High Strung

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
High Strung Movie Poster Image
Hip-hop and classical artists stop, collaborate, and learn.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Artists, dancers, and musicians should make art for the sake of art, not commerce. Even those with artistic talent need to study and use perseverance to become the best they can be. Music and dance are links to the soul. Don't strive for perfection; imperfections keep us alive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are far from perfect, but many learn valuable lessons over the course of the movie (like the talented dance student whose work initially suffers due to partying but who eventually realizes she needs to focus on her studies). An angry young man becomes less so when he allows good people to come into his life. Teachers are demanding and harsh, but they claim they only want to motivate the most talented students to work harder. Some performers are arrogant about their talent. Characters are scammed/tricked; others make iffy ethical choices.


Someone knocks a girl down in the subway. A lout knocks over a waiter's tray and then blames the waiter. Theft. Scuffles between friends.


Kissing. Male characters seen shirtless. Friends look for a sexy dress to wear to a party. A man and woman eye each other, recognizing a mutual attraction. A woman is kissed by a stranger who later becomes her boyfriend; it's implied that they're sleeping together. Dancers tango suggestively at a party. Friends describe a boyfriend as "sexy fierce."


"Butt," "I'm screwed," "sucks," "pissing someone off," "bitch."


Times Square signage.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink socially at a bar and a party. Someone suggests a guy is "chemically altered." A student's partying initially impacts her ability to perform at the top of her game (drinking isn't shown but is implied).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that High Strung is a celebration of the artistic life, looking at the hard work, perseverance, and dedication that make musicians and dancers become great, whether they're classically trained or hip-hop street performers. The emphasis is on working to improve your performance; to that end, dancers' bodies are shown off while they do their thing (clothed, but sometimes suggestively so). Male characters are also shown shirtless, and there's some kissing. Characters don't always make the smartest decisions (one student parties so much that it initially impacts her ability to perform, for instance), but many grow and learn key lessons over the course of the movie. The language is on the mild side -- "bitch," "butt," "screwed," etc. -- and there's some social drinking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCaleb C December 30, 2017


It’s one of the best dance movies I’ve ever watched, there is a bit of kissing, but it’s definitely not too much and it’s adorable. There is some drinking but... Continue reading
Adult Written byJulia M May 7, 2021

Averge/good movie

This movie is free on youtube. Its a good movie, but not the best. Has great violin playing and dances. Appropriate for ages 15 +
Teen, 14 years old Written bydancer2275 August 4, 2019


As a dancer and a musician, this was a great movie! It had a little bit of kissing, but the message was to never give up.
Teen, 14 years old Written byCathy Liu January 28, 2019

Horrible Violin Use

How about get an actor that can actually play the violin? Maybe then the movie would get better than a 0/10 from me.

What's the story?

HIGH STRUNG follows Ruby (Keenan Kampa), a scholarship dance student, as she arrives in New York to study ballet. She immediately falls for Johnnie (Nicholas Galitzine), a poor British street violinist who needs a visa to avoid deportation. A can-do girl, Ruby tries to rescue Johnnie from homelessness and comes up with a plan to get him legal status. And, naturally, it means teaming up with a crew of hip-hop dancers to compete for money and a scholarship.

Is it any good?

This entertaining display of talent mixes classical and contemporary music and dance techniques, exposing enthusiasts of either one to the other genre. And the movie argues that mastering contemporary skills requires just as much hard work, drive, and talent as mastering classical technique -- equal admiration and respect are given to both disciplines. Energetic and imaginative choreography shows how much the performers in each category can learn from one another when artists collaborate, rather than compete. In fact, High Strung is at its best when it showcases the fun and exhilaration of following a passion. For example, musicians in a bar turn country-inspired fiddling into riffs on Swan Lake. And a swanky party devolves into a toe-tapping fiddle-off as competing violinists play variations on Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena.

It helps that the stars are genuinely artistically talented. Kampa is one of few Americans to have starred in a Russian ballet company, and the camera loves Galitzine; as Johnnie, he gets to show off impressive musical, dance, and acting chops. Co-stars John Silver and Marcus Mitchell are also outstanding dancers. Michael Damian's direction is adroit, and the script -- while sometimes a bit corny -- is well intended, with moments of wisdom. As a dance teacher puts it, "Each time you conquer a step, there will always be another challenge waiting. It's a long road, it never ends." Good advice for anyone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how movies like High Strung depict artistic talent. Do you think it's realistic? Do you think people with artistic talent have more fulfilling lives than people with other kinds of skills and abilities?

  • How do the characters demonstrate perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Can movies and TV shows introduce people to ways of life they might not otherwise have a chance to experience? Has that ever happened to you?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dance

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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