The Joy Luck Club Movie Poster Image

The Joy Luck Club



Poignant tale of Chinese-American moms, daughters.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1993
  • Running Time: 139 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Themes include integrity, compassion, communication, perseverance, and courage.

Positive role models

This film tells the story of several very strong women; they each overcome oppression by some seriously bad people. While the women display physical and mental strength, undying family devotion, and abilities to persevere in terrible situations, others--often spouses or family members--are mentally, verbally, and physically abusive and altogether oppressive.


More emotional abuse than actual physical violence. The film does include the drowning of a baby, spousal abuse, implied rape, self-mutilation, and suicide.


Implied rape, one sex scene in long shot with no nudity.


Occasional swearing, but usually in subtitles and minor.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Nothing aside from casual drinking. A character overdoses after eating opium.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Joy Luck Club, based on Amy Tan's novel of the same name, includes scenes of family expulsion and conflict, rape, child abandonment, parental death, spousal abuse (both physical and mental), and suicide. While not actually very racy, raunchy, or violent by today's standards, each story includes extremely upsetting material. This warning is more about emotional content than any graphic sex, violence, or language.

Kids say

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What's the story?

THE JOY LUCK CLUB, adapted from Amy Tan's bestselling novel, chronicles the past and present lives of a group of Chinese-American women living in present-day San Francisco. Told through a series of complex flashbacks, this film interrogates the childhoods and marriages/relationships of four sets of mothers and daughters. From a mother forced to abandon her babies in war-torn China to a Chinese-American chess prodigy oppressed by her mother's pride, these women live through physical, emotional, familial, and sexual turmoil. All eight struggle to find peace and strength within themselves and attempt to pass it on to their own daughters.

Is it any good?


This film truly is a masterpiece that presents the heart-wrenching stories of eight different women and steers clear of lapsing into sugary melodrama. The Joy Luck Club serves as a seldom-seen meaty vehicle for Asian-American actors. Rarely does one see a film that engages so thoughtfully with its female characters.

Alternating from traditional Chinese clothing to Americanized tailored men's and women's suits to contemporary business and casual wear, the costume design uses line, color, and style to help transport the viewer from place to place and communicate the characters' places within varying periods of divided societies. Come prepared with a box of tissues. The cumulative effect of the various stories may leave the viewer reaching for a hanky or two. Mothers and daughters might enjoy viewing this film together as a means of sparking discussion about their own relationships.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about family and cultural differences.What are some ways in which Chinese culture appears different than (or similar to) American culture. How does the shift from China to the United States change the ways that families interact with each other (or does it)? Do these characters have any added pressures put on them by their cultural heritage? 

  • As the film revolves around the stories of four mother-daughter relationships, the film presents a good opportunity to talk about the nature of mother/daughter relationships. What are the similarities and differences between the kinds of conflicts present in the film and those that occur within your family?

  • How do the characters in The Joy Luck Club demonstrate integrity, courage, and perseverance? What about communication and compassion? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 8, 1993
DVD/Streaming release date:June 4, 2002
Cast:Ming-Na, Rosalind Chao, Tamlyn Tomita
Director:Wayne Wang
Studio:Buena Vista
Character strengths:Communication, Compassion, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
Run time:139 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong depiction of thematic material

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Teen, 16 years old Written bymoviemogul 2.0;... April 9, 2008

A fantastic movie based on an even better book.

Adult Written bykungfuflypig April 9, 2008

{Grade: B+} I Just Couldn't Stop Watching It

"The Joy Luck Club" is one of those movies that hits you in every single part of of your body--but for some reason--you want to get hit more. I read the book before and i turned on the tv to TCM, to find a realistic drama of what a Chinese women really had to face. I was shocked. I personally lived in San Francisco as a Chinese kid, and i remember furniture--just like how i knew it. I remember my sister--she had to live in China--i never even knew how she looked like until i finally saw her all grown up. All this and more happens in a finely crafted and complex masterpiece that we call "The Joy Luck Club"--the movie flashbacks eight women's journeys from China to present day America. As i was watching i was flipping the channel to another thing because of the upsetting scenes, but for some reason, i wanted more. I really did, it was just so interesting the realism in the movie, and even the story (which can be conceived as a normal--realistic Chinese family struggle). Parents... WATCH OUT! This movie is exactly how CSM says it is--gut-wrenching. You yourself may find yourself sobbing over the not-so-uncommon depressing flashbacks of the movie. For kids, they will not forget this movie, and all the emotional abuse upsetting themes will make them dream about it. Think about in school. All day long. That's why i would wait until you think your kids are mature enough to handle some brutal-but-heartwarming-material, and of course; the off screen violence, fully clothed sex-scene and sex-related themes. This film should not be mossed, but especially by the Chinese--men and women--because they will be ready to taste some nostalgia.
Adult Written bytommysportsgirl April 9, 2008