The Rum Diary

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Rum Diary Movie Poster Image
Hazy, rum-soaked cult classic in the making for adults only.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The lead character behaves rather badly at times, and he seems intrigued by the possibility of making big money through some dirty dealings, but the deeper he gets involved, the more he realizes that he needs to stand up for what's right.

Positive Role Models & Representations

On the upside, the main character is a journalist who tries to stand up to corruption and greed. But on the other hand, he drinks too much and behaves rather badly at times, and when he does make an ethical choice, it's somewhat late in the day.


Quite a few angry, violent threats, including a vivid, descriptive death threat. The main character spits fire (using strong alcohol) at some would-be attackers and accidentally burns a cop's face. There's a brief squabble in a nightclub, brief images of cops beating rioters, and two cockfights. The main character is seen with cuts and bruises on his face from time to time. In one sequence, bombs can be heard exploding, which creates tension. Dialogue about a man being "raped to death."


The main character flirts with a woman a great deal; there's some sly innuendo between them, and they nearly have sex but are interrupted (he removes her top, but no sensitive body parts are shown). A woman has sex with her boyfriend in the ocean, up against the side of a boat; it's seen from a distance and no nudity is shown. The main female character dances seductively in a nightclub, and a fellow dancer responds by taking off his shirt. There's strong innuendo and references to a hermaphrodite. A character has "the clap" and asks another character to have a look (nothing is shown).


Almost constant foul language, including many uses of "f--k" in various permutations. Other words include "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "d--k," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "piss," "bastards," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main characters (and most of the minor characters, too) drink very, very heavily -- even obsessively. They drink rum, beer, Scotch, champagne, and many other types of alcohol, including some kind of devilish homemade liquor (420 proof). In one scene, the two main characters also take a bizarre kind of drug that's administered like eye drops, and they both have hallucinations. Characters complain of hangovers, and an editor accuses his writers of being alcoholics.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie based on the 1960s novel by notorious gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson has nonstop drinking, drug use, and strong language. As in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp portrays the writer on screen, but this definitely isn't a movie for the actor's younger fans. Swearing is constant, especially "f--k," and characters drink almost obsessively. Although there's more drinking than drugs, the drugs that are used cause hallucinations. Violence comes mostly in the form of threats, but there are brief squabbles, cuts and bruises, burns, and beatings. There's also plenty of sexual innuendo and suggestions of sex, but no actual nudity. Directed by cult filmmaker Bruce Robinson, The Rum Diary has all the ingredients of a cult classic in the making, but only for adults.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybill colins February 25, 2012

Johnny you've done it again.

great movie. A minor trippy drug scene where a tongue is writhing out a mouth like a snake and a brief sexual encounter seen through a telescope are the only ki... Continue reading
Adult Written byGr8t Moms 4 christ February 14, 2012


good movie
Teen, 14 years old Written bymovieguy97 April 27, 2012

What's the story?

Failed novelist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) takes a job writing for a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, circa 1960. He starts drinking heavily with photographer Bob Salas (Michael Rispoli) but discovers there's more money to be made working with corrupt businessman Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), who's looking to blight the countryside with ritzy hotels. Unfortunately, Paul also has his eye on Sanderson's stunning girlfriend, the troubled and troublesome Chenault (Amber Heard). After consuming monstrous amounts of alcohol and bizarre, illicit drugs, Paul makes up his mind to bury Sanderson with a well-worded article. But is it too late? What will become of Paul after his Puerto Rico adventure ends?

Is it any good?

THE RUM DIARY definitely isn't for everyone. It's too long and very sluggish in places, and there's no real payoff. But it's an unofficial follow-up to 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and it marks the return of filmmaker Bruce Robinson, whose Withnail and I has already attained cult classic status. Add that to Hunter S. Thompson's unwavering underground prominence, and you have a cult classic in the making. And most of The Rum Diary is good enough to deserve it.

Best of all is Robinson's dry, British wit mingling with Thompson's raucous, biting prose, which results in some eminently quotable lines (like "my tongue feels like a towel"). Though it's not as consistently crazy as Fear and Loathing, Depp's performance is more measured and more sympathetic here, and the movie captures some vivid snapshots of Puerto Rico in action. While it's not 100% successful, most of the time it will have you either laughing hysterically or mad as hell.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays drinking. Why do the characters drink so much? What are the consequences of their drinking and drug use? Are those consequences realistic?

  • Is Paul Kemp (a.k.a. Hunter S. Thompson) a hero or a role model in this movie? What does he accomplish?

  • Paul spends this movie looking for "his voice." How important is it for a writer to find that?


Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

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