The Fisher King

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Fisher King Movie Poster Image
Intense Gilliam drama has strong violence, mature themes.
  • R
  • 1991
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Do the best you can with what you've got. Feeling guilty about one's actions means nothing unless you act to redeem yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack is a selfish, callous jerk who feels sorry for himself because a madman was spurred to a murderous rampage by Jack's words. Jack believes he can redeem himself by throwing money at a street person whose life was upended by the tragic event. Then he believes redemption will come if he finds the street person a girlfriend. Then he believes he will be redeemed if he steals the "Holy Grail" for the street person. When his fortunes improve, he leaves friends from the past behind and reverts to his callous self. Perry is a cheerful, hallucinatory psychotic with a heart of gold.


A woman's brains are blown onto her horrified husband's face when she's shot by a madman in a club. Vigilantes who hate the homeless try to beat up the drunken Jack and pour gasoline over him. The same guys stab Perry and put him in the hospital. Perry runs from a terrifying hallucination of a threatening knight on horseback.


A woman describes former sexual partners as boring. She kisses her boyfriend but he doesn't want to go further. Perry looks at a woman's ample cleavage. A man is shown naked at night in Central Park; his genitals are briefly glimpsed but mostly obscured by the dark.


"F--k," "s--t," "bitch," "t--ties," "a--hole," "scum," "penis."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and marijuana and drink a lot of whiskey.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Fisher King, the 1991 Terry Gilliam epic, addresses mental health issues brought on by violent trauma -- in this case, the gory gunshot murder of a man's wife in front of his eyes. The man has frightening hallucinations of a giant knight on horseback coming after him, and is violently attacked by street vigilantes. He's also seen naked at night in Central Park. His genitals are briefly glimpsed but mostly obscured by the dark. Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and other curse words. Adults smoke cigarettes and marijuana and drink a lot of whiskey.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byChristopher W. September 20, 2019

One of Terry Gilliam's best

Also one of Robin Williams's best performances. Yes, there's lots of swearing and alcohol and what-not, but there are also themes of honor and chivalr... Continue reading
Adult Written bySpike G. March 22, 2018

Two stars? They gave solid movies like this, "American History X" and "Unbreakable" two stars, and trash like "Twilight" and "After Earth" get three?

Just a note beforehand: The icons I select are not for "too much" of something, it's just a warning that there is such. -------------------------... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old February 17, 2019

Pretty good.

Pretty sad but not at all as violent as critics say there's really only a couple scenes. But lods of language with frequent f bombs like every minute and... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bySees Little July 27, 2016

Not as cheesy as you would believe

The humor is funny and the message is good. It manages to draw many parallels with life and makes warnings to people who might fall into the same hole that the... Continue reading

What's the story?

The casual words of a misanthropic radio shock jock (Jeff Bridges) unknowingly spur an unstable listener to kill innocent people in a night club in THE FISHER KING. One victim is the loving wife of a history professor (Robin Williams) named Perry, and after her brains are blown into his face, he goes into a catatonic state and then delusional psychosis, including visions of little people and a threatening knight on horseback. His mission is to steal what he thinks is the actual Holy Grail from a zillionaire's home. The radio host blames himself for the massacre and quits, losing his wealth and position. Living above a video store with its owner (Mercedes Ruehl), he is engaged in a monumental pity party that includes consumption of lots of whiskey and wallowing in misanthropy. Salvation arrives in the form of Perry, the widower now living mostly on the street. Jack tries to be generous but also distant as Perry gradually breaks down Jack's walls.    

Is it any good?

While performances by Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams are compelling and much of the script is both ambitious and intelligent, overall The Fisher King leaves one disappointed. Director Gilliam (a former member of the Monty Python comedy group) continues his penchant for grand themes and visual complexity, but the disappearance of Perry's psychosis strains credulity. And over and over, the movie indicates that Jack isn't a good guy, even after he seems to have reformed. For that reason, when he yet again attains a degree of humanity at the end, it just doesn't seem believable. Even more disturbing, for more than two hours, this movie seems headed for an unhappy ending, yet it culminates with a tied-in-a-bow happy Hollywood finish.

Most puzzling of all is the mythical story that gives the film its title. The Fisher King, dying and self-pitying, is given water by a kind court fool. Instead of the kind act logically resulting in the fool being rewarded, the king, who was just lying there feeling sorry for himself, suddenly achieves what he has always wanted. That sounds unrealistically Hollywood, too.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Fisher King indicates that Jack is not the nicest person. Does Jack seem sympathetic?

  • The movie seems to indicate that mental health comes and goes. Do you believe that Perry is back to normal by the end of the film?

  • The movie gives reasons for every act of violence it shows. The men who beat up Perry and Jack, thinking they're bums, seem to want to purge their neighborhood of unsightly homeless people. The man who shoots up a nightclub believes that the club's patrons look down on him. Do you think having a "reason" can ever justify violence? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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