Dirty Dancing



A hip-shaking guilty pleasure.
  • Review Date: March 8, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Romance
  • Release Year: 1987
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The staffers at the exclusive summer retreat are regarded as second-class citizens. Baby and her sister disobey their parents by sneaking around with boys. Baby asks her father for money, then uses it for Penny's abortion.

Positive role models

Baby, through her three weeks with Johnny becomes aware of what she wants and who she wants in life, but she doesn't do it in the most productive way. Johnny is the bad boy with a heart of gold that falls in love. Both main characters have good and bad qualities, but they both grow for the better from their relationship. 


Johnny and Robbie fight after Robbie criticizes Baby.


Erotic dancing, main character loses her virginity, several scenes of teens in bed. Penny gets pregnant and has a dangerous abortion, with complications afterward.


Occasional sexually and religiously themed language, ranging from mild to extreme.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1960s-set forbidden romance is a guilty pleasure, due to several campy scenes, flashy dance sequences, and appealing performances by its main characters. Although some parents may find the dancing a little too dirty, teenage viewers will be captivated by the flashy fantasy of star-crossed summer romance. Sexual references abound here beyond the dance moves: one character has a botched abortion, the main character loses her virginity, and another talks about her plans to go all the way. An older married woman propositions younger men on staff at the resort and sleeps with one.

What's the story?

Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her family spend their summer vacation at a Catskills resort where Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) works. Baby runs into this handsome dance instructor from the wrong side of the tracks at a forbidden, wild "dirty dance" party his friends throw after work. To supplement their meager earnings, Johnny and his partner Penny do a mambo show at a neighboring hotel. When Penny gets pregnant by one of the hotel waiters, she finds out the only time she can get an abortion is the night of a big show. The naïve Baby steps in determined to help, asking her father for abortion money and no questions asked before desperately trying to learn the mambo in time. Romance takes off, as it should, on the dance floor with a great '60s soundtrack (a cute touch: many of the tunes have "baby" somewhere in the title). Johnny's drawn to Baby's fierce optimism and Baby is drawn to -- well, he's Patrick Swayze! They're found out, of course, and come back together for one last dance.

Is it any good?


Unabashedly schmaltzy, DIRTY DANCING is also a lot of fun. Jennifer Grey is touching as the shy and idealistic Baby, whose sexuality is awakened by Patrick Swayze's energy. Both are exceptionally well cast, and their skillful and convincing performances bolster some of the story's weaker elements, like the many stock characters and predictable events.


Swayze is given some of the worst dialogue here, and it's remarkable that he's able to make the immortal line "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" sound almost natural. Teens will get past such corny dialogue because of the dance sequences which effectively mirror Baby and Johnny's emotions. As the two become more drawn to each other, the dancing becomes more seductive, culminating in the liberating energy of the final scene.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's sexual themes. 

  • How does each family member feel about teenage sex? 

  • As a teenager, what would you do if you were pressured to have sex?

  • What do you feel about the conflict between Baby and her father?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1987
DVD release date:January 15, 2002
Cast:Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Patrick Swayze
Director:Emile Ardolino
Studio:Vestron Pictures
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:mature themes and sexuality.

This review of Dirty Dancing 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.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

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

Parent of a 16 and 19 year old Written byhere2help April 7, 2009
Moronic plot, disgusting lack of moral qualms, paying for the murder of an unborn being glorified, vulgar dancing, statutory rape of main character.. barffff
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written bymissbutty April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written byandyouaskwhy November 14, 2009
loved it i miss patrick swayze rip patrick we will miss u!


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass