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The 'Burbs

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The 'Burbs Movie Poster Image
Dated slapstick comedy-horror mix is silly but stale.
  • PG
  • 1989
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Potential messages about being too quick to judge others or about taking a good look at yourself before accusing others are erased in the end when the truth about the mysterious neighbors is revealed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carol Peterson models concern, using common sense, and tackling problems head-on. Ray, Art, and Rumsfield all model letting their imaginations run away with them and taking matters to the extreme. Teen neighbor Ricky is home alone, has a party, and is seen drinking beer.


A hopeful mention of finding someone's head cracked open. On a television, part of a slasher movie briefly shown; screaming and chainsaw sound effects are heard. Television also briefly shows what looks like the vomit scene from The Exorcist. A dream sequence shows a spooky satanic cult, a man with an ax in his head, and bloody clothing. A bloody hand is seen, with the "blood" later said to be paint. A car trunk full of skeletons, with closeups of skulls. A large explosion sets an entire house on fire. A gun accidentally discharges and is fired at birds.


A married couple kisses twice on the lips and once on the cheek. A teen boy compliments a scantily clad woman's lack of tan lines.


"Goddamn," "dump," "bastard," "ass," "crap," "hell," "bulls--t," "p---y-whipped," "Jesus Christ," "s--t," "poop," and "piss off." Name-calling includes "weenie." One man refers to women he knows as a "broad" and a "chick." Dog feces shown.


Jeopardy heard on TV, and main characters play along. Tide, Post Toasties, Barnum's animal crackers, McDonald's Quarter Pounder.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigars. Adults drink beer a few times; a teen drinks beer once or twice.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The 'Burbs is a slapstick comedy with some light horror but no real gore. It's about men who suspect that their neighbors are serial killers. Blood's seen once on clothing and is smeared during a handshake; many skeletons are shown in the trunk of a car. Strong language is not frequent, but one character says "goddamn" half a dozen times, and there are curse words such as "p---y-whipped" and "s--t." A teen staying home alone has a party and drinks beer. Adults drink beer and smoke cigars.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written byB1rd May 5, 2017

Rated 12 but contains clips of rated 18 Horror movies

We put this on to watch with our kids as it is rated 12 and my husband remembered enjoying it as a child. The situation with the neighbours is pretty ominous a... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byCali_Dad December 31, 2016

Everyone can relate to the 'Burbs

The 'Burbs is an under-appreciated movie. The entire movie takes takes place on a single street. The neighbors begin to suspect some foul play when an ol... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byDiscordzrocks July 4, 2015

Swear central but fun movie

There's some fun slapstick violence but to younger it could be scary and a the teenage boy is talking bout girls tan lines and some smoking but if that... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byspenlock October 9, 2018

Halloween movie for the family

I watched this with my whole family, kids ranging from 9 to 17. It's a great movie that the entire family can enjoy. There are very little curses, but ther... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) and neighbor buddies Art and Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) suspect that the creepy new family on the cul de sac are serial killers, but their attempts to find evidence by spying on the neighbors come up empty. When the neighbors have to go away for a day, the three friends invade the house, determined to find proof of foul play once and for all.

Is it any good?

With such a strong cast and veteran director (Joe Dante), THE 'BURBS should have been a better movie. The weak link here is the writing. About the best that can be said is that it clips along at a good pace. Sure, there are a few laughs here and there, but the slapstick is too predictable to offer anything genuine. The situation is hackneyed. The events are not credible, and the script doesn't really help suspend your disbelief enough to go along with the goofiness.

Teens likely will enjoy some laughs despite the familiarity of the slapstick tropes. They may also enjoy the outlandish '80s teen fashions. (We really did used to dress that way, kids.) But with so many better choices available from just about everyone involved in this film, your time would be better spent elsewhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies that combine comedy with scares. Why do we enjoy them so much?

  • Have you ever suspected that someone was up to no good? What did you do? Were you right?

  • Have you seen any other moves starring Tom Hanks? How does this one compare? Which is your favorite?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love to laugh

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