The Turning Point

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Turning Point Movie Poster Image
Well-acted '70s dance drama has sex, mature themes.
  • PG
  • 1977
  • 119 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Know what you want and then go after it. Artists lead difficult lives that require great sacrifice. Often we choose one option in life and let other attractive options go. Women who opt to marry and have families instead of following their passions might have regrets later. Women who pursue all-consuming careers rather than families and children might have regrets later. People who spend the most time thinking about art sometimes also spend a great deal of time thinking about raising money to fund their art. The artistic life of a performing dancer is short. "It takes all the running you can do to stay in one place." It's important to teach what you know to the next generation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Artists who pursue their art at the highest levels can be brusque and insensitive in defense of their artistic integrity, but sometimes they're just brusque for no good reason. A talented young ballet dancer tries to stay grounded as she's thrust into a world of big egos. A woman cheats on her husband.


Bloodied feet of a hardworking dancer. Emma throws her champagne in DeeDee's face, then the two engage in a physical fight that is part wrestling match and part slap-fest, until the two old friends fall into each other's arms in laughter. 


Seventeen-year-old Emilia is attracted to an older, flirtatious male dancer in her company. His bare torso and her bare shoulders are seen. They kiss. Sex is implied. Soon after, she walks in on him as he is about to have sex with another dancer. Emilia tells her mother that she is taking the birth control pill. DeeDee has an affair with an old friend while visiting New York City, cheating on her long-time husband. There are references to the existence of homosexuality among male ballet dancers. Male and female dancers dance sensually in each other's arms. A dancer in her mid-40s nearing the end of her career has a long-term affair with a married man.


"S--t," "bitch," "horny," "bastard," "screw," "queer."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. A 17-year-old girl sits at a bar and drinks until she is extremely drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Turning Point is a 1977 dance drama. Sex, affairs, and homosexuality are all discussed without judgment. An underage girl drinks to inebriation and is treated gently by her mentor. The same girl has sex with a playboy. She tells her mother that she is using the birth control pill. Her mother is supportive of the daughter's adventurousness. Profanity includes "s--t," "bitch," "horny," "bastard," "screw," and "queer." Old friends hash out old wounds and slights, baring long-hidden jealousies and hurts.

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What's the story?

In THE TURNING POINT years before, DeeDee (Shirley MacLaine) had given up a major ballet career when she became pregnant with her dancer husband's child. They moved to Oklahoma to raise three kids and run a dance school. Later, her old company comes to town for a performance, and she reunites with Emma (Anne Bancroft), her old friend and rival, a prima ballerina now at the end of her stellar career. DeeDee believes she should have had Emma's career and is jealous and angry. DeeDee's daughter Emilia (Leslie Browne) is recruited by the company and heads to New York with DeeDee as chaperone, where both have affairs and DeeDee sorts out her regrets.

Is it any good?

This is a touching story about youth and age, regret, jealousy, art, and the choices people make, portraying each of those with great clarity, humor, and insight. Herbert Ross' directorial style can be a bit obvious -- people are always showing up at doorways just as something is about to happen, and a certain amount of gay dancer clichés and Russian machismo substitute for character study. But the masterful Anne Bancroft embodies the glory of great artistry and fame at the same time that she shows the pain her character's success has cost her. In one throwaway glance, she conveys all the future anguish and ecstasy she knows is ahead for the young dancer she is mentoring. If for nothing else, this record of Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing in his prime makes it more than worthwhile. The movie earned 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, but didn't win any.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way the movie reveals some of the worst of human nature -- jealousy and cutthroat careerism -- yet also affirms what is best in us: loyalty and forgiveness.

  • It seems as if the lonely Emma regrets not having a family, and the artistically stifled DeeDee regrets not sticking with her career. What do you think the movie wants you to feel about regrets? Does everyone have them, no matter what choices have been made?

  • Does the movie suggest that maturity is achieved when one accepts that every choice rules out lots of other interesting possibilities?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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