A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this post-apocalyptic epic postulates a semi-barbarous future where everything is traded and bartered -- including sex. The heroine is glimpsed naked from the rear as she tries to use her body to bribe the hero (he declines the offer), and there's a near-rape of her by another man in a similar "business" arrangement. Frequent violence includes death by machine guns, spears guns, bombs, crashes, knife slashes, drownings, and fireballs. There's a gruesome threat of execution by drowning in some sort of sludge made from human decomposition, and a mutilated main villain demonstrates graphically that he's lost an eye. A little girl is occasionally threatened with danger/death, usually via drowning. Swearing includes one use of the F-word, multiple S-bombs. Much cigarette smoking, and some drinking-carousing happens among the bad guys. The flamboyant lead villain, at one point, is made to look like a Christian evangelical preacher. Some viewers may be grossed out by the introduction of the Kevin Costner character, urinating and then distilling/drinking his own urine.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the future, the melting polar ice caps flood the whole planet. On this “water world,” semi-savage, seagoing remnants of humanity subsist on atolls, sailboats, and outposts. One of them is a nameless “Mariner” (Kevin Costner), a wanderer who has evolved gills to breathe underwater but who otherwise roams and trades on a cool sailboat. Despite his loner nature, the Mariner ends up protecting a little girl named Enola (Tina Majorino) and her adult guardian Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) from piratical "Smoker" raiders, armed barbarians who pillage and loot while riding Jet-Skis and powerboats.
Is it any good?
Despite its bad rap, WATERWORLD does offer solid entertainment (and it did find minor box-office success). It's got fun swashbuckling and cool low-tech nautical gadgets and imaginative production design that is indeed otherworldly. Dennis Hopper does an amusingly comic-scary villain -- even if his bloody eye socket is one of several gross-out moments for kid and adult viewers. Only as it slackens toward the end (and piles on the bad-science snafus) does the movie begin to feel as ponderous and self-absorbed as critics complained. It helps if one hasn't recently seen Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which was a too-obvious inspiration.
Like the 1963 Cleopatra, this ecologically-tacking sci-fi flick become a symbol of Tinseltown waste and epic ego, as the original director left the production and the budget ballooned way over estimates. Thanks to all the gossip the film was labeled a bomb by many before it had even opened.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the reality of melting polar ice caps (whether by "global warming" or natural processes). Would it really raise the water levels this high? Which parts of the science in Waterworld seem bogus, and which parts seem well thought-out?
The movie became a joke in its day because of the incomprehensible budget -- $175 million, which would later become not too unusual -- and problems behind the scenes. Ask kids if the idea of “bad buzz” affects their enjoyment of a motion picture.
Explain the saga of the real-life Exxon Valdez oil tanker, which turns out to be a surprise key element in the plot.
- In theaters: July 28, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: November 11, 2008
- Cast: Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kevin Costner
- Director: Kevin Reynolds
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense scenes of action violence, brief nudity and language
- Last updated: November 21, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love adventure
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
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.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch