Erik the Viking
By Tom Cassidy,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Outdated fantasy comedy has bloody violence, rape "joke."
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Courage in standing up for what's right, even if that means going against tradition and customs. Jokes about rape and race.
Positive Role Models
Erik is a Viking who doesn't fit in with his violent clan and questions their outdated ways. During an attack on a village, he declines to rape a woman and kills two other Vikings who want to rape her. He develops strong leadership and brings change for his people. Blacksmiths twist their code to justify conspiring against their leader. A community leader lets his people die when he denies their island is sinking.
Violence & Scariness
The movie has many brawls, with some bloody results, including people being stabbed with swords and killed with axes. People are shown being tortured and slaves are whipped. Characters of different sexes punch each other. A character is pinned to a wall by their hair as a drunken axe throwing target. Settlements are burned and pillaged, with panic and screaming; kids gagged and condemned to death. Grotesque decaying corpse on display. "Joke" about "harakiri" (Japanese ritual suicide). A dragon burns someone alive. Gods fire lightning bolts at people. An attempted rape at sword point is played for laughs; the victim mocks the attacker then acts offended when they don't carry out the rape.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Character's nipples visible through dress. Two characters discuss whether they’ve slept with other people while in bed together -- one of them has no shirt on. Naked character holds cloth over their genitals. Some kissing.
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Infrequent language includes "bastard," "hell," "shut up," "idiot," and "moron." Character puts up middle finger to enemies. The term “midget” is also used. A joke involving a Japanese character comes across as racist.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drunk Vikings throw axes around a bar, kill someone, and terrorize others.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Erik the Viking is a 1989 British fantasy comedy, directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones, which now feels outdated and in poor taste with jokes about rape and race. In the first scene, misfit Viking, Erik (Tim Robbins), attempts to rape a woman during a pillaging but doesn't manage it and is mocked by her because of it. He then kills two fellow Vikings who attempt to rape her. The violence is frequent and often bloody, with deaths by swords and axes. A "joke" featuring a Japanese slave driver whipping white slaves is supposedly an attempt to mock the idea of stereotypes. But is executed badly so just ends up being racist against Japanese culture. Language is mild and infrequent -- with "bastard" about as bad as it gets -- but the derogatory term "midget" is used. A man and woman are seen in bed together -- after implied sex -- and discuss their sexual history. Despite being loosely based on Jones' 1983 kids book, The Saga of Erik the Viking, the movie's mature themes and bloody violence makes this only suitable for late teens and above.
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Erik the Viking
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What's the Story?
In ERIK THE VIKING, our hero, Erik (Tim Robbins) is tired of the Viking ways, so sets out on a fantastic quest to end the age of Ragnarok and bring about a more peaceful and humane way of life.
Is It Any Good?
With a legacy of two beloved surreal, satirical movies (Monty Python and The Holy Grail and Monty Python's Life of Brian), director Terry Jones always had a lot to live up to with this solo project. And sadly, with Erik the Viking, he stumbles twice. For not only is it not an exciting fantasy adventure, it's also not a very funny comedy. Maybe in response to the serious, bronzed Adonis fantasy adventures popular in the 1980s, Jones' vehicle looks grimy, grubby, and often plain ugly. While a similar look worked for The Holy Grail, without the charm and alchemy of the familiar Python actors it's just unpleasant.
If you're starting a movie with an extended attempted "rape joke," you're going to have to be very sure it's got the wit, smarts, and charm to pull off such a brazen feat. Erik the Viking lacks in all these departments. The fact that a 2004 version of the film was released -- with the removal of almost half an hour of original footage -- suggests the filmmakers are now aware too. A handful of jokes land but on the whole, Erik is best left to see out his days in Valhalla, undisturbed by new viewers.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about some of the jokes in Erik the Viking. Did some of them feel outdated? If so, which ones and why? Discuss how comedy evolves over time.
Discuss the violence in the movie. Did the fact that the movie is largely a comedy make the violence any less shocking? Why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
What did you know about the Vikings before watching this movie? Are you interested in learning more about them?
- In theaters: September 22, 1989
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2007
- Cast: Tim Robbins, Terry Jones, John Cleese
- Director: Terry Jones
- Studio: Orion Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, History
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Last updated: April 2, 2023
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