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This Is Spinal Tap

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

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 11 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.

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 byBestPicture1996 June 22, 2015

Hilarious and groundbreaking

Try to avoid reading too much into this movie. I've had a lot of its gags spoiled for me, so try to see it (at 15) with a fresh face. Like mockumentaries t... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 26, 2018

Not innapropriate!

Great movie! Some bad language but nothing that terrible. Some sex references as well.
Kid, 12 years old February 16, 2019

Dumb, Dated, and Dry

Rob Reiner/Christopher Guest comedy lampoons British rock bands. The brilliant invention of the coming to America mockumentary (e.g. Borat) was created, though.... Continue reading

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

For kids who love quirky characters

Our editors recommend

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