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Parents' Guide to

Reality Bites

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Comedy about 20-something slackers isn't for kids.

Movie PG-13 1994 99 minutes
Reality Bites Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 13+

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, paying bills, getting decent jobs, self-esteem, and finding true meaning to their existence. I used to watch this plenty of times at around 12 years old because I had a crush on Ethan Hawk. It centers around Lelaina (Winona Ryder) who often uses a camcorder to document her "unexciting" life with her friends after college, sharing quotes and thoughts on every day occurrences. She lives with her friends and bunks with her best friend Vicki (Janeane Garofalo), is also best friends with Troy (Ethan Hawk) who's unemployed musician and Sammy (Steve Zahn) who's confused about where he belongs. There is always a connection between Troy and Lelaina where you think they just may end up together but nothing actually happens until she meets a hunky video executive named Michael (Ben Stiller) and jealously starts to spiral. Lelaina can't seem to make up her mind while Vicki, who works at the Gap, is concerned about her AIDS test results. In the end, Lelaina must choose between a life of security with a man she barely has fun with or a life with a lazy slacker who hits all the right notes. I loved the emotional scenes throughout which is incredibly realistic, the discussions and behavior of each character were solid. The language is pretty mild with sh*t (twice), b*tch, hell. Violence has some arguments and one angry outburst where a guy hits a wall. Sexual content includes a few scenes of kissing, a woman dates two guys, a guy dates a woman to get another woman's attention, women talk about sexually related stuff like becoming a lesbian would be easier...etc, talk of an AIDS test, rhino's in a home-made video are shown having sex for a second as a joke, a young couple kiss and sleep together where we see some skin, touching and groping (no nudity), a TV host is reading from cards and says he likes very young girls...this was meant to be written as a joke from an employee who gets fired, a frustrated man sings a love song on stage about wanting to go to bed with a woman, he uses some suggestive words ("Can I get just one screw"). There is some drinking, there is a scene of pot smoking but not explicit, a woman chain smokes at one point due to stress, lots of smoking by characters throughout. Overall, great story with good humor and storyline. OK for 14+.
age 16+

just the retro that we need today

refreshing cult classic hawke as troy dyer who can't get just one .. piece of satisfaction on his fast track journey to loserville as he romances lelaina, the porcelain ryder in collegiate mid 90s, summer texas. Spade & Stiller add hilarity

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (1 ):

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.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: February 18, 1994
  • On DVD or streaming: July 21, 1998
  • Cast: Ben Stiller , Ethan Hawke , Winona Ryder
  • Director: Ben Stiller
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 99 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: some language, drug content and sensuality
  • Last updated: August 19, 2023

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