeem's jacket; strongly implied masturbation. Profanity, including "f--k," often used, and also "motherf---er." A man tries to commit armed robbery at a fast-food restaurant, fires his rifle into the ceiling, then is stopped by Akeem, who wields a mopstick. Characters drink.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bycrankylibrarian January 3, 2014

Unexpectedly sweet romance

The language is a bit raw (this is Eddie Murphy after all) yet overall this is a surprisingly sweet, romantic tribute to love between equals. Murphy's weal... Continue reading
Adult Written byJohn A. March 2, 2021

Rated 15 (strong language).

SEX/NUDITY - There are moderate verbal and visual sex references throughout, although they are not very crude or explicit. For example, there is a moment where... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 4, 2016

Hilarious yet raunchy Eddie Murphy comedy has lots of swearing, plus nudity; teens+

This hilarious comedy can be pretty crude and profane, but should still be OK for mature teenagers. In the end, the movie even has some heart, and the character... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 14, 2021

Wow. Just wow.

This movie might be my favorite movie of all time. The first time I watched this was when I was SEVEN YEARS OLD, PEOPLE. By the time the movie was over, my brot... Continue reading

What's the story?

COMING TO AMERICA centers on pampered African Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), heir to the throne and fabulous riches. He's reached marriageable age, and his parents have found him a suitable bride. But Akeem wants a woman who loves him for what he is, not what he has, and he travels to America with his valet Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find his soul mate. He finds one in the person of Lisa (Shari Headley), the daughter of a Queens restaurateur whose jealous boyfriend is the scion of a chain of African American hair products called Soul-Glo. Akeem doesn't tell Lisa who he is; he pretends to be a lowly fast-food worker. Will he be able to come clean about his identity and face his father (James Earl Jones) after running away from his responsibilities?

Is it any good?

Despite some sexist and racist quirks, COMING TO AMERICA comes through as a funny trip back to the comedy stylings of 1988. Everything about the film is fairly predictable. Lisa and Akeem get together in the most standard boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl-in-the-end way possible.

The movie has its moments -- Murphy and Hall play multiple roles in the movie, and certainly Murphy was in his prime. Some sexist and lurid overtones are cringe-worthy, but it's small potatoes compared to the fat-suited Murphy of more recent times. While women are often shown as sex objects or submissive servants, the female lead is hardworking and good at her job, and doesn't get taken in by the manipulative behavior of the men around her. As the queen, Akeem's mother doesn't stand idly by when her husband makes bad decisions. Akeem wants to learn how to be responsible for himself. African Americans run countries, own businesses, and, in some of the funniest scenes in the movie, Murphy and Arsenio Hall parody aspects of African American culture, such as barber shops and religious functions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of women in society -- what's your view? Do you think it's something to joke about like they do in this movie?

  • How does the movie explore the idea of making one's own way in the world without relying on others? How do Akeem, Lisa, and Cleo make this choice in the movie? 

  • What aspects of the movie have held up, and what seems dated? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to laugh

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