Saturday Night Fever Movie Poster Image

Saturday Night Fever

(i)

 

Disco drama is not just daaancin' yeah!
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1977
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Tony Manero goes from a delinquent with racist and sexist attitudes to a more mature guy who realizes there are better things and more admirable ways to behave. Along the way there's plenty of bad behavior: cruising for fights with rivals, meaningless sex, drug connections, and nocturnal mischief that eventually kills one of them. The Catholic religion followed closely by Tony's joyless, stifling (somewhat stereotypically Italian-American) family isn't shown to be a positive thing, or even relevant in their lives, and Tony's brother leaves the priesthood because he no longer has faith.

Violence

The worst is saved for the end of the movie: a gang-rape (though the camera is an anguished non-participant the whole time). Tony and his gang have a streetfight with Puerto Ricans that results in lots of bruises and bandages. Another fight (off-screen) puts one guy in the hospital with broken limbs. One of the characters dies in a fall off a bridge.

Sex

Even with sheer disco-dance outfits and leotards, men show more flesh than women: Tony flexes before a mirror in briefs, some of his buddies are pantsless while having sex in the back of their shared car. A near-naked go-go dancer is in the background of one scene. Plenty of sexual remarks and challenges ("Are you as good in bed as you are on that dance floor?"). Talk of pregnancy (and marriage) as an unhappy consequence of sex.

Language

In the R version: frequent F-words and C-words, plus racial epithets for African Americans and Latinos. The racial stuff is still there in the PG version, but the S-word is more common.

Consumerism

The car Tony and his friends share has a prominent STP sticker, Trojan-brand condoms make a significant appearance, and there's a dialogue reference to Polaroid cameras (and Polaroid's now-forgotten ad campaign featuring actor Laurence Olivier). But it's the soundtrack, practically quadraphonic in its '70s disco-palace tunes that heavily pushes the Bee Gees and other artists.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of social drinking (including while driving) and some drug use, with much talk of "getting high."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that two versions of this hit were released on home video, one a PG-rated (more deserving of a PG-13, really) edit, mainly on VHS, and a later R-rated DVD that put back a lot of the original theatrical film's harshest gutter language and vibes. Both detail urban gang-style behavior by the characters – even by nominal hero Tony Manero -- with much swearing, fighting, casual and/or animalistic sex (the most disturbing being a gang-rape at the end), and ultimately deadly mischief. Though Tony ends up seeking a healthier path, his family's Catholic religion has nothing to do with it; in fact, his brother, a priest, quits the clergy, declaring that he has no faith anymore.

What's the story?

Nineteen-year-old Brooklynite Tony Manero (John Travolta) lives uncomfortably at home with his large Italian-American family, works at a local paint store, hangs out with his troublemaking pals, and treats marriage-minded girlfriend Annette (Donna Pescow) with contempt, partially because she won't have sex with him. Tony's main escape is on the illuminated floor of a glittery club called 2000, where he's the star and his dance moves take him to a fantasy world away from a dead-end routine. While dancing Tony meets a local girl named Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) who has big plans to move up in life via dance lessons and relocating to the city. Tony coldly dumps Annette as his dance partner in the club's upcoming competition and starts training with Stephanie. She challenges Tony to grow up too -- but Stephanie's no angel; it's hinted that she's also the mistress of her married boss. With his gang's ongoing feuds, girlfriend crises, and family problems, the hero has a fateful turning point on the night of the dance contest.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Despite the Bee Gees' disco music and bell-bottom trousers, Saturday Night Fever is a tough and serious-minded drama about restless, sometimes violent young men on the sordid side of New York City. Travolta fought to keep his character not just vulnerable but also raw and occasionally cruel, and that's why Tony Manero works so well (Travolta received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor). The story packs a punch and should not be seen by younger children looking for Dance Dance Revolution cues.

Even Hollywood producers thought the movie was unusually profane and explicit, and when it was released on VHS, it was in an edited PG-rated form (which would be considered at least PG-13 today), with alternative versions of certain scenes that director John Badham shot for network TV airings (Badham has said he thinks the PG scenes have better acting). In 2002 the coarser R-rated edition appeared on DVD, and parents should know it really is more severe.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Tony's finding value and self-esteem on the discotheque floor (and in a small raise he gets at his paint-store job) that he says he doesn't receive at home, where he's considered the black sheep. It's interesting that Stephanie, the love interest who helps Tony see the error of his ways, isn't the proverbial "uptown girl" outsider, but someone from his own neighborhood who is trying to actively better herself after "crossing the bridge" into Manhattan society. You can discuss how much of this storyline is specific to New York City and its social classes, and how much is universal -- especially the similarities to other films about at-risk youth, from Rebel Without a Cause to 8 Mile. Also, why do you think this film and its soundtrack are still so popular today?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 16, 1977
DVD/Streaming release date:October 8, 2002
Cast:Donna Pescow, John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney
Director:John Badham
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Drama
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong language, sexuality/nudity and some drug content.

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Kid, 12 years old February 15, 2012

Saturday Night Fever - A 12 year old's point of view.

Yeah, I'm a 12 year old, but I'm really mature for my age. The original R-rated version is FILLED with sex, profanity, and racism. I saw this because of John Travolta (of course). A rape scene, well, actually there's two, and.. 2 sex scenes? A good classic movie from the 70's with a rocking' soundtrack. It's an adult film. Parents, I would seriously think about letting your kids watch this movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byMacstar June 9, 2012

Good Movie!!!

I think that the film was great and it teaches kids a lot about life and how to pick your friends wisely etc. And yes Rated-R version of the film has a lot of swearing, Nudity, Sex, Alcohol and drugs. The violence in this Film is the least of your concern. So I would say if you are to watch this film with you kids stick to the PG version but I think the Original version (Rated-R version) has a stronger impact and message to the viewers.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written byoctober1985 May 31, 2009
There are two versions of this movie. A PG version which you probably wont find anymore, and the original R-rated version. I was actually suprised at how much sex and profanity were in this 1977 film(especially after viewing the PG version first). I guess it wouldnt be the end of the world if you let a 13 year old watch it.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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