Ed Wood

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Ed Wood Movie Poster Image
Depp-led cult-director bio delves into cross-dressing, kink.
  • R
  • 1994
  • 127 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's plot suggests that artistic creativity (here, filmmaking) has intrinsic value and nobility -- even if you're making poor quality stuff. Despite ludicrous scripts and inept methods, Wood has the same travails, passion, and legitimacy as his idol, Orson Welles. The film suggests that Wood's cross-dressing obsession, combined with his film ambitions, helps him befriend and understand people who would otherwise be outcasts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are a motley bunch with a mix of good and bad traits. Ed Wood is ever-upbeat and confident, able to inspire the team around him. He's also an ambitious guy looking out for No. 1; his career-oriented actions are sometimes illegal and usually self-serving. Despite his wretched state (addiction, mood swings, poverty), Bela Lugosi seems to represent a lost era of Tinseltown glamor and class.


A suicidal Bela Lugosi brandishes a revolver. Ed is hit with a frying pan in a domestic dispute.


Transvestism is a big part of the plot, with talk about sex-change operations ("he had his thing cut off"), female-to-male hormone injections, and similar gender mixtures. Both Bela Lugosi and a little boy lust after a buxom character's "jugs." Topless and scantily clad women in paintings. Actresses shown in low-cut outfits and bras. Ed Wood and his girlfriend live together.


"Screw," "s--t," "f--k," "c--ksucker," "a--hole," "hell," plus "God" and "Jesus" used as exclamations.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The ailing Bela Lugosi is depicted as a drug addict (injecting narcotics just off camera), a habit he tries to kick -- and gets some unexpected good PR from the scandal. Social and saloon drinking. Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this comedic look at a real-life movie eccentric has strong language and discussions of transvestism, homosexuality, and gender-reassignment surgery (viewers see the cross-dressing, but no surgery). Drinking, smoking, IV-drug use (not seen), and the death of real-life star Bela Lugosi come up in the plot. There's a threatened suicide by gun, and Wood and his cronies engage in unethical behavior to raise funds for their movies. Young viewers who become interested in Ed Wood through this film might learn that Wood's career ended in assorted forms of pornographic media and chronic alcoholism.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAjai June 3, 2020

This is a fantastic film.

One of the best Johnny Depp performances.
Teen, 13 years old Written byGkuehn123 July 12, 2017
Teen, 13 years old Written byTom Moore July 4, 2013

Iffy for 12 and under (depending on parents.

This is probably one of my favorite movies because I have a great passion for film. This movie has a positive message with a positive role model because the tit... Continue reading

What's the story?

Occasionally a director becomes a folk hero for making exceptionally bad films. Ed Wood Jr. (1924-1978) directed consistently inept creature-feature and crime flicks. In the 1950s, Wood (Johnny Depp) is an aspiring director-writer-actor-playwright, making one stupefying project after another with a small entourage of L.A. fringe people, most prominently once-great actor Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau, in an Oscar-winning performance). Wood gets to do Glen or Glenda, an exploitation short feature on the hot topic of sex-change operations, by outing his own secret perversion -- a fetish for wearing women's clothing. Not even Lugosi's death stops Wood from including the old man in another project, the alien-zombie-invasion thrilller Plan 9 from Outer Space. Drawing his bizarre regulars together, raising money unethically, resurrecting Lugosi via stock footage and body doubles, and emboldened by a chance meeting with Orson Welles, Wood completes what is destined to be treasured as The Worst Movie Ever.

Is it any good?

If you happen to be an Ed Wood fanatic or a horror-trivia fiend, this film will please you. ED WOOD is less a straight biography than glorified highlights and loving, nostalgic re-creations of Wood and his black-and-white era, with some bits (meeting Welles, a gala premiere of Plan 9) that are history not as it was, but as Wood wished it had been.

If not, this film's appeal is rather limited, though there's contagious joy in how Depp and others put across the giddy thrill of the filmmaking process. Touching moments come from the mutually supportive relationship between Wood and the bottomed-out Lugosi, though young viewers more accustomed to F/X-filled spectacles from Depp/Burton collaborations might want more fantasy and action.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about notorious filmmaker Ed Wood. Does this depiction successfully make him into a hero, or does he come off as pathetic? Would Wood be considered a role model to anyone?

  • Talk about horror movies and their appeal. How are Wood's horror movies different from those in theaters today?

  • What makes a movie "good" or "bad"? How can something be unspeakably terrible and still wildly entertaining?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love the scary and the real

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