The Buddy Holly Story

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Buddy Holly Story Movie Poster Image
Bio of '50s music icon has great music, positive values.
  • PG
  • 1978
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

A brief scuffle; someone breaks down a door.

Sex

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.

Language

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.

Consumerism

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMartinez123 November 12, 2020
Kid, 12 years old January 9, 2021

Buddy Holly Story

I think Buddy Story is a good movie about buddy holly. Gary busey is the best actor ive ever seen to play him, and every song sung in the movie is sung by him.... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byilhc November 19, 2020

Busey's Best

At times, you forget that you are watching Gary Busey play Buddy Holly and start to think that you are really watching Buddy Holly! Besides the terrific acting,... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate