Mask Movie Poster Image




Complex, moving story of disfigured boy best for teens.
  • Review Date: January 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In spite of tremendous difficulty, maintaining a positive attitude and a good sense of humor will go a long way. Everyone is different in this world. Treat people based on who they are on the inside, not how they look on the outside.

Positive role models

Rocky has a sense of humor and keeps a positive attitude despite his condition and how people he meets for the first time react to him. He tries to help his mother overcome her addiction to drugs. His mother loves him deeply and stops at nothing to make sure he attends school and lives to his fullest potential. Rocky's friends look out for him and treat him just like any other friend.



Bikers fight each other at parties. In a heated argument with his mother, Rocky breaks plates and glasses in the kitchen. In a moment of deep despair, Rocky's mother punches a shelf covered in glasses and then knocks the shelf to the kitchen floor.


A mother brings home a prostitute for her son. While there is no nudity, the son asks the prostitute how much money she makes for having sex. A mother is often seen coming home with different men late at night. A male character wears a sexually suggestive T-shirt.


Frequent profanity: "f--kin'," "bulls--t," 's--tty," "bastard," "pissed off," "son of a bitch." Some instances of bullying: on three occasions, as Rocky is in a new environment, someone asks him to "take off his mask." While in line to ride bumper cars, the ticket-taker calls Rocky a "retard."


Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Rocky's mother chainsmokes cigarettes. Adult characters are often seen smoking and drinking. At parties, adult characters act drunk -- stumbling around, fighting, slurring their speech. The mother in the film is seen smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, taking pills, buying drugs from a drug dealer, and acting drunk and high.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Mask is a deeply moving and inspirational film about a teenage boy whose face is disfigured by a genetic defect. Based on a true story, the boy, Rocky Dennis, is a positive role model who almost always manages to maintain a sense of humor and a positive attitude in spite of ridicule from strangers and frequent headaches from his condition. Rocky's mother and his close friends see the sweet and intelligent kid within, and treat him like just another teenager growing up. Rocky tries to help his mother in her struggles with drug addiction, and she is seen smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, taking pills, buying drugs from a dealer, and appearing high and/or drunk. Rocky and his mother's extended family is a rough-and-tumble yet goodhearted biker gang, usually seen drinking beer, smoking, and partying. Profanity is also often used throughout the film. And there is a scene with a prostitute but no sex or nudity.

What's the story?

MASK is based on the true story of Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), a teenager with a genetic defect -- craniodiaphseal dysplasia -- that turned his face into a huge "mask" of bone. Rocky's mom, Rusty (Cher), is a wild, tough woman who constantly fights for her son's right to lead a normal life. When a new doctor tells Rocky he's got just a few months to live, mom and son refuse to listen, since Rocky has outlived earlier diagnoses. When Rocky becomes a counselor's aide at a summer camp for the blind, he meets Diana (Laura Dern). Romance blossoms, but Diana's parents disapprove. Back at home, Rocky battles with his mom about her alcohol and drug abuse, and driving out her boyfriend Gar (Sam Elliott).

Is it any good?


This is not a typical "disease of the week" movie about someone triumphing over adversity; it is a far more complex and moving story about two people who love and care for and about each other. Though in other aspects of her life Rusty is completely irresponsible, even dissolute, with Rocky she is the ideal of maternal strength and commitment. And Rocky is a source of strength for her, too, acting almost as her parent.

Mask has several exceptionally touching moments, and it shows us over and over again that it is not about an "abnormal" boy in a normal world, but about a real boy in a world where everyone is different. As he says, "I look weird, but otherwise I'm real normal." Rocky has some interesting ways of coping with his problems. He has his version of Pollyanna's "Glad Game," using happy memories to help him through hard times. And his mother, who herself uses drugs, helps him manage his headaches without drugs by "talking them away."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way Rocky handles the fact that he is physically different from others. What other movies have you seen about outsiders and people with disabilities? Do you think Mask is a fresh, effective take on this topic?

  • Why don't the parents of Diana, who is blind, want her to see Rocky? Does that surprise you?

  • How do Rocky and Rusty take care of each other? Give some examples. Why is Rusty better at taking care of Rocky than she is at taking care of herself?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 8, 1985
DVD release date:September 7, 2004
Cast:Cher, Eric Stoltz, Sam Elliott
Director:Peter Bogdanovich
Studio:Universal Pictures
Topics:Friendship, Great boy role models, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

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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 byvrumayo90210 April 9, 2008

One of the best and saddest movies in the world!

This movie is the best. I love how everyone in Rocky's mom's motercycle gang accepts Rocky for how he is. This really is a great movie.
Adult Written bymrnocal April 3, 2010

Don't judge books by their covers

While there are some instances of drinking, smoking and drug use, it's not shown in a positive way. It's shown in a realistic way. This is such a moving story, and shows great examples of not judging by appearance. Rocky is shown as strong and stable. His mother is also strong, but not quite as stable...however, she is filled with love and determination against strong obstacles. The bikers are shown as loving and strongly bonded...not as violent or anti-society as typically portrayed in movies. They are real, caring people who just happen to ride motorcycles. The strength of Rocky serves as inspiration. Although physically deformed, he always holds his head high and excels at academics and sensibility. He inspires his fellow teenagers and shows them that even when ridiculed because of his physical appearance, he can joke about it and rise above it. The movie has some very intensely emotional scenes. I admit that I cry every time I watch it. But that's why it's such a great movie. The performances are top notch. The story is moving and quite strong. A great example to teach kids and adults to not judge based on appearance.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 15 years old Written bySkyrock5 February 26, 2011
Truly great! Really, really amazing movie that can at no point be classified as a cliche, or anything similar. Its filled with enough hope for a whole movie audience, and enough smiles to last to the very end of the movie. But, this is a tough drama, and viewers should be prepared for it. I wouldn't reccommend it for a little Saturday light comedy, far from it. Its realistic, and emotional. But, its also amazing and can really make you see things in a different light.
What other families should know
Great role models


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