High Anxiety

Movie review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
High Anxiety Movie Poster Image
Very very funny Hitchcock spoof with some adult humor.
  • PG
  • 1977
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Not much of a message to glean from this fun comedy except maybe that imitation is the best form of flattery. Viewers may also notice that the psychiatrists conference doesn't include many people of color or women.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dr. Thorndyke is a pretty upstanding guy. He even tries to tailor his psychiatrist's convention talk on sexuality appropriate for a pair of young audience members.


Mild Hitchcock-style violence, including gunshot wound and a person falling from great heights.


Comedic references to adult situations, such as bondage. A character is shown tied up and being spanked. Characters kiss passionately. A man in an insane asylum who thinks that he is a dog humps another man's leg.


Not frequent, but still includes "bulls--t," "hell," "damn," "crap," "son of a bitch," "penis envy," and references to body parts in the name of psychology.


The Hyatt Regency in San Francisco gets a big send-up.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine and brandy with dinner. Drinks at a piano bar lead to a musical solo by Dr. Thorndyke. Adults smoke cigars and cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this spoof on Hitchcock movies contains some adult themes, such as mental illness, bondage, and some violence (a fall from a great height and a gunshot wound). But since it's a spoof, the real Hitchcockian suspense and tension is replaced with silliness.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 15-year-old Written bytween parent July 7, 2014

details on sexual content

awkward moment trying to explain a scene showing sado-masochism, and another with phone sex, and another where the Dr. clearly is avoiding using words for penis... Continue reading
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byOllie_review April 19, 2021


This made me laugh SO hard. It does include a bondage in one scene and a man thinking that he is a dog humps the main characters legs. We have had this film for... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byNonsensical_Reviews January 17, 2021

One of Brooks' more tween appropriate features has less laughs then expected.

High Anxiety is a 1977 comedy movie directed by Mel Brooks and starring Mel Brooks, Dick Van Patten, Cloris Leachman, and Howard Morris.

Language(2/5): One use... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 8, 2021

Fun spoof on the master of suspense, may scare younger kids.

This film spoofs Hitchcock's films like Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and more. It has fake blood (but it looks like paint), some funny jokes and a thrilling... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this parody of Alfred Hitchcock's work, Mel Brooks plays Dr. Richard Thordyke, a psychiatrist who has just received the honor of becoming the head of the Psycho Neurotic Institute for the Very Very Nervous. As he settles in to his new job, he begins to understand that his predecessor has died of mysterious causes. He suspects his colleagues, Dr. Montegue (Harvey Korman) and Nurse Diesel (Cloris Leachman), of foul play. When they discover Thorndyke's extreme phobia of heights, they capitalize on his weakness to try to take over the institute. Thorndyke meets an heiress, Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn), who helps him gain control of his fears while they attempt to save the Institute from ruin.

Is it any good?

The usual puns are restrained, but Mel Brooks' style of slapstick humor is evident in this classic spoof. The head of the Psycho Neurotic Institute for the Very Very Nervous is himself, a very, very nervous guy. But in this very nervous place he has reason to be: a rock the size of a car engine is tossed though his bathroom window with a welcome note from the "Violent Ward." His colleagues are plotting against him -- even pigeons in the park are out to get him.

Those who know Alfred Hitchcock's work will laugh even harder, knowing that those pigeons are a parody of his classic thriller The Birds. A shower scene straight out of Psycho is hilarious, since the weapon of choice is not a knife, but something that is black and white and read all over.


Though Mel Brooks plays the straight man among a bunch of loonies, he grabs the spotlight in a lounge singer act that comedies such as Will Ferrell's Anchorman have tried to equal. But it is Cloris Leachman who steals the show with her portrayal of the mustachioed Nurse Diesel. If you look closely, you can see her fellow actors suppressing smiles as she plays the mumbling disciplinarian to the hilt. A good bet for fans of Hitchcock and Mel Brooks. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fears and phobias. Dr. Thordyke is even afraid to ride an elevator. How does he manage his phobia?  Do you have any phobias? How do you cope with them?

  • Comedies like this one can touch on some adult themes that might be over younger viewers' heads. Here are some tips about how to talk with kids about the adult content that they see in movies and television.

  • This movie is a spoof -- a parody of ten of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Sometimes parodies make fun of things that some people think are too serious to be made fun of, like mental illness. Where do you think the line should be drawn?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love silliness

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