Saturday Night Fever

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Saturday Night Fever Movie Poster Image
Disco drama has sex, violence, swearing off the dance floor.
  • R
  • 1977
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Much of the characters' negative behavior has little to no consequences. Negative messages about religion; Catholicism isn't shown to be a positive thing, or even relevant in Tony's family's life. His brother leaves the priesthood because he no longer has faith.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tony goes from being a delinquent with racist and sexist attitudes to a more mature guy who realizes there are better things and more admirable ways to behave. That said, along the way there's plenty of iffy behavior: cruising for fights with rivals, meaningless sex, drug connections, and nocturnal mischief that eventually kills someone. Also some Italian-American stereotyping.

Violence

Near the end of the movie, two characters rape an intoxicated woman in the back of a car. Tony and his gang get in a fight 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

Characters frequently talk about and take part in sexual activity. A couple is shown having sex in the back of their shared car; visible naked backside and loud moaning. A stripper's naked breasts are visible. Tony flexes before a mirror in briefs. A sexual poster is on a bedroom wall. Plenty of sexual remarks and challenges ("Are you as good in bed as you are on that dance floor?"). A couple is interrupted while about to have sex. Talk of unplanned pregnancy (and marriage) as an unhappy consequence of sex. Lots skintight leotards and sexy disco dancing. 

Language

Frequent swearing includes "f--k," "c--t," "p---y," "s--t," "d--k," "c--k," "t-ts," "ass," "goddamn," "sp--k," "f-g," the "N" word, and "Jesus" as an exclamation.

Consumerism

The car Tony and his friends share has a prominent STP sticker, Trojan-brand condoms make a significant appearance, and there's a spoken reference to Polaroid cameras. The soundtrack 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."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Saturday Night Fever is a more mature film than the catchy disco soundtrack would have you believe. Though this movie helped put disco (and star John Travolta) on the map, the original theatrical version is full of strong language, sex, and violence. The characters take part in gang fights as well as racist and sexist behavior, and there's a disturbing gang rape scene in the back of a car. Characters drink, smoke, and talk about sex; nudity includes bare breasts and a naked backside. Frequent swearing includes "f--k," "c--t," "s--t," "p---y," and the "N" word. 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. While a tamer, PG-rated cut of the film was once released on VHS, the R-rated version is the now the only one widely available.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMatt B. November 8, 2015

A lot more mature movie then Grease

There is a sex scene and a rape scene. The rape scene is disturbing if it's watched by younger teens and definitely kids. The sex scene is pretty strong, l... Continue reading
Adult Written bycaffinegirl85 February 13, 2012

nice!

wow loved JT good 70's classic more of a movie for teenagers and adults. a really good movie the 70's! yeah!
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... Continue reading
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 s... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, 19-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 2001 Odyssey, 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 -- 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, Tony has a fateful turning point on the night of the big dance contest.

Is it any good?

Despite the Bee Gees' disco music and bell-bottom trousers, this is a tough, 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 gets pretty edgy -- it's not a great pick for younger children looking for Dance Dance Revolution cues.

Even Hollywood producers thought Saturday Night Fever was unusually profane and explicit. When it was released on VHS, it was in an edited, PG-rated form (which would be considered at least PG-13 today), with alternate 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 R-rated edition appeared on DVD, which is the more widely available version today. Parents should know it really is more severe.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Tony finds value and self-esteem on the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever. How does his home life, where he's considered the black sheep, affect his life and behavior?

  • What's the significance of the fact that Stephanie isn't the proverbial "uptown girl" outsider? How does the fact that she's from Tony's neighborhood affect her impact on him?

  • 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

  • Why do you think this film and its soundtrack are still so popular today?

Movie details

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