Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Dune Movie Poster Image
Weird, nonsensical, dated sci-fi epic has some cult appeal.
  • PG-13
  • 1984
  • 137 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Under all the sci-fi names and gizmos and ideas, Dune is essentially just a war movie. The hero, Paul, is apparently "the chosen one," and thus he never really has to make a choice -- his destiny is laid out for him. When he finds his place, the first thing he does is declare war on his enemy. The objective is to free the desert planet Arrakis, but it's arguable whether or not the end justifies the means.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Paul is the movie's hero and main role model, but, being the "chosen one," he never really has to make any decisions on his own. He appears to be guided by the hand of destiny. Moreover, he uses his "chosen one" power to declare war and destroy his enemies.


The movie is filled with fantasy-style battles as well as some burning flesh, spurting blood, gore, and torture. We see knife fights (with stabbing), poison gas, kicking, biting, and punching, a severed head, scary monsters, and scary noises, and a special kind of voice-operated laser gun. We also see a scary floating killer hypodermic needle (a "hunter-seeker"). There is a scene in which a rat and a cat are strapped into painful-looking positions and locked in a cage. Notably, there is a young girl character (played by Alicia Witt) who wields a knife.


Paul and Chani are seen in bed together, with naked shoulders, but nothing else. Sting appears nearly naked, wearing only a tiny speedo, and Lady Jessica wears a sexy nightgown in some scenes. Characters flirt with her and tell her how desirable she is.


"Goddamn" and "oh my God" as an exclamation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Everyone in the film is after "Spice," a powerful substance that allows users to travel through vast amounts of space and to live longer. There are also side effects, such as glowing blue eyes. The "Spice" is never demonstrated as being dangerous, but the behavior of the characters around it is a bit like drug dealers on earth. There are also some "drug trip"-like sequences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dune is a 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's famous science fiction novel of 1965. It is filled with fantasy violence of all types, including torture, gore, fighting, weapons, and some generally scary and disturbing imagery (including the quasi-torture of a cat and a rat and a young girl wielding a knife). The underlying theme is about a "chosen one" who never has to make any decisions for himself, and then simply declares war on his enemies. Characters in the movie are in pursuit of a drug called "Spice," which is shown to be powerful enough to go to war over. Young science fiction fans may want to see this (as well as a five-hour TV miniseries remake from 2000), but the immense novel is compressed to the point that the movie is almost nonsensical, and the visual effects have dated badly. Director David Lynch also tries to put his own personal spin on the material, which will at least make the movie more interesting to Lynch fans.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJohnnyg2449 November 15, 2020


From some of the reviews I've seen here, some of the reviewers haven't actually watched the movie---scenes of animal torture? not in the movie nor any... Continue reading
Adult Written byDavid T. June 12, 2018

Sci Fi Classic, but deserving of it's 13 rating

This is definitely deserving of it's PG-13 rating. But, it certainly doesn't deserve to be 18+, with adult films, out of sheer homophobia. There isn... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn May 1, 2012

David Lynch's spectacular mess of a movie is still lot's of fun to watch

David Lynch's cult classic, Dune, is as sporadic, messy and crudely entertaining to watch today, just as it was back when it came into theaters in December... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares June 7, 2009
The plot is a mess, but director David Lynch shows his genius here with the visuals, particularily the set designs, and there is a slight intelligence. I'd... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a bizarre futuristic galaxy, the evil House Harkonnen and the good House Atreides are locked in war over the production and distribution of a drug called Spice that enables users to travel vast distances and extend their lives. The spice exists only on one planet, Arrakis, or DUNE. Unfortunately, the planet is also patrolled by monstrous killer worms. The horrible Baron Harkonnen strikes first and kills the beloved Duke Leto, but he doesn't realize that the Duke's son Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) is actually the "chosen one," destined to travel to Arrakis and lead the native Fremen to freedom. He learns some mystical battle tactics, forms an army, and launches an attack on the Harkonnens. But can Paul survive the ultimate test of the "water of life"?

Is it any good?

Dune is mainly interesting as a curio in the career of the brilliant, bizarre director David Lynch (The Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive). Fans may enjoy combing through the movie to find his unique touches, but his detractors will argue that it's just more "weird for weird's sake." Unfortunately, anyone looking for a satisfying and coherent science fiction epic will have to look elsewhere. Lynch compressed the 500-page novel into an awkward 137-minute movie, resulting in an overuse onf terrible, expository dialogue and characters "thinking" out loud to explain their motivations. (A 177-minute version was assembled for television, but Lynch did not approve it and removed his name from it.)

However, fans of "bad" sci-fi movies may get some enjoyment out of the movie's odd visual effects, and the cheesy score by Toto and Brian Eno certainly has some majestic moments. The impressive ensemble cast may also provide some pleasures, including Patrick Stewart, Virginia Madsen as the narrator, Brad Dourif, pop star Sting, Max von Sydow, a very young Alicia Witt, and Jack Nance (the star of Lynch's Eraserhead).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of being "the chosen one." What does this mean? Does Paul make any decisions of his own? Does he conquer any fears? Does he use his power wisely?

  • Does the "Spice" in the movie look like a good drug to take, or is it scary? What are the side effects?

  • How did the violence in the film make you feel? Was it exciting? Was it scary?

  • Was there anything in the movie that scared you? Why? Did it have to do with pictures or sounds?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi and fantasy

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