Scent of a Woman

Movie review by
Ellen Dendy, Common Sense Media
Scent of a Woman Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Pacino's intense performance best for older teens.
  • R
  • 1992
  • 157 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Main adult character deals with his sad circumstances by excessive drinking and angry outbursts; rich prep school students play expensive prank on their headmaster; headmaster tries to bribe a student; one student finds himself being forced to choose between snitching or accepting a bribe; the main teen character is a responsible, level-headed kid who tries to help a suicidal man overcome his anger and fears.


Main adult character is suicidal and tells teen caretaker that he's going to blow his own brains out; adult slams a relative up against a wall and gets in a physical fight with his teen caretaker over a gun.


Main adult character is obsessed with women (as objects, not people) and sex and uses escort services; non-graphic discussions of sexual encounters.


Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "dammit," "son of a bitch," "tits," "p---y," "piece of tail."


Jack Daniels, Ferrari, Waldorf Astoria.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main adult character is an alcoholic who drinks Jack Daniels throughout most of the film while his level-headed teen caretaker drinks just a single beer in one scene; prep school teens smoke cigarettes in a brief scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this R-rated movie includes strong language, and one of the main characters is an alcoholic who constantly drinks Jack Daniels. There is talk of sex, but no sex scenes or nudity. There are some physical altercations, but no blood or gore. One character is suicidal and points a gun at his teen caretaker. In one brief scene, high school prep students are shown smoking cigarettes. Spoiled, rich teens play an expensive prank on their headmaster, and then pressure peers to lie for them.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybenbackster May 23, 2021

scent of a woman

great role models
Parent of a 8-year-old Written byP G October 4, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written bylohanbaker1401 May 23, 2021

scent of a woman

really good role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byvascoclara December 13, 2020

What's the story?

In order to make some extra money, prep school teen Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) takes a job caring for Frank "The Colonel" Slade over Thanksgiving holiday. Charlie wants to back out of the job as soon as he meets the cantankerous man, but he's too nice to say no to the colonel's harried niece who obviously needs a vacation. A tough, aging ex-military man, the colonel no longer has control of his life due to blindness. He's bitter, angry, drinks Jack Daniels like it's water, and lives in his niece's converted garage because his other relatives can't stand him. Charlie has his own problems – for one, he's a small-town teen attending a fancy prep school on scholarship. He's also witnessed his bratty "friends" committing a crime, and after the holidays he'll be forced to rat on them, accept a bribe from an authority figure, or be expelled. Charlie's life-changing adventure begins when the colonel drags him to New York City for a weekend of indulgences, after which the colonel declares to his young caretaker, "I will blow my brains out with a gun." As the weekend wears on, Charlie and the colonel slowly come to understand each other.

Is it any good?

While there's little violence overall, Scent of a Woman is intense -- Al Pacino gives a powerful performance that's on the verge of frightening as a very angry, depressed man. The performance earned Pacino his first Oscar.

Because of the colonel's intense nature, and his suicidal thoughts, the film is best suited to older teens, and some parts may be too disturbing for more sensitive teens. There are many good messages here (responsibility, caring for the disabled and down-and-out, anti-suicide, the importance of friends and family, and more), but the film also shows the stark reality of adult depression and alcoholism. The colonel pulls his life together with Charlie's help, and repays that kindness in a big way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the reasons the colonel is so angry and depressed. How did Charlie get over his first impressions of the colonel, and how did he try to help him want to keep on living? Why was the speech that the colonel gave at the prep school so powerful? What do you think Charlie learned from the colonel, and vice versa? Do you think the colonel is an accurate portrayal of an addict? How is the colonel like or unlike addicts depicted in other movies?

Movie details

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