The Right Stuff Movie Poster Image

The Right Stuff

Educational, exciting action, great acting.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 200 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie does a thorough job of depicting the pressures affecting the first astronauts' wives, but it's clear that the women are expected to maintain the household while their husbands make history. One character laughs at a comic routine involving a Hispanic astronaut. Although all the men are married, some show interest in other women.

Positive role models

The astronauts demonstrate communication and curiosity, as well as courage and teamwork.

Not applicable
Not applicable

A fair bit of relatively minor cussing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Right Stuff -- which was previously rated R in 1983 and was later re-rated -- is very long and some of the astronauts' conduct, including locker room-type banter, may be unsuitable for younger kids. For older kids, the movie offers a human perspective on what is arguably America's greatest technological feat -- space flight. It also addresses themes of loyalty and the value of cooperation through a gripping story and spectacular visuals that have aged well. Peppered with laughs, it also features an Academy Award-winning score.

What's the story?

As the Cold War begins, America strives to achieve super-sonic flight at the start of THE RIGHT STUFF. But once Soviet satellite Sputnik captures international attention, putting a man in space becomes America's top priority. The movie juxtaposes Edwards Air Force Base, where Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) makes history as the most daring pilot alive, and Cape Canaveral, where a few carefully selected men, including John Glenn (Ed Harris) and Gordon "Gordo" Cooper (Dennis Quaid), train diligently to be hurled into space. As NASA scientists and engineers struggle to come up with a feasible rocket, the astronauts (and their wives) struggle with the tremendous risks of their profession, along with sudden, overwhelming fame. Once NASA devises a rocket capable of surviving a launch, the seven astronauts deemed to have what it takes band together and form a heroic team.

Is it any good?


This fine adaptation of Tom Wolfe's best-selling book is over three hours long, but a well-structured story, stellar acting, and exciting action sequences make the time fly. Especially hilarious is a ridiculous sequence where the astronauts-to-be, including ultra-cocky contestant Gordo, undergo a barrage of pointless medical and endurance tests. The only fellow who seems unruffled by the ordeal is John Glenn (now a U.S. Senator in real life), a former Marine whose charm and moral stature never waver. The Right Stuff is an epic love letter to America's aviator heroes, but its reverent tone is interjected with plenty of humor. Good for tweens and teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the competitiveness of the astronaut program shown in The Right Stuff and how the families coped. How would you deal with such dangerous work?

  • Discuss the way that Yaeger was shut out of the program. Why are college degrees so important? Is it possible to be successful without one?

  • What about how Gus was treated after his capsule sank in the ocean? Do you believe that it was an accident?

  • Families can also discuss how the media portrays space exploration in general. Is it always exciting?

  • How do the characters in The Right Stuff demonstrate curiosity and communication? What about courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 21, 1983
DVD/Streaming release date:April 27, 1999
Cast:Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard
Director:Philip Kaufman
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:History, Space and aliens
Character strengths:Communication, Courage, Curiosity, Teamwork
Run time:200 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of The Right Stuff was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 10 and 11 year old Written bydrawnat November 28, 2010

Good movie, but mixed bag and iffy for kids under 12

This movie is great, but is also a mixed bag when it comes to role models, language and sex. I have a ten year old and felt some of the language was a bit more than I expected. *Spoiler* Also, one thing that caught me by surprise was the masturbation scene (off screen) as a sperm sample is requested as a part of the astronaut screening process. This required a whole discussion for one of my sons, which we had not expected. (In the end, a good thing, but would have been good to know it was coming.)
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 6, 10, and 10 year old Written byRedthreadmom October 14, 2009

Should really be PG-13 for cursing. Maybe even R.

I agree with thepedens--language is far worse than "mild" as the Common Sense Review termed it. I watched this movie with my two 10-year-olds, chose it after reading the review and then sat praying they would not get some of the language. The language is NOT OK for 10, or even 11. This should be at least PG-13. There was also a scene where Gordy had to give a sperm donation. While they didn't show anything, I fast-forwarded, as I really, really didn't feel like explaining what THAT meant.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written byscott2323 April 9, 2008

This movie should be rated R still

This is a great movie but the amount of language is way too strong for PG. I saw it at school and we had to skip some parts because of all of the language and stuff