A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Honesty can improve your life. Men learn to love the women they are attracted to. Women become more and more attracted to the men they love. People place far too much importance on sex. Women do not want sex for the same reasons men want it.
Positive Role Models
John's wife doesn't want to have sex with him. He has an affair with her sister. The wife is suspicious but he tells her he's not having an affair. He's obsessed with position, prestige, and climbing up the ladder at his law firm. He's dismissive of a friend who doesn't share his values. He slept with his friend's girlfriend. Graham interviews willing women about their sex lives on tape. He can only get aroused playing the tapes when he's alone. A woman has sex with her sister's husband.
Violence & Scariness
John punches Graham after he learns his wife has volunteered to talk about her sex life on tape. There's blood on Graham's lip.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man has an affair with his wife's sister. His wife isn't interested in sex with him. Couples have sex. A man lies in bed, presumably naked, with a potted plant covering most of his midsection. Couples kiss, mostly in close-up, mostly with their clothes on. No nudity is shown. Graham, who is impotent when with partners, is only able to achieve orgasm when he's alone watching tapes of women talking about their lives and their sexual experiences. It's suggested, and sometimes stated, that some of the taped women masturbate in front of the camera, not at Graham's urging, but voluntarily. None of this is seen. A woman describes handling a penis. A married woman has never had an orgasm.
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"F--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," "crap," "bastard," "bitch," "balls," and "hard-on."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that sex, lies and videotape is a 1989 drama. The subject of this movie is sex, intimacy, and honesty, but mostly it's about the power of conversation. Masturbation is discussed, although not in graphic detail. A married man has an affair with his wife's sister. An impotent man asks women to talk about their sexual lives on tape so he can play them later and become aroused. No nudity and sex are shown but frank discussions make this fare only for especially mature older teens, most of whom will probably find the talkiness boring anyway. Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," and more. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a thoughtful movie about the challenge that true intimacy poses, but it's unlikely to interest teens. The movie has a pensive and cerebral quality rather than a pornographic one. Its freshness announced the directing career of the 26-year-old Steven Soderbergh as an artist interested in the twisted motivations of real, ordinary people. He suggests that the brain is the most vivid of human erogenous zones. If some scenes ramble on a bit too long or moments of improvisation between the talented young actors seem strained, the weaknesses are forgivable set against the courageousness and intelligence with which the director handles such tricky material. Not to mention that he wrote the script in only eight days.
The most brutally honest and self-aware character in sex, lies and videotape is played by a soft-spoken James Spader, who won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his work. His non-aggressive affect sits on the opposite extreme from the sexually predatory John, played by Peter Gallagher with a dollop of 1980s boom-time self-satisfaction. Perhaps the director's youth inevitably resulted in the work sometimes substituting honesty for depth, but the film is no less interesting for the flaws.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.