Long Strange Trip

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Long Strange Trip Movie Poster Image
Grateful Dead docu has music, drugs, mature themes.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 238 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Discusses the Grateful Dead within a historical and creative context; the band and its members were independent and uncompromising in their creative choices, committed to making their own art their own way. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jerry Garcia, other band members were creative, not rule followers in most aspects of life. 

Violence

Disagreements between band members discussed.

Sex

Some sexual innuendo. Archive footage contains nudity in concert settings and the like. 

Language

"S--t," "f--k" frequently used. 

Consumerism

Grateful Dead music, artwork, books written by Dennis McNally featured in context. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use (pot, acid, and so on) frequently shown; people shown taking LSD and happily describing the experience. Addiction, drug-related deaths discussed. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Long Strange Trip, a docuseries about the Grateful Dead, is intended for mature viewers. It features lots of adult-oriented content, including archive recordings of people using drugs (pot, LSD) and happily describing the experience. There's also nudity, drinking, cigarette smoking, and lots of cursing. Families who are big Deadheads will enjoy watching the history of the band as well as viewing a bunch of music, album covers, artwork, and concert footage.

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What's the story?

LONG STRANGE TRIP is a six-part documentary that chronicles the rise and success of the Grateful Dead. With the help of rare photographs, performance recordings, home videos, and archived interviews with founding members, it details the evolution of the band and its unique sound up until the sudden death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Conversations with band members like bassist Bill Lesh and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, surviving friends and family, biographer Dennis McNally, and others closely associated with the band are also featured. From highlighting how the Beatnik community influenced how the group approached their music, to revealing Garcia’s fascination with death, as well as his struggles with illness, addiction, and his iconic fame, it offers an in-depth look at what it was like to be part of the Grateful Dead phenomena from multiple points of view. 

Is it any good?

This compelling docuseries offers an extensive look at the musical, philosophical, and cultural forces behind the success of the Grateful Dead. It reveals how the group was able to successfully fuse different genres of music, including folk, psychedelia, bluegrass, jazz, and rock to create its distinct and now legendary style. It also looks at how they went from being a local Northern California jam band to one of the most culturally significant musical groups of the 20th century.  

There are moments where it feels repetitive, and some key people in Jerry Garcia's past, including his widow, aren't featured here. But the behind-the-scenes insight Long Strange Trip offers about the Grateful Dead phenomena makes it easy to look past this. Dead Heads will appreciate the tribute and dig the music and the stories it tells. But if you're wondering why the iconic band is considered one of the greatest music groups of all time, watching this can provide you with answers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music groups that have a strong legacy in the United States and around the world. What factors contributed to making the Grateful Dead as famous as it continues to be? Can you think of any other bands that have (or will have) a similar legacy?

  • One can argue that Long Strange Trip refers to the 1960s drug culture that the Grateful Dead was part of. Based on what this documentary reveals, how else can one interpret this title? 

Movie details

For kids who love music

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