Network Movie Poster Image




Biting '76 satire with a media-literacy lesson.
  • Review Date: April 17, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1976
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film is an indictment of television and other media. The industry and those who control it are seen as greedy, power-hungry, and arrogant. “We’ll tell you everything you want to hear and none of it is true.” The integrity of television news is challenged in scene after scene, and the film traces the descent of the TV news departments into the bowels of the entertainment divisions. In a larger sense, corporate corruption and self-interest threaten to undermine the individual, our democracy, and all positive values. It’s a pessimistic message and, in this film, no one escapes its inevitable conclusion.

Positive role models

There are no heroes here: no one to admire; no one is able to counter the destructive forces at play. Male characters are either weak, off-balance, or corruptible. The female lead represents the very worst of what is usually seen as “masculine” behavior, made even more objectionable as she uses her “femininity” to get what she wants. The one featured African-American woman, seen first as a political maverick with good intentions, becomes shrill, racist, and greedy. Any character with even a little integrity (and no one has an abundance of it) is defeated.


A character is shot in cold blood. A leading character is forcibly removed from the set of a television news show. This same character threatens to blow his brains out on camera.


Characters talk about sex and adultery in numerous scenes, but actual sexual activity is limited to some passionate kissing and one sequence, played as satire, in which two leads undress (with a brief flash of female breasts) and engage in a semblance of foreplay and intercourse. Throughout the scene, the female's partner and the sex act itself are decidedly secondary as she engages in a non-stop monologue about her work in the television business.


Pervasive swearing and obscenities throughout: all forms of "f--k," "s—t," "kiss your ass," "whorehouse," "c--ksmanship," "piss," "Goddamn," and more. There are references to "dykes," and an African-American character describes herself using the "N" word.


Sheraton, Canada Dry, Life cereal. ABC, CBS, and NBC are discussed and visually represented, but with definite disdain.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Set in 1976, many characters smoke. Alcoholic beverages are consumed in social settings: restaurants, bars, dinner table, etc. The opening scene shows two best friends who are drinking together and getting very drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film, made in 1976, is for adults and mature teens only. There is considerable profanity throughout: "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word," "whore," "goddamn," "piss," "dykes," and more. Characters discuss and engage in adultery. Actual sexual activity includes kissing and one scene in which characters undress (a brief flash of female breasts is included) and have sexual intercourse while the woman talks non-stop. Alcohol is consumed on numerous social occasions and two men get very drunk in the film's opening scene. Some smoking.

What's the story?

When Howard Beale (Peter Finch) -- the aging, recently widowed anchorman of the fictional UBS TV network -- finds out that he's getting fired, he reacts by announcing live on the air that he'll kill himself during his farewell broadcast. Afterward, he begs his best friend/longtime producer Max (William Holden) for a second chance to bid a more dignified goodbye. Max, already stung that his news division has been taken from him and handed over to UBS parent company CCA's commercial-entertainment department under predatory young executive Diana (Faye Dunaway), grants Howard's request. This time Howard lets loose with a tirade about the state of the world, urging viewers to join him in his new mantra: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Both Max and Howard are fired, but the broadcast's sky-high ratings lead Diana to give The Howard Beale Show a makeover as a tacky variety program starring "the mad prophet of the airwaves." Howard's uncensored, apocalyptic speeches are a hit, but when he reveals some dirty secrets about CCA's business dealings, the bosses are suddenly very unhappy.

Is it any good?


A scathing multiple Oscar nominee, NETWORK is often said to be the movie that predicted the advent of "trash TV." Though marketed as satire, it was not a belly-laugh parody like Scary Movie, but rather a stern, grownup broadside that set out to shock and outrage. In fact, over the years a few of its details are hardly farfetched anymore; not in the 21st-century tubescape of voyeuristic Reality shows, sleazy music-video channels, news sensationalism, and circus-freak daytime talk. Kids who come home from school to The Jerry Springer Show might wonder what the fuss is all about.

But Network bristles with righteous anger, featuring especially caustic dialogue by legendary writer Paddy Chayefsky, who was one of the great script authors of early TV drama. By the mid-1970s he didn't like what he was seeing, and the narrative takes place in a post-Watergate atmosphere of darkest cynicism, homegrown terrorism, Third World atrocities, oil shortages, inflation, recession, amorality, and all-around bad news. Just about every character, even minor ones, gets to do angry oratory that could blister the wallpaper. This movie begs the question three decades later: Has TV gotten better or worse? Network seems especially on-target about the idea of huge, anything-for-money corporations running the media (and everything else), a situation that's only intensified since the 1970s.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the many disturbing propositions the movie puts forth: that greedy corporations control everything (broadcast news is only a part of it); that TV is a horrible, destructive force; and that the generation of viewers who grew up with TV are somehow damaged. Which of the film's predictions have come true?

  • Does this movie stand the test of time or does it seem old-fashioned?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 26, 1976
DVD release date:May 16, 2000
Cast:Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, William Holden
Director:Sidney Lumet
Run time:121 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:profanity, violence, mature themes and sexuality

This review of Network was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Sharky, cynical look at TV world needs more bite.
  • Compelling political drama won't engage most kids.
  • Hard-hitting news documentaries for teens and up.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written bymongofa July 26, 2010

Mature teens only

This is a great movie abot what the people in television will do for ratings. It uses some big words that kids will not understand. There is a good amount of swearing as well.
Parent of a 8 and 11 year old Written byzoomdrm57 March 19, 2009

Prophetic and so true!!

If you are looking for a movie that compels you to examine the effect of media on our lives and the hollowness that it creates, you will be deeply affected by this masterpiece of satire and (sadly) comedy of our need fill the emptiness in our lives with trash.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement