Pirate Radio

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Pirate Radio Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Good-natured rock 'n' roll comedy with some iffy behavior.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The film's story is clearly a case of David vs. Goliath and creativity vs. the establishment, but there are a lot of gray areas. The heroes are technically obeying the law, and the government is acting out of personal bias rather than regard for the common good, but it's still a case of the law being deliberately ignored or bypassed. The main characters also raise a lot of eyebrows throughout most of the film, indulging in booze, casual sex, foul language, and socially unacceptable behavior. Most of them find a kind of redemption toward the end, but it's iffy whether any of them really learn anything important.

Positive Role Models & Representations

For the first two-thirds of the film, there are no positive role models to speak of. Government officials act selfishly and snobbishly, and the rebellious heroes indulge in all kinds of debauchery in addition to their heroic deeds. But toward the end, the DJs' persistence becomes more about pleasing others and seems more heroic.


Characters threaten one another, and there's playful banter, but hardly any physical violence and no blood or gore. Police are armed.


No actual sex is shown, but sex talk and sexual innuendo are virtually constant, and there's an underlying theme of a teenager losing his virginity. Implication of sex between two women. In one scene, a man sends a younger man into a dark bedroom, hoping to fool his intended female sexual partner. Both men appear naked in the scene, but no genitalia are shown. The young teenage character obtains a condom for sex he hopes he's going to have. At least two girls have sex with more than one of the men. A boatload of women arrives at one point, with the goal of sex for (nearly) everyone on board. Some of the DJs use sexual innuendo on the air. Discussion of body parts and their respective sizes; passionate kissing.


Near-constant swearing, with frequent use of "f--k" and most other known curse words, including lots of body-part slang ("boobies," "knob," etc.) and many British slang words that some Americans may not know. "Oh my God" and "goddamn" used as exclamations. One character's last name is "Twatt," and he's called that often.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of drinking to the point of overindulgence, mainly by adults. No drugs are shown (though the're sometimes discussed) -- but for some characters, their after-effects are subtly suggested. Some era-accurate smoking (both cigarettes and pipes).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, though Pirate Radio is about rebellion of every stripe, it's ultimately a good-natured film filled with good-hearted characters who will appeal to mature teens (as well as parents who cherish rock 'n' roll). The movie's events are seen through the eyes of a teenager who spends a lot of time with several free-spirited 1960s DJs ... and pursues losing his virginity in the process. It's all part of them urging him to "loosen up" and "have fun" -- which translates to plenty of rude, dangerous, and anti-authoritarian behavior, sex and sex talk, drinking, and other illicit activities, so be ready to talk to your teens about the real-life consequences of what they're seeing on screen. It's important to note that the only real female character in the movie is a lesbian (a fact that's repeated again and again, mostly with comedic intent).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byResponsable February 4, 2015

Let's Rock

Great music but there's sex and language. Inappropriate for kids under 8
Adult Written bycommonsensor July 12, 2011

Calling all Rock'n'Roll lovers!

Even though this movie is R-rated, it is probably appropriate for 13 years old+. If you love rock'n'roll, you will completely adore this movie, as I d... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byMangareader101 December 8, 2012

Pirate Radio goes for a win!

This movie is great! Takes place during the 60's when the british goverment (and the american) didn't like rock and tried to ban it. Course, the rocke... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byspickolick August 1, 2010

Perfect all around

This was a surprisingly intelligent movie. Highly reccomended!!

What's the story?

It's 1966, and rock 'n' roll is banned in England -- but it's still legal to broadcast from offshore. Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) arrives on board the Radio Rock, an old fishing boat that's been converted to a floating radio station. There he witnesses a series of vignettes about an ensemble of misfit characters, including his godfather/the boat's captain, Quentin (Bill Nighy), and a ragtag crew of DJs that includes the boisterous Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), tubby Dave (Nick Frost), and seductive Gavin (Rhys Ifans). The Count and Gavin strike up a rivalry, romances come and go, and there's lots of general bickering and ribbing. Meanwhile, on dry land, menacing government minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) will stop at nothing to shut them down.

Is it any good?

Pirate Radio sometimes feels more like an extended BBC comedy sketch than a film. Written and directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually), the movie was trimmed by 20 minutes after its release in England, where critics complained of excessive length (and where the film was titled The Boat That Rocked); now the movie feels jaunty and lightweight -- though perhaps a bit too weightless. Too many characters with too little screen time add up to not much depth for anyone; the character arcs are fairly simple and predictable overall, with little emotional weight (centerpiece character Carl is the weakest of all).

But the film's good-natured rebellion and genuine enthusiasm for the power of rock 'n' roll can be infectious and enjoyable. Moreover, talented actors and comedians like Hoffman, Nighy, Frost, and Branagh manage to find brilliantly humorous moments within their dialogue, generating plenty of laughs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the English government wanted to ban rock 'n' roll in the 1960s. Were they acting in the public good by doing this?

  • The DJs are combating authority, but what justifies their iffy behavior in doing so? (This story is a story told with hindsight, so it's easy to see who was right and who was wrong in the end, but it may be tricky to apply this lesson to other scenarios.)

  • Could the female characters in the film have been stronger?

Movie details

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