Seagoing sci-fi swashbuckler fun despite bad reputation.
  • Review Date: October 18, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1995
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Environmental message at varying decibels, starting with the fact that the polar ice caps have melted (although "global warming" is never explicitly mentioned). The savage-thug villains, working out of a notorious real-life oil tanker, identify themselves with industrialization, "development" and, presumably, capitalism.

Positive role models

The main character is a lone-wolf nomad who keeps saying he's looking out only for himself, though when necessary he turns out to be chivalrous and noble. Mariner is described as a relentless killer who tracks down and kills enemies without mercy. People of color seem notably absent in this future world.


Explosions, gunfire (with human casualties at close range), people and craft impaled by spear guns. Hand-to-hand combat and knifings. The evil Deacon loses his eye, and we see the bloody socket from time to time. A threat of execution by drowning in disgusting sludge.


Rear-end nudity only as Helen strips naked to trade sex with the Mariner in return for safety on his craft, and she wears fairly skimpy clothing throughout. Later another seagoing drifter expects to have sex with Helen in a swap, but the hero interrupts the near-rape. Later Mariner and Helen make non-explicit, more consensual love.


The F-word uttered once by a bad guy; several s-words, as well as "hell," "damn," "ass."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The villainous "smokers" live up to their names, chain-smoking cigarettes.

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.

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?


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. In fact, WATERWORLD does offer solid entertainment (and it did find minor box-office success) in the form of 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.

Families can talk 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.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 28, 1995
DVD release date:November 11, 2008
Cast:Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kevin Costner
Director:Kevin Reynolds
Studio:Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some intense scenes of action violence, brief nudity and language

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

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Parent of a 2 year old Written bygerbowski November 7, 2012

An average action flick with a unique premise

Waterworld isn't too bad, but it isn't anything spectacular either. They spent an awful lot of money on a film that just didn't get where it was trying to go.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written byJadenp February 15, 2011
Suggested MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, nudity, sexuality, some strong language, and smoking throughout.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old January 19, 2014

Where'd they get all the resources or the technology? (or fuel) This will make your kid dumb. Very, VERY DUMB.

Really take time to think about all the scientific errors this film is loaded with.


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