The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble Movie Poster Image
Worthwhile tale of adolescence and difference.
  • NR
  • 1976
  • 100 minutes

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Kids say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Todd uses binoculars to spy on the girl next door as she gets ready for bed. We see plenty of Gina in skimpy bathing suits, but no nudity. One boy who's in a bubble says he wants to get a hooker when he gets out; the two obliquely discuss masturbation. Teens kiss on the couch and the two leads make out in the back of a van (of course, Todd's in his space suit.)

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teenagers experiment with smoking and then pot smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story deals with the themes of loneliness and teenagers maturing into adults. Some teens have fun at Todd's expense, but the movie clearly indicates that this is hurtful behavior. Older grade school kids may enjoy the charming story, but parents should be aware of some mature content, especially sexual situations. Preteens will probably get the most involved in the story. Teens' interest in this video is debatable. They'll relate to the growing pains but may laugh at the over-the-top acting style.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bybubbleboy June 6, 2009

It's Got John Travolta, But It's SO Corny

Yes, Mr. Travolta gives a good early performance here, but the film is too made-for-TV-movie-ish (yes, I understand that it was.) Though it teaches acceptance a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byyourboi01 April 9, 2008


i saw it in my health class and it was ok.

What's the story?

In this made-for-TV movie, Joe (Robert Reed) and Mary have lost several children, but give it one more try. This time their newborn's immune system isn't lethal, but the child is forced to spend his life inside a plastic bubble; any contact with the germ-laden world will bring certain death. As a teen, Todd (John Travolta) suffers typical teenage angst, coupled with his growing frustration at being confined to his plastic home. He goes to high school via closed circuit TV before devising a space suit contraption that allows him to physically attend class. He also falls for Gina, the girl next door. Initially, Gina treats Todd cruelly and uses him to cheat on school tests, but eventually, she returns his affection. Todd's growing frustration leads him to risk his life by venturing out into the world, unprotected.

Is it any good?

Travolta certainly attacks his part with gusto; even if this movie reeks of after-school special, his wide grin has movie star written all over it. THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE was a huge hit when it aired on network television in 1976, solidifying young Travolta's reputation as a mega star. The movie's fame endured, even inspiring a Seinfeld episode where the gang goes on a wacky journey to visit a bubble boy. Whatever its original goofy charm, the movie hasn't aged terribly well. One 13-year-old viewer ridiculed Travolta's performance and found the story and acting "too melodramatic."

By the movie's second half, this teen was closely following the story. She really liked the scene where Todd goes to school in his "space suit" because it was "just so embarrassing." That's the thing: Whatever its over-the-top elements, the story has an odd way of sneaking up and hooking you.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Todd adapted. Why did he finally make the decision to leave the safety of his bubble to go out into the world? What would you have done in a similar situation? How is Todd's plight similar to all teens?

Movie details

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