The Right Stuff

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
The Right Stuff Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Exciting '80s astronaut movie has cursing, sex.
  • PG
  • 1983
  • 200 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Depictions of the classic "all-American" grit and determination required to undertake America's first steps in space exploration and the Cold War Space Race. 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 Latino astronaut. Although all the men are married, some show interest in other women. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The astronauts demonstrate communication and curiosity, as well as courage and teamwork. John Glenn talks of how everyone has unique gifts and talents and it's up to them to develop them to their fullest capacity. 


A test pilot is killed while trying to break the sound barrier in a plane. Talk of test pilot deaths. Peril shown as the astronauts begin their return back to Earth. 


One of the astronauts discusses his willingness to "drill the brains" out of one of the nurses when they're being examined. Young female fans of the astronauts enter a Cocoa Beach, Florida bar where the astronauts are drinking; one of the girls says, "four down, three to go," implying sex. Astronauts take girls back to their hotel rooms. Required sperm samples from the astronauts leads to masturbation-themed jokes; masturbation clearly implied as some of the astronauts are in bathroom stalls. A woman performs a naked fan dance in a rodeo arena at a massive party; very brief nudity. 


"F--k" a few times. "A--holes," "pr--k," "s--t," "p---sy," "goddamn," "bastard," "pecker," "son of a bitch," "ass." One of the astronauts makes a pun based on a racial slur used toward Mexicans. Some sexual innuendo, and requirements of the astronauts to provide sperm samples elicits some masturbation-themed jokes. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer and whiskey drinking in bars. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Right Stuff is a 1983 movie based on the nonfiction book by Tom Wolfe about America's first astronauts and the beginning of NASA and the "Space Race." The first astronauts and the test pilots who proved that it was possible to break the sound barrier and go into space are shown to be heroic, brave, and fearless; however, with the exception of John Glenn, these men are also shown to be "rough around the edges" -- men who slept with younger female fans, cursed, drank, and made off-color jokes. Expect to hear "f--k" as well as "pr--k," "s--t," and "p---sy." Some jokes involving sex and masturbation. A woman performs a naked fan dance in a rodeo arena at a massive party; very brief nudity. One of the astronauts is fond of imitating a popular comedy bit from that time in which a white comedian portrayed a Latino "astronaut." The bit involves broken English and a thick stereotypical accent; Latinos are shown to be angered by this astronaut's imitation. There are no women scientists shown working in the space program, and certainly no female astronauts. Nonetheless, what shines through is the bravery of the first astronauts as they face the anything-can-happen nature of those early-manned space missions and their new statuses as "American heroes" when back home. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 i... Continue reading
Adult Written byajharding November 17, 2020

Really good- For Teens

Showed this in my HS Science class, not a fan of the sperm donation scene. Wouldn't recommend.
Kid, 12 years old April 28, 2021

"Let's light this candle!"

The Right Stuff is one of my favorite space biographical's about the Mercury Seven. Here is what parents need to know:

Profanity 9/10: F--k is frequently... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLukeCon October 26, 2020

A long but intelligent depiction of the early space era

The Right Stuff certainly knows what it's talking about. Through its 3-hour span, it becomes clear that The Right Stuff's portrayals of NASA's be... Continue reading

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, 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. 

Talk to your kids 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?

  • This was originally a long nonfiction book. What would be the challenges in taking a story as large as this one and making it fit the tine constraints of movies? 

  • 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

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