Foul Play

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Foul Play Movie Poster Image
Farcical '70s comedy-mystery hybrid has violence, profanity.
  • PG
  • 1978
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Good triumphs over evil. Buffoonish criminals can't succeed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hapless heroine is loyal, sweet, courageous, and resourceful, despite the fact that she makes some iffy decisions. Hero is loyal, brave, and caring, despite the fact that he's bumbling and chauvinistic. Ethnic diversity.


Tone is comic; however, characters are killed in a variety of ways and with a variety of weapons: stabbing, knife-throwing, a falling wine rack, a wine bottle, and gunfire. People bleed. Comic mayhem: lengthy karate fight, man thrown out of window, man injured in rolling barrel. Several abductions occur, one with chloroform. Lengthy wild car rides and crashes. Hand-to-hand fighting. A woman is held at gunpoint. Many suspenseful sequences, including some with false jeopardy (i.e., a snake slithers toward the heroine).


Hero and heroine kiss in multiple scenes and wake up after an implied sexual encounter; no nudity. Sexual humor and innuendo throughout. Extended sequence shows man trying to seduce woman in a sexually adorned apartment: a comic ready-to-order bed appears, a closet is filled with sex dolls and paraphernalia, and there's a comic seductive dance. Scenes take place in massage/sex parlor; a sexual painting hangs on a wall. A brief film clip from a porno film is mostly blocked. A woman is obsessed with sexual predators and comically instructs her friend about safety.


Occasional cursing and obscenities: "nuts," "t-ts," "hell," "ass," "s--t," "goddammit," "sonofabitch." "F--k" is seen in several forms as it's used in a game of Scrabble.


A pack of Marlboro cigarettes is featured in the story. Korbel, Japan Airlines, Alka-Seltzer, Coors.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking and smoking. Mention of giving up smoking to live longer. Man asks woman if she'd like a joint. "Cops have the best dope."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Foul Play is a 1978 slapstick mystery with funny scenes, violent action, romantic moments, and sexual farce all overlapping. An all-out effort to stop a terrible crime is at the heart of the story. The film's very innocent heroine finds herself in danger from beginning to end, and sometimes she's aware of it and sometimes she isn't; the audience is always aware. Characters are knifed, are shot, bleed, fight fiercely, fall, are kidnapped and held hostage, careen through the streets crashing into everything, and generally find themselves in highly suspenseful situations, with scary music and effects. Sexual situations include a comic seduction (a semi-striptease by a man in an apartment designed to highlight sexuality); a sweet romance in which newly enamored characters kiss, then wake up together in the morning; and an action sequence that takes place in a sleazy massage parlor. Occasional coarse language ("damn," "s--t," "sonofabitch," "hell"); one comic scene shows two elderly women playing Scrabble using several forms of "f--k." Some social drinking occurs, characters smoke, and marijuana is offered and rejected. Best for teens and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCarrie M. January 1, 2020

Loved this as a kid

I saw this movie when I first saw it, around age 10, and LOVED it. There is a romantic scene (w/kissing) that some kids may not enjoy but any violence is blood... Continue reading
Adult Written byjmo97 April 25, 2017

Uneven, yet amusing. Older teens and up.

I found "Foul Play" to be an overall good film. It features an interesting murder mystery, and I liked Goldie Hawn in this film. Although, I thought t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLukeCon August 17, 2020

A clever blend of mystery, comedy, and romance

This comedy cleverly blends three different genres; and the result is pretty satisfying. Foul Play doesn't overuse one genre over the other; it weighs all... Continue reading

What's the story?

Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) can't catch a break in FOUL PLAY. Still wary of dating after a difficult divorce, she's focusing on her job as a librarian and spending time with friends -- at least until she meets Scott, a man who seems nice enough, at least nice enough to see a movie with. But Scott, poor guy, isn't what he seems. After he secretly places something in a Marlboro cigarette box, drops it into her purse, whispers something in her ear, then dies in the seat next to her, dripping blood into her popcorn, Gloria Mundy is in for the ride of her life. It seems everyone is after her and she has no idea why. With the help of a very attentive detective (Chevy Chase), a snake-loving landlord (Burgess Meredith), and a few other hardy souls, Gloria must outwit a gangster, a terrifying albino, a dwarf, and an evil bishop, all who are part of a nefarious plot to assassinate a very important man. And then there's that oversexed fellow (Dudley Moore) who can't seem to get out of his own way. What is in that Marlboro box? Is the pushy dwarf really a Bible salesman? What (and whom) is the bishop trying to hide? Will Gloria fall in love with the clumsy detective? And finally, what more terrifying surprises are in for the trusting librarian?

Is it any good?

In this purposefully Hitchcock-light comic-mystery, there are enough laughs and outrageous characters to compensate for its silly plot, outlandishly inept villains, and predictable romance. Both Chevy Chase and Dudley Moore had their first major motion picture roles in Foul Play, and in the case of Moore, it was a breakout performance. Over the decades, "Stanley Tibbets" (Moore) remains a vivid example of hilarious, vanity-free acting. Hawn, too, is at the height of her adorable, ingenuous sincerity. Writer-director Colin Higgins gleefully celebrates Alfred Hitchcock, borrowing music, plot elements, and suspenseful set pieces directly from the master. Seen again, decades after its theatrical release, it's an uneven film but with enough memorable and original material to remind fans why they liked it so much the first time around. Fine for teens, even mature tweens, but the graphic violence, even though much of it is meant as humor, makes it inappropriate for most kids.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that Foul Play has been described as a comic "tribute" (or "homage") to Alfred Hitchcock movies. If you're familiar with Hitchcock's films, what specifically reminds you of his work? Did you recognize any of the music? Any of the suspenseful scenes? How did the filmmakers make Hitchcock's original ideas humorous?

  • This film blends romance, comedy, and mystery. What kind of challenges do you think a filmmaking team faces when trying to combine all three genres (i.e., making a scary scene funny or a funny scene romantic)? Do you think writer-director Colin Higgins accomplished his goal? 

  •  Look up the film term "false jeopardy." Which scenes in this film fit into that category?

  • How does the portrayal of Gloria Mundy reveal the era in which the film was made (1978)? How might that character be different in a present-day film?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to laugh

Themes & Topics

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