The King of Staten Island

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The King of Staten Island Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Funny, touching Pete Davidson story has profanity, drug use.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 136 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Many personal obstacles -- including depression, drug use, a brush with crime, and antagonistic relationships -- are faced and clearly overcome, with generally positive results. Shows importance of boundaries and working on establishing healthy relationships: between friends, between co-workers, between parents and adult children, between lovers, between siblings. Takes a frank, open approach to acknowledging issues surrounding mental health.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Scott is highly troubled and immature for most of the movie, making iffy to outright dangerous choices. But he does care about his mom (and is theoretically happy for her to find new love), his sister, and his friends, and he makes positive changes over the course of the movie through introspection and hard work. The firefighters who take him in and help him work through many of his issues may tease him from time to time, but they never give up on him. Scott's mom learns to put herself first when it matters. Some diversity among secondary characters (Scott's friends and firefighters).


Scott closes his eyes for a long time while driving at beginning of movie in what could be a suicide attempt; he nearly crashes but doesn't. Brief scene from a Purge movie on television includes a gunshot to the head with gory blood spatter. Attempt to tattoo a 9-year-old boy leads to yelp of pain. Robbery attempt, with brief guns and shooting, blood spurt, punching. Character with bloody stomach wound. A building is on fire, with exploding windows. Brief comic fight scenes, with punching. References to Scott's dad's death in a fire many years ago.


Graphic sex scene includes thrusting, groaning. Discussion about whether one partner climaxed (he can't due to taking antidepressants). Passionate kissing. Strong sexual innuendo and sex talk.


Extremely strong, constant language includes "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "bulls--t," "p---y," "t-ts," "c--ksucker," "c--k," "a--hole," the "N" word, "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "damn," "d--k," "penis," "vagina," "pr--k," "douche bags," "jerked off," "cum," "chlamydia," "moron," "idiot," and "dope," plus exclamatory uses of "oh my God," "Jesus," "Jesus Christ." Middle-finger gestures.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Heavy, frequent pot-smoking. One character admits to smoking so much pot that he can't even "get high anymore." Alcohol shots during party scene. Beers in bar. Cigarette shown. Main character talks about taking antidepressants. Xanax mentioned. References to "crack" and "doing coke." Reference to being "coked out of our minds."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The King of Staten Island is a dramedy that's loosely based on star Pete Davidson's real life. Like the character he plays, he lost his firefighter father at a young age, a traumatic experience with lasting impact on his mental health. Not surprisingly for a Judd Apatow movie, it's frequently vulgar but also touching, funny, and authentic. Language is extremely strong, with constant use of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," and just about every other word imaginable. Characters smoke lots of pot and drink socially, and there are references to other kinds of drug use, including cocaine and antidepressants. There's one pretty graphic sex scene, with thrusting and groaning. Characters kiss, and there's some salty sex talk and innuendo. The main character narrowly avoids a crash when he closes his eyes while driving in what could be a suicide attempt. A tense robbery scene includes guns and shooting, a blood spurt, and punching. The movie also has comic fight scenes, a young boy yelping in pain from the prick of a tattoo needle, a bloody stomach wound, and a glimpse of a gory movie on TV. Ultimately, the movie offers a positive message of personal growth and the power and appeal of healthy relationships.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMamaWright88 June 19, 2020

Heartwarming and belly laughs

This is a great story of self discovery with great acting and lots of laughs. Sure to be a hit with anyone who watches it. Beware there are themes of sexual ref... Continue reading
Adult Written bykirbyallen June 14, 2020


I think this movie is great for viewers over the age of 10. Yes, this movie does contain some smoking and swearing and one sex scene at the beginning, but overa... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymurdermystery July 22, 2020

Really Great Story

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND contains moderate film violence, strong language and a sex scene. Parents should know about the drug use.
Teen, 13 years old Written byBUMBUMe June 4, 2021

Really good movie but has drugs

I really enjoyed this movie and I’ve watched it multiple times. It does have a LOT of marijuana use but it’s not disturbing or anything. There are references to... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND, 24-year-old Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is on the path to nowhere. Ever since his dad, a firefighter, died in action when Scott was a kid, Scott has lived with his widowed mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei), smoked pot with his friends, practiced his tattoo art, and done little else. After Scott cheerfully agrees to tattoo a 9-year-old boy without getting any kind of permission, the boy's father, Ray (Bill Burr), storms over to Margie's house to complain -- and soon winds up asking Margie out on a date. It turns out Ray is also a firefighter, and, despite his attempts to befriend Scott, they just can't get along. Soon after Scott's friends get into trouble while trying to rob a pharmacy, Scott gets kicked out of the house and winds up staying at Ray's firehouse, where he starts to learn some important lessons about life.

Is it any good?

Tackling some of Davidson's real-life troubles, this touching, hilarious dramedy is long but breezy, weighty but easy, with an excellent lead performance and a great group of characters. The sixth movie by writer-director Judd Apatow, The King of Staten Island ranks among his best. He still hasn't learned brevity or compactness (of his movies, only The 40-Year-Old Virgin runs under two hours, and this one is 136 minutes). But this time, rather than feeling cluttered and/or unevenly paced, all of the subplots and supporting characters come together in a seamless flow. The movie has a strong sense of place, capturing Staten Island's beauty as well as its seediness. There's hardly a wasted moment, and just about everything contributes to Scott's character arc.

Davidson's comedy -- not exactly nice-guy humor -- won't appeal to everyone, but fans will find him not only very funny but also extremely engaging. There's a great early scene in which Scott's father's death is discussed. It's disguised as a joke but is still somehow utterly poignant thanks to Davidson's perfect delivery. He balances pain and humor expertly, creating an organic, honest performance. He and Apatow make a great team, and The King of Staten Island feels as if it's a work of trust and sharing, with no falseness or cynicism. Tomei, Burr, Bel Powley, Steve Buscemi, and many other fine cast members seem to share in the movie's lovable energy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The King of Staten Island depicts pot-smoking, drinking, and other drug use. Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • How is sex depicted? What values are imparted? How does Scott's view of sex and relationships change over the course of the movie?

  • How does the film present Scott's struggles with mental health, especially depression? How does it compare to other ways you've seen mental health issues depicted in the media?

  • On Saturday Night Live, as well as in the movie, Davidson helps process difficult feelings by talking about them. Have you ever talked with someone about your feelings? Why is it sometimes so hard to do that?

  • Could the firefighters in the movie be considered role models? Why or why not? What about Scott? His mom?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramedies

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