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Quiz Show



Outstanding drama about morals and our choices.
  • Review Date: January 11, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 133 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Thoughtful discussions of prejudice based on class and religious background. Flawed characters work their way to telling the truth about their actions. The TV networks don't feel the same obligation.

Not applicable
Not applicable

One use of "f--k" and a few lesser swear words. Some anti-Semitic language.


The game show was sponsored by Geritol and contestants put in their plugs for it.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking and smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie, based on a true story, is mostly PG-13 for some swearing. It also includes scenes of social drinking and smoking.

What's the story?

This true story takes place in the early days of television. One of the most popular and successful program formats was the quiz show, in which contestants competed for huge cash prizes by answering questions. Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) was a member of one of America's most distinguished literary families, and he became an immensely popular contestant on Twenty-One. When it turned out that the quiz shows were fixed, and that contestants were supplied with the answers by the shows' producers, Van Doren became the symbol of betrayal. John Turturro plays another contestant, Herb Stempel, and Rob Morrow plays congressional staff investigator Dick Goodwin.

Is it any good?


QUIZ SHOW is an outstanding drama that provides an excellent opportunity for examining the way that people make moral choices. Stempel cheats because he wants to be accepted and respected, and because he believes that is the way the world works. Nevertheless, he is outraged and bitter when he finds that he himself has been cheated; the producer has no intention of living up to his promise to find him a job in television. Meanwhile, when first presented with the option of cheating, Van Doren reflects ("I'm just wondering what Kant would make of this"), and then refuses. Once on the program, however, he is given a question he had answered correctly in his interview. At that moment, what is he thinking? What moral calculus goes through his mind? Is this the decision to cheat, or is that a separate decision, later?

In the movie's most painful scene, Van Doren must tell his father what he has done. Why did he do it? The movie suggests that it was in part a way to establish himself as independently successful, out of the shadow of his parents and uncle. He enjoyed the fame and the money. He argues that no one is being hurt by it. Goodwin, on the other hand, sees that it's wrong, and never for a moment hesitates when the producer tries to buy him off. Yet, as Goodwin's wife points out, he makes his own moral compromises when he tries to protect Van Doren. In part, he does it because he is after those he considers the real culprits. But in part he does it because he likes Van Doren, and because as much as he takes pride in being first in his class at Harvard, some part of him still thinks that the Van Dorens are better than he is. Some kids won't be able to sit through the talkiness of this movie. But for those that do, you'll all be richly rewarded with plenty to discuss on morals, choices, class, big business, the early days of TV, and so much more.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about cheating and lying, and how it affected the characters. Why did Stempel agree to cheat? Why did he tell the truth to the investigators? Why did Van Doren cheat? What were some of the feelings Van Doren had about his parents? How can you tell? In what ways was Goodwin like Stempel? In what ways was he like Van Doren? Why was Goodwin intimidated by the Van Dorens? Who was responsible for the "quiz show scandals?" Was the outcome fair? Who should have been punished, and how?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1994
DVD release date:September 7, 1999
Cast:John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow
Director:Robert Redford
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Character strengths:Integrity, Self-control
Run time:133 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

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Kid, 9 years old May 30, 2011

good movie

Characters use Guns and there are swear words every second but only one use of the F word and there is a lot of product placement including NBC and Mcdonalds
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Adult Written byJoshuaB16 March 9, 2016

Quiz Show Content Details (User-Generated)

Violence: None Sexual Content: Some characters flirt with the main character. Women wear low-cut dresses. A woman can be seen with part of her blouse open and quickly buttons it when company arrives. Some dancing, although not in a sexual context. Language: One use of the f-word. A couple of uses of "godd**n", and a few uses of anti-Semetic words. Alcohol / Drug Use: Several characters smoke cigars and cigarettes; one scene shows a character smoking in his wife's bedroom. An ad for tonic accompanies the quiz show Twenty-One. Several drinking scenes.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 8 years old May 15, 2010

great movie

great movie!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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