Ed Wood Movie Poster Image

Ed Wood



Depp-led cult-director bio delves into cross-dressing, kink.
  • Review Date: October 5, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 127 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:September 28, 1994
DVD release date:October 19, 2004
Cast:Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jessica Parker
Director:Tim Burton
Studio:Touchstone Pictures
Run time:127 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some strong language

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Kid, 12 years old February 4, 2012

Burton's best

Hatred plays a big part in the latest burton film: ed wood, known for directing terrible movies. The language is why it's Rated R, but it's not that bad. Ed Wood wears womens clothing and talks about sex gets drunk , a character is an alcaholic and considers suicide Still this film is worth seeing. Especilay Landau's preformence of Bela Lugosi. He deserved the oscar and this is wonderful film.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written bymongofa April 2, 2011
This movie was pretty interesting. Johnny Depp is great as Ed Wood. It is shot in black and white which really gives it an older, low-budget feel which is good.
Adult Written bysarahkay89 July 25, 2011

Fine for older teens and adults

This was an interesting movie. It was rated R, but that was mainly due to the frequent use of harsh language. Cross-dressing was a main theme in this movie, but there was no sex scenes. The most shown is the back of a woman in a bra and a woman with low, cleavage-revealing tops. Overall, I won't recommend this for kids, the cross-dressing is definitely a big theme in this movie and would need some explaining for younger kids and the language is strong and somewhat frequent.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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