The Sting

Movie review by
Elliot Panek, Common Sense Media
The Sting Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Smart, stylish '70s caper has language and violence.
  • PG
  • 1973
  • 135 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 16 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Gun violence, including a scene in which a character is shot in the forehead and killed. Dead body found in an alley Punches thrown between characters. Some blood. 

Sex

Women in a vaudeville show dance topless with only pasties covering their nipples. Sex insinuated (very indirect).

Language

Profanity throughout. "N" word used. "S--t," "bastard," "ass," "son of a bitch," "for Christ's sake," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's a lot of cigarette and cigar smoking. Drinking in bars -- whiskey, beer. During an extended scene in which one of the lead characters plays poker on a train, the lead character pretends to be drunk while drinking shots of gin poured from a bottle he sloshes around (the bottle is actually filled with water). When the two lead characters meet for the first time, one of them is extremely hungover and possibly still drunk; he is shown passed out, then dragged into a tub to sit under a cold-water shower until he sobers up. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sting is the classic 1973 crime caper in which Robert Redford with Paul Newman play a pair of grifters looking to get even with the mob boss who killed their friend. There's a lot of cigarette and cigar smoking. Some gun violence, including a scene in which a character is shot in the forehead and killed. A man is found dead in an alley. Some profanity, including the "N" word. Women are shown in a vaudeville show topless except for pasties on their nipples. In an extended scene in which one of the lead characters is playing poker on a train, the lead character pretends to be drunk on gin, sloppily pouring from a bottle into a shot glass while slurring his words (the bottle is actually filled with water). When the two lead characters first meet, one of the characters is extremely hungover and possibly still drunk; he is dragged into a bathtub to sit under a cold-water shower until he sobers up. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDet. Bruin March 23, 2020

Best Movie Of All Time!

Top to bottom the cast is one of the best in any movie. Headlined by Redford and Newman along with Robert Shaw, Charles Durning and Ray Walston.
This clever... Continue reading
Adult Written byDet. Bruin March 23, 2020
Kid, 9 years old May 7, 2020
Teen, 14 years old Written byjusticeleague10 May 4, 2018
A really great movie. There isn't a whole lot of action, but that doesn't take away from the movie at all. It is known as a classic movie and a really... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE STING teams Robert Redford with Paul Newman in a lively 1930s crime caper. When grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and his partner Luther cross the wrong mobster, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), Luther turns up dead. Seeking revenge, Johnny enlists the help of old friend Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), con artist extraordinaire. On a train to Chicago, Johnny and Henry get in on a high stakes game of poker with Doyle, roping him into a larger scheme. With some help from a large supporting cast of accomplices, Johnny hatches an extended plot to bilk Doyle out of every penny he has. The fun stops when the FBI puts the screws to Hooker, convincing him to be part of a sting operation to catch the real big fish, Gondorff. In the end, the last one to double-cross the other wins.

Is it any good?

Part of the entertainment of The Sting is just how elaborate the scams can be. The entire movie is an extended series of sidelong glances, winks, and nods. At different moments in the story, the audience is positioned as the shyster and the mark, never sure who is telling the truth. It's a film steeped in nostalgia, not only in its setting, but in style as well. It has more than a few retro touches, from the storybook introduction to each act to the shadowy alleys reminiscent of 1940s film noir.

Despite some serious moments for the sake of drama, the film is full of joyfulness that borders on smugness. The fun in watching it comes from knowing that someone is being taken for a ride, but not knowing exactly who has the upper hand or exactly how things will play out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the serious ramifications of a life of crime that are not addressed in this film. What are the risks involved with planning such schemes? Were these crooks driven to crime because of the Great Depression? If someone constantly lies and cheats others, can he ever be trusted, even by his closest friends?

  • What are some of the ways in which the movie brings to life Chicago in the 1930s? 

  • How are women represented in this movie? How is it different from the way men are represented? 

Movie details

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