Top Secret!

  • Review Date: February 24, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1984
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Silly spy spoof delivers near-nonstop stream of laughs.
  • Review Date: February 24, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1984
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The sides are clearly drawn in this spy spoof: the Nazis are the bad guys and the daring resistance fighters are the good guys. There's nothing subtle going on here.

Violence

A fair bit of slapstick violence, including battle scenes that are obviously fake and played for laughs instead of excitement.

Sex

No sex or nudity but plenty of sexual references disguised as silly jokes and sight gags, some less subtle than others.

Language

Some mildly suggestive innuendo, but no profanity.

Consumerism

Dated references to commercial products of the 1980s.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the puns, one-liners, quips, and sight gags come fast and furious in this silly spy spoof from the same team that created the Airplane! films. Some of the material in the 1984 film is dated today, but most of the jokes hold up. Val Kilmer is impressive in this early role, singing, dancing, and demonstrating excellent comic timing. There are some off-color remarks and several scenes that have sexual images, though they are more ridiculous than erotic.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

American teen idol Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is invited to perform at a cultural festival in Germany, unaware that the event is a diversion, and the dastardly Nazi organizers are secretly planning a surprise attack in this laugh-a-minute parody of World War II action flicks. After he arrives, Rivers meets a beautiful woman (Lucy Gutteridge), gets thrown into jail, discovers the top secret plot, and becomes involved with a band of daring resistance fighters who are trying to rescue an imprisoned scientist.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

If that sounds like a complicated mish-mash of plot threads, well, that's the point. The narrative structure in TOP SECRET! is really just a framework for the non-stop jokes. Yes, some of the lines are stinkers, and some must have seemed funnier in the 1980s than they do today. But there are so many jokes, puns, sly references, sight gags, and recurring bits that two or three strike home for every one that misses the mark.

The film was directed by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, the same genius team that created this spoof genre with their earlier Airplane! movies. This model has been used over and over again, sometimes effectively (the first Scary Movie stands out) and sometimes not (hopefully nobody can Remember the Spartans). Some of the more recent entries in the field seem tired, trying to wring jokes out of obvious references to other pop culture touchstones, but early efforts like Top Secret! had strong scripts and still deliver plenty of laughs. A young Val Kilmer shines, singing, dancing, and delivering one ridiculous line after another with a completely straight face. And look for Omar Sharif in a small role as a nearly-indestructible secret agent.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about parody. Many of the jokes in this film are funny because of their sly references to other films. Is it possible to enjoy this movie without an understanding of pop culture and the common elements, and tired clichés, of World War II action movies? How has this genre evolved since this movie was released? Can you spot this formula at work in other, more recent parodies? Which ones pull it off well, and which ones fail to deliver?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 8, 1984
DVD release date:July 16, 2002
Cast:Lucy Gutteridge, Omar Sharif, Val Kilmer
Directors:David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Adventures
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of Top Secret! was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 7 and 10 year old Written byejj November 7, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 
SPOILERS BELOW - there are 3 scenes that I think are inappropriate for most children due to sexual content and I would have given this an R rating for those jokes. Otherwise it was pretty funny and would be fine for even some elementary aged kids (my opinion). 1) A man says he is unable to give his wife an orgasm and the hero hands him the "Anal Intruder" - a giant vibrator with a fisting attachment that he gets out and begins assembling. 2) The villain in the back of a cow suit has a calf come to nurse from the udders - and he obviously enjoys it. 3) Again with the villain in the back of the cow suit but this time a bull decides to mate with the cow.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 10, 12, and 15 year old Written byPheo November 3, 2013
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

The reviews aren't completely correct

Based on the reviews here, I was expecting the sexual innuendo to mostly be of the type that goes over my kids' heads. Unfortunately, some of the sex gags were more explicit than I was expecting. And in spite of reviews to the contrary, there is nudity in this movie: a photo of a topless woman on a calendar.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written byElementarySchoo... January 31, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 
I loved this movie as a teenager, but as a parent--no way. LOTS of inappropriate things for kids that are not strongly cautioned against in the CSM review.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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