The Birdcage



Campy, comedic romp with lots of profanity.
  • Review Date: August 12, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 117 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Be true to yourself and your loved ones. If you try to hide who you are or lie about who you are to others, you'll only make matters worse by hurting yourself and those you care about. Keep an open mind when you meet someone who seems really different or strange. We're all just people who want the same opportunities for happiness in life.

Positive role models

Armand and Albert are a devoted couple who have raised a son to adulthood and run a business together. There are plenty of dramatics in their relationship, but they both model care and loving support of each other and their loved ones. Senator Keeley is overly concerned with how his chances for reelection are affected by his public image and mainly wants to meet the right kind of people. Mrs. Keeley is mostly a doormat but eventually calls her husband to task for being superficial and having mixed-up priorities. Val's mother, Katherine, has been estranged from the family for 20 years but willingly comes back into their lives to help her son out of a jam.


Early on Armand breaks down a door in a scene played for comedy. A dinner-party discussion includes a reference to killing abortion doctors. Some viewers upset by Robin Williams' death may feel a chill when his character says almost in passing that he's going to kill himself.


South Beach-area background people are scantily clad and occasionally seen semi-nude from the back in G-string swimwear. Household helper Agador's bare bottom is seen once when he's also wearing a thong. A nightclub performer is seen grabbing his crotch in a dance number. A home is decorated with a lot of phallic artwork, and primitive statues with prominent, erect penises are seen.


Most frequently used, about a half-dozen times, is "f--k" and variations. Other strong language used a few times each includes "a--holes," "s--t," and "fag." Used once or twice each: "bastard," "bitch," whore," "goddamn," "prick," "ass," "damn," and "son of a bitch."


Time, People, and Newsweek magazines are mentioned once.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Armand smokes in several scenes, as does his adult son Val. Adults frequently drink champagne, scotch, and wine, including the 20-year-old son, and they're sometimes seen comedically swigging from bottles. Some scenes take place in a nightclub, and drinks are served to patrons. Armand takes a pill once with his morning coffee. Albert asks for tranquilizers before a performance, but he doesn't know that Agador's really just giving him aspirin.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Birdcage is a fun, comedic romp in an adult setting: a South Beach nightclub with a drag show. There's some strong language: "F--k" and variations are used about a dozen times; other profanity is infrequent and includes "a--hole" and "s--t."  Characters are frequently seen drinking, usually with a meal or in celebration, but sometimes characters comedically guzzle from a bottle. Two characters are occasionally depicted smoking. A lot of extras in the background are scantily clad, and some phallic home-decor items are seen. Some viewers upset by Robin Williams' death may feel a chill when his character says almost in passing that he's going to kill himself.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) run a South Beach drag show and nightclub. Their son Val, who's away at college, returns home and announces he's getting married. Unfortunately, Val's fiancée Barbara is the daughter of an ultra-conservative senator, played by Gene Hackman, in the midst of a scandal and a reelection campaign. To help Val win the senator's approval, Armand and Albert reluctantly agree to present themselves as straight when they meet Barbara and her family. But to succeed, they'll have to pull off the greatest performances of their lives.

Is it any good?


THE BIRDCAGE is a fun, comedic romp with a great ensemble cast. Robin Williams gives an understated performance as straight man to Nathan Lane, who chews the scenery with gusto. Even South Beach itself becomes a delightful character under Mike Nichols' direction, and with such a talented cast and strong material he mostly just stays out of the way. Younger teens might be drawn to the colorful, campy atmosphere, but the movie's heart is in the more adult situations. Older teens will more easily relate to the characters as they struggle with how to present themselves to the world.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the world of the Birdcage, a drag-show nightclub, is shown in the movie. Do you think society's attitudes toward homosexuality and drag culture have changed since the movie was made in 1996? Did you notice any stereotyping, or do you think the characters were realistic?

  • If you fell in love with someone whose parents were gay, would you try to hide that from your own parents? Why do you think Val wants to hide the truth from Barbara's parents?

  • What other Robin Williams movies have you seen? How do you think this one compares? Which is your favorite?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 8, 1996
DVD release date:March 25, 1997
Cast:Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane
Director:Mike Nichols
Studio:United Artists
Topics:Arts and dance, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:117 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:Language

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byZAZ August 16, 2015

Funny, Endearing

Really nice film about a happy couple that feels that they have to hide their happiness and who they really are, but eventually overcome this without shame. Great message for any child to hear and hear again. Be who you are, even when people want you to hide it. I disagree with the 15+ rating. Many other films out there with the same "stars" for swearing, consumerism, etc have a much lower age, simply because of the lifestyle choice. And yet, the lifestyle depicted in this movie is one of a loving happy couple.
What other families should know
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