Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

  • Review Date: November 9, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Martin and Caine scam women. Not for young kids.
  • Review Date: November 9, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 110 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

No one in this film is particularly moral.


A character briefly lashes another with a reed; no lasting effects.


Sex insinuated.


A few swear words.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie features characters taking advantage of one another. It hints at the fact that the scam victims' money was ill-gotten, and therefore they deserve to be fleeced. No one in this film is particularly moral. If the two scammers have a fatal flaw, it's their overconfidence rather than their immorality. Steve Martin's turn as a developmentally challenged, and later, physically challenged, man plays mental and physical deficiencies for laughs.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Steve Martin and Michael Caine compete in a battle of sleazy shysters. When boorish American Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) homes in on debonair European Lawrence Jamieson's (Michael Caine) territory, Jamieson offers to become Benson's tutor. Benson bristles at Jamieson's attempt to condition him, and the two agree to a not-so-friendly competition to bilk a young heiress out of her fortune.

Is it any good?


The difference between European cultural pretension and American crassness is at the center of the comedy. The film is a role reversal of sorts, with men fleecing women who have presumably come upon their fortunes by marrying doddering millionaires. It's enjoyable to watch Caine pretend to be a psychologist, and Martin is as animated as ever, faking paralysis only to dance for joy in the following scene. The story turns into a standard wager plot, with the real winner discovering his scruples just in time to save his soul. Needless to say, the swindlers get their comeuppance, the scammers become the scammed, and the story ends with yet another hoax in the offing.

Still, the two never establish the chemistry of a great comedy team, and the gags tend to get repetitive. If the film has anything going for it, it's the unpredictability of the game of courtship between two men and one woman. Due to the subject matter, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is not appropriate for kids.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether those who swindle deserve to be swindled. Is there any place for such retributive vigilantism in our society? Is such a thing common? Is it okay to take advantage of the rich, just to even things out? Is being clever better than being good?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 14, 1988
DVD release date:December 17, 1997
Cast:Glenne Headly, Michael Caine, Steve Martin
Director:Frank Oz
Studio:Image Entertainment
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:language

This review of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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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.

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Educator and Parent of a 9 and 14 year old Written bylioness57 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Funny slapstick but mocks both disabled and mentally challenged people

I rented this movie to watch with my 12 year old daughter, 7 year old son and husband then checked out the Common Sense review. Despite the 15+ rating my husband wanted to give it a go. So we did with alot of intrepedation on my part. Luckily, it wasn't as sexually explicit as I'd expected and there was really no violence or profane language to speak of. The biggest problem I had was that Steve Martin portrays (and as a consequence jokes at the expense of ) both a mentally challenged and a disabled person. So we spent some time after the movie discussing how that might make people who are facing those challenges feel. My 12 year old daughter was really uncomfortable with that aspect.
Kid, 12 years old June 16, 2011

very entertaining

great movie but the entire movie is about lying stealing money and trying to make money off of rich women but very entertaining
What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old August 5, 2012


My MPAA rating is PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, thematic materiel, and some drinking
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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