Selena

Movie review by
Teresa Talerico, Common Sense Media
Selena Movie Poster Image
Touching and ultimately tragic tale of young Tejano star.
  • PG
  • 1997
  • 128 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 13 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Assumptions such as "Women are not successful in music," "Girls don't play drums," and "Mexican-American performers cannot crossover to find a wider audience in the United States" dispelled through the actions and talents of Selena, her family, and her band. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie shows the hard work required for musicians to make it in the music industry. Through perseverance, talent, and dedication, Selena -- with the help of her family -- finds hard-won success in both Mexico and the United States. She transcends what her father called "the roadblocks," rooted in sexist and racist attitudes, often put in the way of female Mexican-American performers. Selena also is shown always having time for her fans. 

Violence

It's not shown, but we learn through news reports that a character has fatally shot someone; she's then shown holding the gun to her own head. We briefly see the victim being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher. Early in the movie, a barroom brawl ensues when a Mexican-American doo-wop group performing in a predominantly Mexican-American club in Texas in the early 1960s doesn't play the type of music the patrons want to hear. A stage nearly collapses during a concert. 

Sex

Kissing between two main characters who later get married; an unidentified couple is shown kissing passionately at a fair. Selena wears some skimpy tops on stage.

Language

A character says "s--t" and "damn" in frustration. Non-Latinos are referred to as "gringos" in a few scenes. "Caca." 

Consumerism

A bag of Doritos and a can of Coca-Cola are visible in separate scenes. Signs for Bank One hang prominently from the rafters of large concerts. The guitarist of the band wears a Jose Cuervo T-shirt and later wears a Jose Cuervo hat. A six-pack of Bud Light is plainly visible in a hotel room. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer drinking in a rough-and-tumble bar in the early 1960s; patrons act drunk and throw bottles at the performing band. A hard-rock band is shown trashing a hotel room; empty beer bottles are strewn throughout the room. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Selena is a 1997 movie is based on the life of the popular singer who was killed in 1995. Kids may ask questions about the events surrounding her murder. It isn't shown, but one character does hold a gun to her own head. A character says "s--t" and "damn" in frustration. Non-Latinos are referred to as "gringos" in a few scenes.  Selena wears some skimpy tops on stage. There's a barroom brawl and a near stage collapse. For aspiring musicians, this movie shows the amount of work, dedication, and perseverance it took Selena and her family to find success. This movie also shows the sexist and racist attitudes Selena had to transcend as a Mexican-American female lead vocalist. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 year old Written bygoldn80s April 15, 2011

parental guidenace suggested.

If I dare to let a five year old watch this film, I would cover his/her eyes to the inappropriate parts, I would like him/her to see her success, love Selena ha... Continue reading
Adult Written bypurpleslayer57 April 9, 2008

memories

i enjoyed this,and jlo played a great selena of course.
Kid, 12 years old July 10, 2009

Love it!

We love this movie!!!
Teen, 17 years old Written byabbacus June 14, 2012

Really good!

Good movie for tweens.

What's the story?

SELENA, a touching, effervescent, and ultimately tragic biopic, tells the story of the Grammy-winning Tejano singer Selena, who was killed at age 23 by her fan-club president. Jennifer Lopez shines in the title role of the movie, which chronicles the performer's rise to stardom and explores her relationship with her tight-knit family, including a domineering yet loving father, Abraham (Edward James Olmos). The story begins with one of Selena's last performances, a concert that drew record-breaking crowds, then flashes back to Selena's childhood in Texas. Her father, a former singer, recognizes Selena's natural singing abilities and organizes her and her siblings into a musical group. The kids perform at festivals, and Selena slowly develops a following. By the time she's a young adult, she's a superstar in the Tejano music scene. Abraham is proud of Selena but can't accept that she's growing up. This leads to various conflicts, which boil over when Selena falls in love with the band's lead guitarist, Chris (Jon Seda). Just when Selena seems content and on the brink of mainstream pop success, her life is tragically cut short. Selena's death is depicted mostly through TV-news-style reports, although there's a scene of her killer (Lupe Ontiveros) holding a gun to her own head.

Is it any good?

Although it occasionally feels somewhat sugar-coated, this film remains a very watchable, entertaining, and moving tribute to a beloved performer. Selena also includes portrayals of Mexican-American culture and Hispanic families. A great pick for families looking to learn more about the Tejano superstar.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Selena and her father. Why is he so domineering? Does he deny his kids a childhood by forcing them to perform in a musical group? Or is he urging them, especially Selena, to reach their potential?

  • Selena's father is shown lamenting the difficulties of Mexican-Americans in having to prove that they're as American as any other American but also as Mexican as any other Mexican. Do you think this accurately reflects not only what Selena had to overcome as a performer but also the difficulties of other Mexican-Americans?

  • How accurately do you think this movie reflects the struggles and successes of a touring band trying to make it in the music industry? 

  • Thousands of young girls idolized Selena. How does the movie depict her as a role model through her personality, her ventures in music and fashion, and her ability to succeed despite ethnic and gender challenges? How does she demonstrate perseverance? Why is this an important character strength?

  • Kids might have questions about Tejano music, a Tex-Mex genre that blends elements of pop, country, Mexican polka, and other styles. Where could you find more information on this topic?

Movie details

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