A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Risky Business is a dark 1983 teen sex comedy that launched the career of Tom Cruise. This popular comedy earned its R rating. It has sex (both in comical fantasy scenes and reality), full-frontal female nudity, profanity (including "f--k"), glorified substance abuse, and an especially jaundiced outlook: A teen embarks on the road to manhood by becoming a part-time pimp, and the message is that in modern America, that's a wise move, financially and socially. Because the young hero is played by good-guy star Tom Cruise, and because his character escapes punishment in the end, young viewers might interpret this as an endorsement, not a subversive satire. This movie is from a time when cigarette smoking was still widely viewed as part of a cultivated "cool guy" image, and that look is embraced right from the opening scene. Teen characters get high on marijuana and drink alcohol as well.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
High school senior Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) is a fairly bright, fairly typical teen only-child in a wealthy Chicago suburb, preoccupied with sex, exam scores, and whether he can ever get accepted into an Ivy League university like Princeton. When his materialistic, controlling parents leave him in charge of the household during their vacation, Joel (partially but not entirely egged on by buddies) breaks one rule after another, like driving dad's treasured Porsche or letting schoolmates borrow an upstairs bedroom for their sex tryst. When Joel himself summons a young prostitute named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) from the sleazy end of town for a night of pleasure, he's drawn into the after-dark world of the sex business. With the assistance of wrong-side-of-the-tracks Lana, he discovers pimping could be the solution to a lot of his mushrooming woes about money and advantages.
Is it any good?
This dated but appealing comedy is so much more than just a bunch of dirty jokes in the locker room. Though RISKY BUSINESS arrived with a busload of D-grade teen-sex comedies inspired by Porky's (and a young Tom Cruise had even starred in one of them, the little-remembered Losin' It), critics immediately recognized that this was a much smarter, sharper dark comedy about American values in the 1980s. Joel (who also belongs to a school-age business group called Future Enterprises) is like the nice, well-bred kid next door who attains personal and professional rewards not through the traditional paperboy route, but through vice. The lesson at the end is that, yes, this is the way the game is played, even if the "respectable" adult world pretends otherwise.
The question for parents is whether kids watching this perverted Horatio Alger story will comprehend that it was meant to be a commentary on Reagan-era greed and upper-class criminality.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the character of Joel and the message beneath the movie's comedy. What has Joel gained by the end? Has it made him a better person?
How does this movie seem to both celebrate and satirize the greed and materialism commonly associated with the 1980s?
This movie has a universally recognizable scene in which Tom Cruise's character slides on his socks across the hardwood floor into view dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and his underwear, then proceeds to jump around and lip-sync to "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger. What are some other examples of movies with unforgettable scenes and catchphrases?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love the '80s
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch