Family movie night? There's an app for that
Download our new mobile app on iOS and Android.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The yearning for fame is corrosive and destructive. An abusive childhood can warp a person for life. "A guy can get everything he wants as long as he pays the price."
Positive Role Models
Rupert is a delusional loner who lives with his mother and fantasizes about being a comedy star. He speaks imaginary dialogues aloud between himself and celebrities who praise his talent and greatness. Although he has never performed his act in front of an audience, he's a surprisingly comfortable performer.
Violence & Scariness
A couple kidnaps a celebrity. They hold a toy gun to his head and bind him with tape. In a comic monologue, a man describes being kicked by his alcoholic father and beaten weekly by school bullies. A crowd outside a TV show stage door grows unruly and pushes against the show's host as he tries to get to his car. An unhinged fan who snuck into the car lunges at him when he gets in. He immediately jumps out.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A mentally unstable woman strips to her bra and panties in the hope of making love with the celebrity she has kidnapped.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"Bastard," "scum," and "schmuck."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Fame and the cult of celebrity are products sold to consumers through television, movies, and the music industry. Mentally unstable people may be especially susceptible to misleading images of life as portrayed by the famous.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult drinks a beer in a bar. Rupert's parents were alcoholics. He reports that his drunken father kicked him.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The King of Comedy is director Martin Scorsese's disturbing examination of the corrupting nature of fame and its troubling effect on mentally unstable people who seek it. The language never gets much rougher than "bastard" and "schmuck," but the central character is a sociopath who obeys no boundaries, neither social nor legal. After he resorts to kidnapping a comic whose talk show he wants to be on, his comedy routine reveals a childhood dominated by abusive alcoholic parents, bullying, and beatings at school. A mentally unstable woman strips to her bra and panties in the hope of making love with the celebrity she has kidnapped. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Scorsese expertly subjects us to the cringe-making, distasteful experience of watching a fantasist relentlessly defy the reality around him. Like Scorsese's more blatantly violent Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy is not for the squeamish. Although somewhat gentler, Rupert has much in common with Taxi Driver protagonist Travis, who was also played by the remarkably versatile De Niro. Rupert is the grown-up unloved child who desperately believes that the adulation of strangers is the cure for the abuse and lovelessness of his youth. When Jerry kicks him out of his weekend house, Rupert shoots back, "Now I know I can't rely on anybody." The comment illustrates the depth of Rupert's misunderstanding of human relations.
The movie addresses the universal problem of fame and the way it can corrupt both the famous and those who are obsessed with them. Certain references, though, are particular to Scorsese's era. Jerry Lewis was once one of the most famous comic actors and directors on earth. Kids will probably be largely unfamiliar with other comedy greats mentioned -- Mel Brooks, Sid Cesar, and Ernie Kovacs -- and frequent talk show guests of the 1970s and '80s, including Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, and Gore Vidal. Similarly, in Rupert's fantasy, Jerry treats Rupert to a surprise on-air wedding. This echoes the 1969 wedding of musician Tiny Tim, a figure of bemusement and ridicule on the talk show circuit. But Rupert is thrilled and feels especially vindicated when his high school principal apologizes on national television for mistreating Rupert 20 years before. The apology is at the heart of what Rupert is after -- validation -- and what, Scorsese seems to suggest, everyone is after, in one way or another.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.