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Trainspotting

Movie review by
Kelly Kessler, Common Sense Media
Trainspotting Movie Poster Image
Cult comedy has graphic drug use, sex, and swearing.
  • R
  • 1995
  • 94 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 20 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No notable positive takeaways here. Most characters are thieving junkies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There isn't really a role model in the bunch. Although Renton does initially try to give up heroin and turn his life around, he continues to make poor decisions and ultimately ends up worse off than when he started.

Violence

Fistfights and fights with blunt instruments and broken glass, which often have no motivation and can get quite bloody. Faces are seen covered in blood. A knife wound is shown on a man's hand. One scene shows a dead, neglected baby and the mother's distraught reaction to finding it.

Sex

Multiple couples are shown having sex, with visible positions and movements. A topless woman straddles a man in bed with her breasts showing. A character has sex with a 15-year-old girl, although he was not aware of her age at the time. 

Language

Swearing is very frequent and very intense. Language used includes many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t," as well as "bastard," "wanker," "shite," and "shag."
 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The story revolves around the main characters' heroin use, including a major plot point where they sample and attempt to sell it. Characters are frequently seen preparing and injecting drugs using needles. There are several scenes of drug-induced hallucinations. Renton suffers from heroin withdrawals. One character conducts HIV from sharing a needle. A character inserts a morphine suppository up his anus. Characters smoke and drink, and many scenes take place in and around bars. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Trainspotting is a black comedy about of a group of friends (including Ewan McGregor) held together largely by their shared addiction to heroin. Much time is spent simply on presenting sounds and images meant to simulate either the euphoria of heroin highs or the wretchedness of heroin withdrawal. Characters are frequently shown preparing, using, and even selling drugs. Violence includes fist fights and fights with blunt instruments and broken glass, which can get quite bloody. The dialogue is almost wall-to-wall obscenities (including frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t"), although the Scottish accent is often hard for Americans to understand. In a particularly disturbing scene, a baby dies due to the neglect of his heroin-addicted mother. Sex is discussed and shown graphically, including a scene in which a topless woman straddles a man in bed. Also, a character has sex with a girl he later learns is underage. While this movie has reached cult classic status, it's definitely not appropriate for kids. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFloppy C. February 5, 2017

Full nudity, gory violence, drug use

Not suitable for under 18s. Contains several sex scenes and complete nudity. Violent scenes are gory. The protagonist has sex with a school girl, 'not goo...
Adult Written byCastielFan January 26, 2017

Not for Kids

Great film lots of funny scenes but be ware of these f*** bombs still funny movie
Looking forward to Trainspotting 2(T2)
Teen, 14 years old Written byHenry Hill15 February 4, 2018

Trainspotting doesn't glorify drugs - It glorifies film

I love everything about this film and I highly recommend it as one of the best films of all time. It should be fine for mature teenagers. The portrayal of heroi... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byjellybaby March 10, 2019
Realistic portrayal of what life was like in Scotland with a comedic tone would definitely recommend

What's the story?

Tracking the exploits of a group of friends in Edinburgh, Scotland, TRAINSPOTTING is narrated by main character Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor). The film covers the roller coaster-like cycles of heroin addicts, alternately cleaning out and retracting back into the comfort of their addiction. In the final third, the focus shifts to the interpersonal politics amongst Renton and his friends as they attempt to earn a sizeable amount of money through a risky heroin deal, showing how even when the heroin isn't running Renton's life through addiction, his friends function as a negative drain on him.

Is it any good?

For a unique, consummately entertaining, and yet utterly harrowing look into the life of heroin addicts, this movie offers open-minded viewers an unforgettable experience. But Trainspotting is wholly inappropriate for kids.

McGregor's performance, along with Robert Carlyle's as Renton's psychotically violent friend. Begbie, made big enough impressions to bring both actors many other choice roles in the wake of this movie's success. It also elevated director Danny Boyle's profile, making it possible for him to undertake bigger-budget films in subsequent years.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what gives Trainspotting its cult film status. What makes something a "cult" hit?

  • Do you think the movie sensationalizes drug addiction or gives an accurate picture? How well does the film balance the euphoric visions of heroin highs with the low moments of addicts being driven to steal, hurt others, etc.?

  • The narrator seems to present himself as in control of his actions, but is he really? Are his final actions towards his friends warranted? Do we feel that he has truly changed his ways at the close of the film?

Movie details

  • In theaters: January 1, 1995
  • On DVD or streaming: June 1, 2004
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Studio: Buena Vista
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 94 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence
  • Last updated: November 16, 2019

For kids who love cult hits

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