The Buddy Holly Story Movie Poster Image

The Buddy Holly Story



Bio of '50s music icon has great music, positive values.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 1978
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A strong message about how working hard and pursuing goals enthusiastically results in good fortune and success. Shows how rock 'n' roll promoted racial integration for music fans before the civil rights movement began to significantly change the culture.

Positive role models

Unlike most modern film biographies of musical stars, in this bio (part-fact, part-fiction) Buddy Holly is shown as a music powerhouse who doesn't engage in self-destructive activities (i.e. drinking, drugs, womanizing). He's steadfast, loyal, and unchanged by fame and fortune. In addition, he's a staunch defender of African American musicians and wholeheartedly joins them onstage. Music industry personnel are portrayed as honest, well-meaning, and unselfish.


A brief scuffle; someone breaks down a door.


Some kissing. Teenagers in 1960s are necking in a parked car; the boy tries to touch the girl's breast. Buddy and his wife are shown in bed together.


Occasional swearing and coarse language: "hell," "s--t," "Goddamn," "sonofabitch," "bastard," "for Christ's sake," "ass," "play with myself." Also some racial slurs used by the hero to shame a bigot: "dark meat," "nigra," and the "N" word.


Coca Cola, Jell-O, Dr. Pepper, RCA, CBS, Vertigro.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking in social settings, including toasting with champagne to celebrate. The Crickets' drummer is seen drinking alcohol in numerous scenes and getting drunk before an important appearance. Occasional smoking of both cigarettes and cigars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Buddy Holly Story is a good-hearted look at a rock 'n' roll pioneer that contains lots of great music and none of the melodramatic excesses of many musical biopics (no drugs, no overt sexuality, no self-destructive behavior). Only the credits at the end of the film reveal that Buddy Holly died in a plane crash on the night after the final performance in the film. There's occasional swearing, with repeated use of some expletives: "hell," "sh--t," "bastard," "damn," "ass," and more. When a bigot utters a racial slur, Buddy Holly counters with slurs of his own to embarrass the offender. Alcohol is consumed in several scenes; one character drinks too much and gets drunk. Some cigar and cigarette smoking consistent with the time period.

Parents say

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What's the story?

There's a new musical sound emerging in the late 1950s: rock 'n' roll. In a very short time, Buddy Holly and The Crickets go from playing at a roller rink in their hometown to radio stations, TV shows, and sold-out concerts all over the United States. THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY is a showcase for the infectious, high energy music of this rock 'n' roll hero. The film traces the group's meteoric rise and short-lived career, Buddy's head-over-heels romance with the young woman who would become his wife, and loosely covers some bumps in the road on the way to stardom. Gary Busey sang his way to an Oscar nomination for his wonderful portrayal of Buddy. The singer-songwriter's untimely death in an airplane crash is mentioned only in the credits at the end of the film.

Is it any good?


The music's wonderful. All the great, memorable Buddy Holly songs -- and there are many -- are performed with gusto and an earnest attempt to recreate those moments when the world caught wind of a sparkling and infectious new talent. What little story there is, is predictable, safe, and does nothing to tarnish Holly's squeaky clean reputation.

The film's not perfect, by any means. The scenes that show the Crickets as the first white group to perform at the Apollo Theater are corny, but give a shout-out to music's role in anticipating what was to come later in America's fight for racial integration. Except for the occasional coarse language, the film is family fare: a fun, old-time look at a well-loved and influential phenom.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Buddy Holly is considered one of the most influential creative forces in early rock 'n' roll. What do you think there was in his music that inspired such artists as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones?

  • How did parents and society in general react to early rock 'n' roll music? Are there parallels to more current music (rap, Lady Gaga, heavy metal)? What does this say about the challenges that occur in a changing culture?

  • How does this movie deal with race? What did you learn about music's role in race relations in this time period? What kinds of stereotypes are challenged or reinforced in The Buddy Holly Story?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 18, 1978
DVD/Streaming release date:September 7, 1999
Cast:Charles Martin Smith, Gary Busey
Director:Steve Rash
Studio:Columbia Pictures
Topics:Music and sing-along
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
Awards/Honors:Academy Award

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byKorbyn January 11, 2013

Buddy Holly

Love this movie, one of my all time favorites. The movie shows how someone from a small town can achieve their dreams only by trying. Gary Busey performs Buddy wonderfully. Not all of the story is true, but what they have done is wonderful! Although it does have a sad ending, as you may have guessed, it is a wonderful movie.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism