Licence to Kill

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Licence to Kill Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Darker version of James Bond has more violence, language.
  • PG-13
  • 1989
  • 133 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 23 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

James Bond may be a good guy and may have saved the world, but he seduces women, drinks alcohol, doesn't seem to care much about destroying property, and never really learns any lessons. The plot of this movie is based on personal revenge, rather than saving the world. Normally, he has a license to kill and can leave dead bodies in his wake with no consequences, but in this film, his license is revoked, and he kills anyway. Women are generally treated as objects, helpless and powerless.

Positive Role Models & Representations

James Bond is a highly trained hero, of course, and tries to save the world from the bad guys, but his methods are highly questionable. The Bond in this movie seems darker and even more serious than usual.


This Bond movie has more violence and more blood than any of the movies before it. Characters are shot and killed. A woman is whipped on her back after being caught in bed with another man (it leaves a scar). Men are killed in a shark tank, with blood billowing through the water. Supporting characters die. There are spectacular stunts, such as men falling from an airplane in flight. A man dies by biting on a cyanide capsule. A man dies in an airlock (his face inflates and explodes). A bad guy gets killed in the gears of a factory, with spraying blood. There's a car chase, with villains on fire, and explosions. Ninjas attack.


Bond kisses and sleeps with two women. Nothing sensitive is shown. The usual opening title sequence features women in silhouette that look like they could be naked. Dancing girls are shown in a sleazy bar, though they are somewhat clothed (nothing sensitive is shown). A female spy flirts with a bad guy, goes into his bedroom, and lies down on his bed with him. "Girlie" pictures are briefly seen in the cab of a big rig.


Language is much stronger in this Bond movie than in earlier entries. "S--t," "bulls--t," "bastard," "hell," "Goddamn," "scumbag," "ass," "cojones," and "piss," are used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The plot involves an international drug dealer who devises a way to dissolve cocaine in gasoline. Packages of cocaine are opened underwater, with white clouds billowing through the water. Bond orders a martini, but his girlfriend drinks it. The bad guy drinks a shot. A woman accuses an aggressive man of being drunk. Characters smoke. Q takes a shot of alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Licence to Kill is the 16th James Bond movie and the second -- and last -- with actor Timothy Dalton in the lead role. The producers were trying for a "darker" look and feel here, going for a PG-13 rating with stronger language and violence. More blood is shown, and there are more deaths. Language includes "s--t," "bastard," "ass," and "hell." Bond kisses and sleeps with two women, though no nudity is shown; those opening titles still feature alluring silhouettes in which the women look naked. The bad guy this time is a drug dealer, and there are many references to cocaine as well as many characters drinking and some smoking. The movie is not one of the best, but at the time it was seen as a drastic improvement over the Roger Moore movies, and it's still considered a fan favorite. It will be one of the movies that teen Bond fans will go to first.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMatthew S. February 1, 2017
Parent of a 5, 10, and 10-year-old Written bysilwuttke April 8, 2020

Has more violence and cursing than usual Bonds

Very gory and violent blood is shown in nearly every scene a mans head explodes at one point blood splatters all over one of the more darker bonds. Language inc... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 6, 2021

Gory but good

For a James Bond film, this one is quite gory but very exiting. I skipped a scene where a man’s head explodes (it was a deal) and I am writing this review the d... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byGusAllen9 February 8, 2021

What's the story?

As Felix Leiter (Frank McRae) prepares to get married, he receives word that notorious drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) is on the move, so he and his best man, Agent 007 James Bond (Timothy Dalton), capture him. Unfortunately Sanchez escapes and attacks Felix. Bond is stripped of his license to kill but vows revenge anyway. He foils one of Sanchez's drug shipments, frames one of Sanchez's men, and manages to get himself hired as a potential sidekick. He seduces Sanchez's girlfriend Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) but falls for another spy, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). When he discovers Sanchez's ultimate plan -- to dissolve his drugs, undetected, inside tankers of gasoline -- he embarks upon a dangerous chase to bring this fight to the finish.

Is it any good?

LICENCE TO KILL was a new effort to try to "darken" the James Bond franchise, with a PG-13 rating, a use of harsher language, bloodier violence, and a plot that had Bond going rogue. But unfortunately these were superficial touches that didn't really help the movie at its core. Timothy Dalton was never a great choice as Bond, and neither of the Bond girls (Talisa Soto and Carey Lowell) are particularly interesting, nor even very good.

Meanwhile, director John Glen had been a second unit director on the Bond series since 1969 and had directed five of them himself; this was his fifth, and he seems tired. The movie often feels sloppy during certain fight scenes or lethargic during dialogue-driven scenes. But at least it was a step up from Roger Moore's ridiculous final entries, and it's still a fan favorite. Robert Davi makes a nasty villain, and Benicio Del Toro has an early role as a vicious thug. Las Vegas crooner Wayne Newton has a cameo, and Gladys Knight sings the theme song.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How did the decision to go "darker" affect this Bond movie? Does it seem more violent? More exciting?

  • Is the movie more or less involving, given that Bond's motive is revenge rather than trying to save the world? Why?

  • How are the women in this movie treated? Why are they both attracted to Bond? Would either of them be interesting in a movie of their own?

  • How do you feel about the villain being a drug dealer? How are drugs portrayed in the movie?

Movie details

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