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Excellent portrayal of extraordinary musician.
Parents recommend
  • Review Date: January 30, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 152 minutes

What parents need to know


Sad and tense situations, character killed, character goes through agonizing detox.


Sexual references and situations, including adultery.


Strong language for a PG-13.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drug abuse, including heroin, drinking, a lot of smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has very strong material for a PG-13; it's more like a PG-16. There are frequent sexual references and situations (non-explicit), as Charles has relationships with many, many women, even after he's married. One of the women becomes pregnant. Characters drink, smoke (constantly) and take drugs, including marijuana and heroin. A character OD's (off-camera), and there is a harrowing scene of detoxing after Charles decides to end his 20-year heroin habit. Characters use very strong language. A child is killed and another loses his sight. A strength of the movie is its frank coverage of the pre-Civil Rights era, where the "Chitlin' Circuit" was the (almost) all-black venues where black performers were booked. In one understated scene, it makes clear that no restaurants would allow black customers, so they had to make arrangements at the homes of black people along the way. In another scene, Charles refuses to perform in a facility that does not allow black customers and is sued by the promoter and banned from the state of Georgia as a result.

What's the story?

Jamie Foxx portrays brilliant musician Ray Charles in this biopic, which follows Charles' story beginning with his impoverished childhood in the South. Traumatized by the accidental death of his little brother, young Ray goes blind but finds the strength to deal with his condition from his strong-willed mother. As a hardworking musician touring the South, Charles endures Jim Crow laws and prejudice. He eventually strikes out on his own, shocking the music industry by mixing soul and gospel and by delving into new territory with a country and western album. He marries and starts a family, but as his star begins to rise, he has affairs and gets deep into heroin. At rock bottom, Charles once again finds strength in his mother's words and makes a gallant comeback.

Is it any good?


Jamie Foxx creates such a real and vivid person that we almost forget that he is re-enacting someone else's life. The movie's two greatest strengths are Foxx's incendiary and fully-inhabited performance and Charles' peerless music. There are also outstanding supporting performances, including Kerry Washington as Charles' wife Della Bea, Regina King as back-up singer (and mistress) Margie, and Curtis Armstrong as Atlantic records executive Ahmet Ertegun.

But RAY focuses too much on Charles' personal life, and not enough of the process, inspiration, collaboration, or the passion that made the music. It also tries to cover too long a time span, and has too many undeveloped peripheral characters. It over-simplifies the influences and developments in Charles' life and music with too-frequent revelatory flashbacks that tie his reactions and each of his songs to particular revelations and turning points. But there are many moments of great power as Charles says he must be paid in singles so he cannot be cheated and insists on owning his own music instead of letting the studio control it. He breaks through musical barriers that separate R&B from country and societal barriers that allow a black man to perform in segregated venues. And every time he plays and sings, it is pure magic.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what made Ray Charles strong and what made him weak. Should he have left Atlantic? How should he have treated Jeff after Joe told him what he did? Which of Aretha Robinson's advice to her son was the most important to him?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 29, 2004
DVD release date:February 1, 2005
Cast:Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King
Director:Taylor Hackford
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:152 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:depiction of drug addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements
Awards/Honors:Academy Award

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bymaeindenver April 9, 2008

Wow! A must-see for all -- not just music lovers.

Definitely not for children, but definitely for mature teenagers. So much more to this movie than the normal PG-13 movie. Overcoming adversity, perserverence, the evils of drug use, the history of segregation in this country, the history of the soul music, etc.The acting and the story are excellent. An superb group of African American actors tells a moving story about a great African American figure. Jamie Foxx is getting a lot of Oscar buzz and it is justified. Learned tons about Ray Charles that I didn't know and while he had severe personal weaknesses (drugs and sex) his ability to overcome his blindness, the racial prejudices of the 40's-60's AND even his drug addiction is truly inspirational. Some of the women portrayed are truly role models -- Ray's mother and his wife.Proves that an R-rated life does not have to be portrayed in an R-rated manner.
Adult Written byjorgeal95 March 6, 2011

Ray Charles biopic = fair

It is a good movie with an Oscar-winning performance. Very well deserved. Drugs are the only concern. If you watch with a younger one, assure them it is not good to take in drugs. Other than that, great movie about the life of Ray Charles.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written bymoviemogul April 9, 2008

Sad yet inspiring, I remember seeing this one in theaters...

All I can say is that was my favorite movie when I wtched it on the opening weekend (until I started watching more movies). When a 15 (now) year old can tell that an actor is doing an amzaing job, you know that it has to be one hell of a performance-- which is what Jamie Fox gave. I didn't like how Ray kept cheating on his wife, and the movie did carry a sad tone most of the way through, until the end when he was welcomed back into his home state. There was a fari amount of iffy content, which included the sexuality, some language, and of course, Ray's addiction to heroine (when he first tried it, one of his friends said: "It's better than sex." to which Ray responds, "Nothing is better than sex.")-- so you can get an idea of what's in there. Also, some younger viewers might be sad during Ray's flachbacks to his childhood, especially given the way they were presented.


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