The Great Outdoors

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Great Outdoors Movie Poster Image
Good cast can't help lame man vs. nature farce.
  • PG
  • 1988
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The importance of family togetherness and open communication is stressed in dialogue (though not necessarily realized in the story). Materialism leads to selfishness and lack of joy.  In one scene a leading character orders a drink by saying "I'm driving. Club soda for me."  (Note: While the movie preaches nature's beauty and wonder, it shows it as mostly frightening and unwelcoming.)

Positive Role Models & Representations

Father-son relationship is admirable. Good parenting is exhibited by responsible, caring Ripleys; bad parenting is illustrated by the disinterested, self-involved Craigs. Teen boy and girl find romance in an admirable way.


Lots of cartoonish, slapstick violence involving a scary dog with bared teeth; numerous shots and sequences of bears with fangs, bared teeth, chasing and threatening the families. Father tells a scary story about a bear with a taste for blood attacking people in a mental hospital, and a story with flashbacks about his own encounter with a "vicious" bear. Two children get trapped in a well with bears threatening. One punch to the face.


Silly, exaggerated cuddling and sexual repartee between a husband and wife, which ends with visual of wife beginning to undress; her bare back is shown.  A few romantic kisses between a teen boy and girl. One shot of a girl being "goosed" by a pool cue.


Frequent mild cursing and use of potty language: "s--t,"  "asshole," "butthead," "sonofabitch," "bastard,"  "Jesus Christ," "dick," etc.


Leinenkugel Beer, Kidder skis, Point Beer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some casual drinking at meals, during leisure moments, and in a bar. Smoking in numerous scenes, including one teen shown with a cigarette, reflecting values when this film was made in 1988.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that numerous scenes with images of bears on the attack, fangs, and teeth bared (no matter how unrealistically and amateurishly these sequences have been filmed), as well as frequent use of potty language (lots of "ass," "s--t" in various forms) and swearing make this comedy inappropriate and potentially frightening for the youngest kids. There is also a scary dog; scenes in which two young children are lost and trapped in an underground tunnel; "ghost" stories about dangerous bears (with fantasy flashbacks) designed to frighten the kids in the story. Sexuality includes a silly foreplay scene in which a husband partially undresses his wife as they cuddle, only to get caught when another family arrives unannounced. There are some teen kisses, drinking, and some smoking (including teens).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMovie TV April 24, 2019

Funny Movie

I remember watching this as a little kid and I can remember rewatching the bear chase scene over and over. This movie is hilarious but it's got some inapp... Continue reading
Adult Written byMatt B. January 3, 2019

Would be PG-13 in todays standards

This is not as family friendly as it may look. There is scene with some sexual content and partial nudity.
Kid, 12 years old January 11, 2021
Teen, 15 years old Written byHikingmountain September 5, 2020


Super funny movie, definitely a classic 80’s film. There is some swearing (such as “s**t”, “g*dd*mn”, “a*s”, “vermin”, “horny”, and “b*tch”) but a 13 year old c... Continue reading

What's the story?

The Ripleys set off on an idyllic family vacation in the Midwest woods. Their plans for bonding with each other and communing with nature are immediately halted by the arrival of the Craigs, their rich in-laws who are disdainful of the beautiful outdoors and, in the case of Mr. Craig, have an ulterior motive for the surprise visit. What follows is a series of mishaps and misadventures as the wholesome Ripleys conflict with the materialistic, clueless Craigs. The entire group faces multiple mini-catastrophes, including angry bears, runaway power boats, leeches, lost kids, wise-cracking raccoons, a slapdash teen romance, and mounting family dissension.

Is it any good?

This movie has little character development, even less resolution, and an almost non-existent plot. THE GREAT OUTDOORS is basically a series of skits and would-be comic confrontations between American middle class values, represented by Chet and Connie Ripley (John Candy and Stephanie Faracy trying very hard to make the most of ridiculous situations and dialogue) and the arrogance of the rich, as portrayed by the Craigs (Dan Aykroyd, almost manic in his efforts to find some humor, and Annette Bening, who mugs a lot in an early career misfire). Unfortunately, the skits go nowhere; they just end so that the viewer can move on to the next chaotic event. The subtitled dialogue of marauding raccoons between scenes is the only glue that holds this mostly unfunny effort scripted by the usually talented John Hughes together.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • How is the movie like a cartoon even though it's a live-action movie made with real people? What are some of the elements you expect in animation that the filmmakers have used here?

  • Why do you think the movie chose to exaggerate and change authentic bear behavior? How do real bears differ from those seen in this film?

  • Does anyone get hurt in this movie? Are there things that happen here that would usually hurt and/or injure a real human being?

Movie details

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