The Joy Luck Club

Movie review by
Kelly Kessler, Common Sense Media
The Joy Luck Club Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Poignant tale of Chinese-American moms, daughters.
  • R
  • 1993
  • 139 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 2 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

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

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFrances72 July 9, 2020
Adult Written byLady8787 April 16, 2019

Joy luck club

A very emotional movie with adult themes but it has stayed with me through out the years. A very well told story. A lot to gain and to understand. Suggest 18 +... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 March 21, 2021

The Unjoy Trash Club

This movie is very trash!!
Teen, 16 years old Written bymoviemogul 2.0;... April 9, 2008

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mother-daughter movies

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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