Risky Business

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Risky Business Movie Poster Image
'80s classic is filled with sex, cursing, and smoking.
  • R
  • 1983
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Though Joel doesn't get to keep his ill-gotten earnings, he otherwise escapes punishment in the end and wins much greater prizes: a boost in life and an evident discovery of his destiny, which is to become rich and materially successful. He doesn't seem evil or corrupt in the traditional sense, but definitely has no problem with being a pimp. Prostitution looks like a temptingly glamorous (and self-empowering) career choice, and just about all female characters are treacherous tramps or harsh authoritarians. Obviously this was meant as satire of 1980s values, but it comes across as close to an endorsement.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen characters drink, smoke pot, have sex with prostitutes. Lead character becomes a quasi-pimp as a way to raise a lot of money in a short amount of time. 


Reckless driving and car collisions; a gun waved around. 


Sex and prostitution are key plot ingredients, with brief full-frontal female nudity, and girls in skimpy, provocative clothes. Simulated sex, in dream sequences and even in public places, and talk of masturbation. One sex worker is a cross-dressing man. Lead character shown having sex with a girl who is initially a prostitute, but later becomes his girlfriend. Lead character begins to masturbate in bed. He allows a friend of his and his girlfriend to use his bedroom for sex; they are heard having sex as the lead character and his friend try to study. Reference made to various sexual acts and practices as a character reads the most X-rated classified ads to his friend. 


"F--k" is used repeatedly, including in what would be the script's catchphrase: "Sometimes you just have to say 'What the f--k.'" Plus "s--t," "a--hole," and "damn." Euphemisms for sex and masturbation. 


Lead character drives a Porsche, repeats the slogan of the car's advertising campaign of the time. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen characters get high on marijuana; drink whisky, beer; smoke cigarettes and pipes. Lead character smokes, cultivates a "cool" image with sunglasses and a cigarette. Underage drinking, among other things, at wild party. 

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEliteMovieCritic January 29, 2019

Vile, perverse, vulgar, dark horrible film

That if you’re willing to watch this sex, nudity filled film you need Heart Healing, and need to know that protecting your eyes in purity is a life saver!!
Al... Continue reading
Parent of a 16-year-old Written byAshley G. December 22, 2018

A New Classic

My mother took me to see this movie at the theater in 1983 when i was barely 15. When I walked out I knew Tom Cruise was star bound. The movie is funny with a l... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybarton March 22, 2014
Teen, 14 years old Written byClorox bleach June 3, 2020

I didn’t really care about this movie

I didn’t really care about this movie.

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? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love the '80s

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