This Is Spinal Tap

Movie review by
Afsheen Nomai, Common Sense Media
This Is Spinal Tap Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Hilarious, ribald, drug-filled rock send-up.
  • R
  • 1984
  • 83 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

While the band members are comically tragic failures, they do pursue their dreams. And nobody engages in anti-social or criminal behavior.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The group overcomes obstacles by sticking together. That said, there's some bickering, and characters are generally oblivious.


One cartoonish scene in which a man smashes things with a cricket bat.


Lots of sexual innuendo; almost all song lyrics are about sex. Not much actually shown.


All major curse words used during conversations, mostly when people are angry.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking, some casual drinking. Lots of references to drugs and alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spinal Tap is a fictional band, and Rob Reiner's classic "mockumentary" about them highlights their failure. There are moments when the language gets a bit heavy with curse words, but they tend to be short and sporadic. Violence and sex are almost non-existent except for the songs, which tend to be heavy with sexual innuendo. Lots of references to drugs and alcohol. But much of the humor will go right over younger kids' head.

Wondering if This Is Spinal Tap is OK for your kids?

Parents: Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byparent model 87 April 4, 2019

Extremely mild R

The more adult humor in this will go over kids' heads. There's a little language, some groupies in tight outfits who are just sitting around with the... Continue reading
Adult Written byPuddleglum December 21, 2019
Teen, 16 years old Written byMusiclovergig June 25, 2020

Funny classic comedy

One of the most legendary rock n roll movies of all time, and certainly one of the best. This fake documentary about the fictional rock band is hilarious from s... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMr. Mongo May 7, 2020

What's the story?

In THIS IS SPINAL TAP, documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) follows the British heavy metal band Spinal Tap on their tour of North America in 1982. The band is besieged by bad luck (their drummers keep dying off under bizarre circumstances), poor taste, and questionable talent. The main members of the band, David (Michael McKean), Nigel (Christopher Guest), and Derek (Harry Shearer) are so over the top with their performances as rock stars that it's almost impossible for anyone to take them seriously, including their fans, their record company, and their manager(s).

Is it any good?

Make no mistake, while Spinal Tap is a tragic failure of a band, this film is top-quality humor. When This Is Spinal Tap was released, people truly thought it was a documentary about a real band. People would even come up to director Rob Reiner, telling him that he made a great documentary, but should have filmed a better-known band.

This Is Spinal Tap is solid entertainment, especially for those who are huge fans of rock music. The film is mostly ad-libbed by the actors, who all give side-splitting performances. While watching this film, you can't help but cringe and laugh at the band members as they deal with repeated disappointment and disaster. Classic scenes include Nigel talking about amps that go up to 11, the band attempting to harmonize "Heartbreak Hotel" at the foot of Elvis's grave, and, of course, Stonehenge. Appropriate for rock music fans over the age of 13.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between a documentary and a mockumentary. How can you tell which is which?

  • The movie can jump-start a great discussion about the role of marketing in the music business. How much of their success (or lack thereof) does Spinal Tap owe to marketing versus their own (clear lack of) talent?

  • What is director Reiner trying to say to the audience about the music industry?

  • How does this movie's subject matter relate to the current pop music scene?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

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

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate