Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  • Review Date: February 1, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Loopy, foul-mouthed drug comedy isn't meant for kids.
  • Review Date: February 1, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 118 minutes





What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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.


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."


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.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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 (Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys), 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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:May 22, 1998
DVD release date:November 17, 1998
Cast:Benicio Del Toro, Christina Ricci, Johnny Depp, Tobey Maguire
Director:Terry Gilliam
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:pervasive extreme drug use and related bizarre behavior, strong language, and brief nudity

This review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was written by

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  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byoctober1985 March 13, 2010
The film has tons of drug use throughout, but this will most likely go over the heads of young kids. There is profanity and some sexual content as well but it's not TOO bad. It has a PG rating in Canada
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byStepMomSterToo January 11, 2011


This movie glorifies drug use to the extreme. It's got paranoia, alcohol, freaked out stuff. I mean, if you watch this with your kids, you might as well hand them a joint while you're at it. Nothing in here for kids. Great movie, though, for the mature.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byLedZepFan98 May 6, 2012

All about drugs

This is a great film but no one under 15 should watch it. It is based on the book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson which is about Thompson's and his lawyer's (Oscar Zeta Acosta) journey to Las Vegas to find the american dream all while on drugs. There is Explicit sexual dialogue about Gonzo drugging and having sex with a young girl. (neither is shown, just talked about). Gonzo asks a woman indirectly if she is a prostitute and she spits at him. A photograph of a topless woman is seen. A hallucination is seen involving a dinosaur orgy; various reptiles are seen in sexual positions, many covered in blood. In another hallucination, Hunter/Raoul imagines Dr. Gonzo as some kind of beast. He has a set of breasts (they're really fake) on his back. Hunter/Raoul makes a quick, brief comment about them (This scene is quick). There is talk about rapists, who will use drugs if they don't get to rape someone. Also, they will ejaculate uncontrollably. Hunter/Raoul is then shown with, what looks like semen on his pants. Gonzo is tripping on acid in his bathtub, and wants Hunter/Raoul to throw a cassette player in the tub, electrocuting him to death (it doesnt happen). Some guys are shown beating another guy to a bloody pulp, probably... It's not shown well, but there is a glimpse of it. No blood is present though, it's just implied. Gonzo points a gun at Hunter/Raoul and he grabs a flyswatter and says "dont f--- with me" and flings the flyswatter at him. Later in the movie, Gonzo points a knife at him, he grabs a flyswatter, and he says the exact same line. Hunter imagines some people to be bloodied and bruised, also in another scene he imagines them to be fierce evil dragon creatures (they are fine, he is just high). Gonzo threatening with a knife is quite intense and at the beginning it looks like he has a wound on his throat. dead bat is shown very briefly. A little gory. Nearly constant R-Rated profanities, some religious exclamations and racist slurs are present too. The characters appear to be disoriented throughout the entire movie and suffer the effects of each drug including prologned sequences of fear, anger and spend most of the time in a hallucinary state. The beginning of the movie Hunter/Raoul opens a briefcase filled to the brim with many different drugs and he explains each and every one of them and they are all shown on camera. Hunter Thompson/Raoul Duke is always shown with a cigarette hanging from his mouth whether or not he is smoking it. Several scenes in a bar, and several characters drink throughout the movie. Gonzo uses so much drugs and drinks so much that he vomits more than 3 times through the movie. Hunter and Gonzo are shown drunk 2 or 3 different times in the movie. They are very disgruntled, when they are drunk. This is quite possible the movie with the most Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking abuse, EVER.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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