Days of Thunder

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Days of Thunder Movie Poster Image
'90s race-car blockbuster has sexism, profanity.
  • PG-13
  • 1990
  • 107 minutes

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Resilience and determination are shown to be positive values.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters too archetypal to emerge as positive role models. 

Violence

Car crashes during stock car races, one resulting in injuries and hospitalization for two of the main characters. Two stock car race rivals rent cars and race each other on a city street, resulting in serious damages to both cars. 

Sex

During a prank involving state troopers, a female police officer places her hand on the crotch of one of the lead characters, then proceeds to take her hair down and remove her top as she makes suggestive sexual comments. Later, this same character is in the hospital, and when the doctor, an attractive woman, begins talking to him, he assumes she is also a stripper and forces her hand onto his crotch as his friends in the room laugh. 

Language

Frequent profanity, including "f--k." The Japanese are called "Japs." "Horses--t," "bitch," "damn," "goddamn," "s--t." Characters use the middle finger. 

Consumerism

As a movie about stock car racing, the sponsors' logos are all over the place. Mello Yello, Superflo Motor Oil, Tide detergent, Hardee's. Characters drink clearly marked Budweiser bottles. Numerous automotive brands on cars and on uniforms.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer and cocktail drinking. Smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Days of Thunder is a 1990 movie starring Tom Cruise as a cocky but untested stock car racer who dreams of winning the Daytona 500. There is some sexism on display when a stripper is hired to dress like a police officer and grab Cruise's character's crotch while taking off her top and making sexually suggestive comments; later, he thinks the doctor taking care of him is also a stripper and moves her hand to his crotch, much to the delight and hilarity of the men gathered around him. There is some profanity, including "f--k" and "s--t," and, unsurprisingly since this is centered on stock car racing, lots of images of company products and brands. Overall, it's a formulaic blockbuster movie from the early 1990s. However, it's worth noting that the movie is prescient -- intentional or not -- in discussing and showing the effects of concussions on athletes, a topic that has been increasingly scrutinized in recent years.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAt The Movies May 19, 2018

Days of Thunder has Tom Cruise and plenty of flash going for it, but they aren't enough to compensate for the stock plot, two-dimensional characters, and poorly written dialogue.

MOVIE INFO The Top Gun team of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, and superstar Tom Cruise reunite for this excursion into stock-... Continue reading

What's the story?

Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) is a cocky but untested race-car driver who wants to leave the Formula One Indy cars behind so he can get into the stock-car-racing circuit. With the help of team owner Tom Daland (Randy Quaid) and veteran pit crew leader Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall), Trickle gets the chance to prove his worth. While skilled at racing, Trickle nonetheless has a fiery temper that easily gets him in trouble both on and off the track and is constantly being needled by his soon-to-be archrival Rowdy Burns. But as Trickle improves and starts to win races, their careers are put on hold after an accident during a race leaves both men hospitalized with concussions. It's while in the hospital that Trickle meets Dr. Lewicki (Nicole Kidman), who soon becomes his love interest. As he begins to recover from his injuries, Trickle must overcome the fears he now has of racing, especially as Burns' condition seems to be getting worse, with Trickle's career on the line as Daland betrays him and begins paying more attention to Russ Wheeler, a hypercompetitive rookie willing to do whatever it takes to prevent Trickle from winning. 

Is it any good?

It's a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster with some ridiculous dialogue, but you could do a whole lot worse than DAYS OF THUNDER. Despite the formulaic script, it's obvious that the filmmakers cared enough about racing to try to imbue the movie with as much accuracy as possible without sacrificing the action. It hasn't aged as badly as so many other blockbusters from the past, and, with its discussion of concussions and their effects on athletes, there's even a certain amount of prescience at work, at least with that topic. 

The characters aren't terribly deep, and even with an actor like Robert Duvall, not much emerges beyond the simplest of archetypes. Still, for the purposes of the story, the action, and the visual thrills of the races themselves, they don't have to be. It's a sport-centered action movie that never loses sight of what it is and what the audience expects, and while you could easily substitute any sport for stock-car racing and have a basically similar storyline, it's still an entertaining movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies centered on a sport. What are some other examples? How are they similar to and different from each other? 

  • How does this movie address the dangers of stock car racing and concussions in particular? 

  • In what ways is this movie's storyline similar to other Hollywood blockbuster movies?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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