Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Movie Poster Image
Loopy, foul-mouthed drug comedy isn't meant for kids.
  • R
  • 1998
  • 118 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie is a pure immersion into a few days of depraved behavior with no real point or consequences. The characters travel to Las Vegas to write a couple of magazine stories, but they mostly fail to accomplish that. Instead, they abuse their press privileges, act strangely and violently, consume a massive amount of drugs and alcohol, run out on hotel bills, abuse rental cars, and threaten and lie to others. At the end, no lesson is learned except that maybe the days of the counterculture are just about over.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters engage in various forms of debauchery with little or no lessons learned and no consequences for their actions. With his rebellious attitude and playful, cynical word usage, the real Hunter S. Thompson may be an inspiration for young writers, but these characters aren't. The Thompson-like lead character, "Raoul Duke," doesn't follow through on his assignments, and although his narration features some of Thompson's real-life writing, in the context of the movie, it only serves to celebrate the character's bad behavior.

Violence

Guns and knives are pulled but rarely used. A character flies into a violent drug rage, wielding a knife, but winds up locked in a bathroom. There's reckless, dangerous driving, as well as plenty of violence in the dialogue (including a description of gang rape), with characters threatening one another and playing out verbal scenarios of violence. In one sequence, the two lead characters discuss how to get rid of a young girl who's become a nuisance; the answer (though only implied) is unspeakably horrific.

Sex

Lewd and sometimes violent sex acts are discussed and described in the dialogue, but hardly anything is shown. A couple of Playboy-type centerfold pictures are briefly on view. Women are seen kissing in the background, and a male traffic cop asks to kiss the (also male) lead character.

Language

Incessant strong language permeates the film from beginning to end, including just about every word under the sun. Multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "bastard," "ass," "damn," "whore," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," "Jesus" (as an exclamation), "scum sucker," "swine," mentions of sodomy and castration, and racial slurs like "Spic."

Consumerism

Occasional brand names of alcohol (Wild Turkey, etc.) and car makes (Cadillac, etc.).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Excessive, constant drinking and drug use throughout the entire film. Characters drive under the influence, trash hotel rooms and rental cars, fail to turn up to work, leave unpaid hotel bills, and suffer little or no consequences for their actions. Drugs include cocaine, pot, acid, mescaline, pills, ether, a mention of opium, and -- in one scene -- some "adrenochrome," or human adrenaline. Drinks include beer, rum, tequila, and whisky. Somewhat ironically, there isn't much cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a two-hour celebration of drugs, foul language, and debauchery, with little or no consequences, redemption, or lessons learned. Lead character Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp before he became really popular with more mainstream audiences) is based on famous "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson -- but there's little actual writing going on in the movie amid the fog of drugs, drinking, and swearing. Although little actual sex is shown, there's plenty of violent and depraved sexual imagery in the dialogue, yet another reason this movie absolutely isn't for kids. But for adults -- especially those already inducted into the Thompson cult -- the movie is a hilarious cult favorite.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhhm1992 September 1, 2012

Two changes to original review

This is a fantastic film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's classic novel. I believe the official review hits the nail on the head except for two parts:... Continue reading
Adult Written bychristian2011 September 2, 2012

Movie ALL about drugs and it's side effects/consequences in a VERY explicit manner.

Fearing & Loathing in Las Vegas is a movie strictly meant for adults, and just because it's some sort of black comedy doesn't mean it's j... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written by1upmushroom November 3, 2012

It's raunchy, insane, violent, ugly, and one of my favorite films period.

This film is for a specific kind of people. It's one of those films that will most likely disgust you then entertain you if you're not familiar with o... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byitsrainingfrogs July 14, 2014

Director Gilliam says teens understand his film best

In the commentary on the Criterion Collection edition of the film, director Terry Gilliam says that kids age 13-15 seem to get his film the best. The film is a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Freelance journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) travels to Las Vegas in 1971, accompanied by his friend/attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). Duke has been assigned to cover a desert motorcycle race, but a drinking and drug binge causes him to miss most of the evnt. He tries to skip out on a trashed hotel room and an expensive bill when he learns that he's been assigned to another story -- a district attorney/police convention in another part of town. But he blows this story, too, due to another binge (although he manages to record most of his experience this time). In the end, he writes a book about the entire experience and what it meant in the grand scheme of things.

Is it any good?

As directed by Terry Gilliam, this seemingly pointless celebration of bad behavior is also a hilarious and crazily visual comedy for adults already inducted into the Hunter S. Thompson cult. The movie sets a bizarre, frantic pace and sustains it successfully for its entire running time. Gilliam's extraordinary camerawork -- as well as weird makeup and visual effects -- attempts to capture the feel of a real drug trip, as well as some imaginatively trashed hotel rooms afterward. (What is that brown liquid all over the floor?)

In the lead role, Depp throws himself completely into Duke's thinly disguised Thompson's persona and delivers an amazing, hilarious performance. Del Toro is intense and rather frightening as the crazed Dr. Gonzo, and several recognizable faces -- including Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, and more -- turn up in cameos. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS definitely isn't for every taste, but adults (not kids!) who appreciate something out of the ordinary might enjoy it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts substance use and abuse. Why don't the characters suffer more consequences for their behavior? What message does this send to viewers?

  • The movie makes the lead characters look cool, but in a few scenes, we see them through the eyes of others. How cool would they really look to a bystander?

  • How did the movie's bizarre, psychedelic imagery make you feel? What do you think the filmmakers' intent was?

Movie details

For kids who love quirky characters

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