Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Parenthood Movie Poster Image
Poignant family dramedy with lots of adult themes.
  • PG-13
  • 1989
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Parenting can be messy, for both parents and children, and the rocky moments aren't glossed over here (though they're handled with loads of humor). No one makes the right decision all the time, but effort counts, as does, of course, love. Also, families come in all sorts of configurations, and it doesn't matter if they fit the traditional model. What matters is how they work together and support each other.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nobody's perfect, but most everyone in the film is trying to make sense of their responsibilities to their children, to their partners, and to themselves. Married couples hit rough patches, but weather them with emotional generosity and honesty.


Couples fight loudly; a mom hits another character with a newspaper out of frustration. A man talks about loan sharks being on his case and threatening to kill him if he doesn't pay up. A teen vandalizes an office with a hammer.


More talk than action, though husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends are shown flirting and kissing and groping each other. There's no nudity, although some characters are shown in boxers, and a young couple talks about having taken nude pics of each other. Also, a character finds another person's vibrator, and a minor appears to have developed a penchant for self-stimulation and porn. A husband brandishes a wife's diaphragm.


Runs the gamut, from "b-tch" to "s--t." Somewhat frequent usage, but not extreme.


Nothing hugely obvious, though logos for baseball teams and colleges (Brown, for instance) are displayed. A family seems bent on creating a child genius, and the parents use various educational products to this end.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking during get-togethers and times of stress.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this affecting dramedy treads lightly on racy subjects -- porn and teen sexuality, for instance -- and does so with great heart and humor. It's a fairly realistic -- pumped up a bit for comedy, of course -- look at parenthood, warts and all. It may be a little too frank for tweens and young teens, but older teens will find it instructive about what their moms and dads may be feeling and thinking (and vice versa). There's some swearing and social drinking, and straightforward discussions about the difficulties and joys of child-rearing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove September 30, 2013

Funny! Not for kids!

I watched Parenthood when I was 13 and really enjoyed it (back then), now as a young adult it's still great but certainly not for kids that young! Funny? Y... Continue reading
Adult Written bypamomof4 December 29, 2011

Keep all kids toddlers through teens away from this one.

Ok. I have four kids ages 12, 9, 6, and 3. I consider myself a fairly liberal parent when it comes to some of the things my kids watch for movies. My older t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byParamoreFan09 May 8, 2010

Fine for 14? Cutting it kinda close, don't you think?

I was going to watch this with my family because common sense recommended it to me! Within the first half hour, we saw a well... a vibrator and we saw a teenag... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old August 18, 2018

SO FUNNY, but to mature for younger kids.

The second that any child is old enough to see this movie, they should watch it. You will laugh until you cry, and then you'll laugh some more. Every chara... Continue reading

What's the story?

Three adult siblings -- Gil (Steve Martin), Helen (Dianne Wiest), and Susan (Harley Jane Kozak) -- discover there's more growing up to do as they take on the challenges of parenthood. Gil and his wife (Mary Steenburgen) have their hands full with three kids, one of whom's suffering from anxiety. Plus, Gil's job pressures weigh heavily on both their shoulders. Helen, a single mom, is battling a headstrong teenage daughter (Martha Plimpton) and a young son (Joaquin Phoenix) who'd rather lock himself in his room than spend any time with either of them. Susan's husband (Rick Moranis) thinks training their daughter for the rigors of academia starting at preschool is the way to go, but she's not certain. And with their youngest sibling (Tom Hulce) arriving out of the blue, Gil, Helen, and Susan, plus their cranky father (Jason Robards), find that life's about to get even messier.

Is it any good?

It's no mystery that parenthood is a minefield, but what makes director Ron Howard's film masterful is how it acknowledges this truism without relying on the usual tricks. Parents are allowed to be ambivalent; children, defiant. Fathers play favorites; mothers surrender the yoke of wisdom. In short, they're allowed to be human, and not have all the answers. And here, they're funny -- very funny, thanks to a fairly airtight screenplay and a superb cast.

From a superficially-ditzy-but-surprisingly-wise Keanu Reeves (as Helen's daughter's boyfriend) to a painfully flawed Jason Robards, each actor turns in a fully realized performance. Martin anchors them all, with his agitated, kinetic humor that's grounded in real life, keeping the film entirely relatable despite some slightly over-the-top comic gyrations and a predictable ending. Howard steers the entire enterprise with compassion and humor; as with parenting, it's probably the best way to make a great movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about each parent portrayed in the film: How do they approach the whole enterprise and what do you think of it? What makes a good parent or a bad one? Does the film realistically depict the highs and lows of raising children?

  • What about the kids? Are they shaped by the way their parents are raising them? Is their metamorphosis -- if any -- in the movie believable? Do moms and dads and their kids eventually reach a place of understanding?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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