Reality Bites

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Reality Bites Movie Poster Image
Comedy about 20-something slackers isn't for kids.
  • PG-13
  • 1994
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The characters generally mean well, but they take everything from sex to drug use very casually.


Characters are shown engaging in casual sex with multiple partners. One character has an HIV scare.


Characters explicitly discuss the merits of the Big Gulp. Dominos is mentioned and is featured in the narrative as is Evian.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are shown smoking cigarettes and marijuana and drinking beer and other alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film features 20-something recent college graduates who drink, smoke, and sleep around. There are few consequences for their behavior, save for a very mild subplot in which one of the characters takes an AIDS test (she tests negative). However, the characters generally mean well, and parents who don't object to depictions of sex and drug/alcohol use may find their behavior towards each other acceptable.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove November 25, 2013

Wonderful post-college story for 14+

Reality Bites is an excellent drama (not comedy) basically about life after college and the struggles young people go through to get by, like relationships, pay... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byAdali August 25, 2017

Downs of Life

Reality Bites follows the journey of four best friends through their first year after college graduation. The main character graduated valedictorian in her clas... Continue reading

What's the story?

REALITY BITES opens with a speech in which college valedictorian and fledgling documentarian Lelaina (Winona Ryder) expresses her general dissatisfaction with the world she's about to take on. That vague angst is the most consistent plot thread running through the film as Lelaina and her three buddies Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), Sammy (Steve Zahn), and Troy (Ethan Hawke) labor at worthless jobs, play drinking games, cavort for Lelaina's documentary cameras, and look for love. Lelaina and Troy seem meant for each other, but when she (literally) bumps into an older, slicker television executive (Ben Stiller), a predictable love triangle ensues.

Is it any good?

Overall, the movie is not without charm or laughs, and although the ending is supposed to be happy, it is rather shallow. Anyone over 25 will find the main characters rather insufferable, while those under 25 might find it dated.

And boy, oh boy do the characters who inhabit Reality Bites love to talk. They talk about their love lives, their search for meaningful work, their favorite TV shows. They talk about their lame parents, their boring jobs, their slacker friends. It's not that all the talk isn't occasionally amusing; on the contrary, the dialogue is smart and bubblegum-culture-savvy enough to provoke chuckles amongst Gen X parents. It's just that the characters take themselves so incredibly seriously, and never shut up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies' responsibility. Should movies that target teens and 20-year-olds simply reflect their behavoir -- or does seeing characters drink, smoke and have casual sex on screen glamorize their behavior?

Movie details

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