Harold and Maude

 
A classic of dark comedy.
  • Review Date: August 3, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1971
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Maude steals, resists arrest, and drives recklessly. But she also teaches Harold to embrace life.

Violence

Harold's faked suicides are grisly, though no one is actually injured. Maude decides to end her own life.

Sex

Sex implied when college-age Harold wakes up beside 80-year-old Maude.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie deals with strong adult themes, such as Harold's obsession with suicide, and makes references to the Vietnam War and the Holocaust. But the overarching message of embracing life is a good one, especially for moody teens.

What's the story?

Hal Ashby's 1971 black comedy Harold and Maude attained cult status for its portrayal of a morbid youth who falls in love with a spirited woman not twice, but four times his age. Maude's (Ruth Gordon) full-throttle zest for life inspires young Harold (Bud Cort), who is dramatically obsessed with death. It's a disquieting premise for a movie, certainly, but to dwell on the age difference of the characters is to miss the movie's point. More than a friend or lover, Maude infects the troubled Harold with her carpe diem attitude, freeing him from the inner demons of boredom and self-pity. In essence, she's his salvation.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This wonderfully rich black comedy has a way of putting life's problems in perspective, especially for troubled youths. The movie's stormy themes may strike a special cord with teenagers who feel at times that no one understands them. They, and adults as well, will appreciate the dark humor that leads to a bright resolution. Parents of young teens, however, should be cautioned about mature subject matter and sexual situations.

Alarmingly pale Bud Cort gives us an idea of what frail Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol might look like at age 20, and Ruth Gordon's sprightliness lends the perfect counterbalance. Their performances earned them each a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination. The Cat Stevens soundtrack hasn't lost its impact over the years. In a movie that references Vietnam, his songs feel as natural a Volkswagen Bug and girls named Sunshine. The lyrics speak for the characters, reminding us that if you want to sing out, sing out, and if you want to be free, be free.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Harold acted out the way he did. What was he trying to get from his increasingly violent suicide attempts? How does Maude use humor to cope with things that Harold may find paralyzingly depressing?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1971
DVD release date:June 27, 2000
Cast:Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles
Director:Hal Ashby
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements.

This review of Harold and Maude was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 December 2, 2009
age 13+
 

Hilarious, simple, and to the point

"Harold and Maude," while a mature movie, and really not intended for kids at all, is a fantastic, short film for all to see. Harold's "suicides" are hilarious instead of gruesome, and Maude is such a free spirit, really symbolizing the intolerance but calm point in all of us, especially today's generation of kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Parent of a 3 and 5 year old Written byAlbievo November 23, 2009
age 13+
 

13 is about right, but know your kid

I agree with the site's ratings and comments. I think it is well worth it, but know your kids.
Parent of a 12 year old Written bycrankylibrarian January 3, 2014
age 13+
 

Classic black humor, but not for everyone

Bizarre and macabre, H&M takes gallows humor to a new level, with Bud Cort as a baby-faced, black clad youth obsessed with funerals and fake suicides, and Ruth Gordon as the sexy octogenarian who straightens him out. The increasingly gruesome fake suicides may be too creepy for tweens. and the implied sex scene between the 2 leads has grossed out many a high schooler.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex

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