This Is Spinal Tap Movie Poster Image

This Is Spinal Tap



Hilarious, ribald, drug-filled rock send-up.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1984
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:April 1, 1984
DVD/Streaming release date:September 12, 2004
Cast:Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean
Director:Rob Reiner
Run time:83 minutes
MPAA rating:R

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byMusicman23 April 9, 2008

A Great spoof of the Rock-n-Roll Life. I highly reccommend it!

Awesome movie! Most of the songs have sexual innuendo, but it is all stuff that you would only get if you are old enough to know about it. If you have a mature 13 year old its fine, but anyone younger probably shouldn't see this movie.
Kid, 12 years old September 29, 2011

Hilarious Film about life in a band

Make sure to know your child. some may not enjoy this film, but some, like me, will think its great.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 16 years old Written bySynchronicity May 27, 2010

Takes the essen?ce of heavy metal and turns it up to eleven

Tufnel, St. Hubbins, and Smalls are some of the best people heavy metal has seen. Unfortunately...they're not real. This is one of the best mock-rockumentaries ever made. Of course, it's probably the only one. Spinal Tap - scratch that, Spin?al Tap - is England's loudest band, and you get to learn all about them in this amazing, amazing movie. When it was described that one of the drummers died from choking on someone else's vomit (as opposed to his own), I laughed until I cried. There are certainly many other parts in this film that are laugh-out-loud hilarity, including a famous scene involving a replica of Stonehenge used as a stage prop. Not to mention, it's fairly mild for an R-rated film. The songs have lots of innuendo, such as "Big Bottom", "Hell Hole" and "Sex Farm" (which [SPOILER ALERT] is a big hit in Japan). One of the band members is stopped by airport security for having a foil-wrapped pickle down his tight pants. Yeah, that's totally not suggestive. However, in a world where the sexual hijinks of, say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen can get a PG-13, this is quite tame. The only major reason Spin?al Tap is rated R is because of the bad language. There are about 30 f-bombs throughout the film, and about half of them are used in an argument in a recording studio. Overall, if you want to be cheered up, This Is Spin?al Tap will do the job. Anyone over 12 could see this movie.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models