What's Love Got to Do with It?

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
What's Love Got to Do with It? Movie Poster Image
Powerful bio of Tina Turner with domestic violence, drugs.
  • R
  • 1993
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Despite plenty of destructive behavior, the ultimate message of the film is strongly positive: Women must protect themselves and their children from abusive spousal behavior. It takes great courage and perserverance to get out of a complicated interdependent relationship, but the end result is positive and life-affirming. The Buddhist precept, "If you look in life's mirror and see yourself clearly, you can change anything," is a mantra used repeatedly to great advantage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tina Turner is initially seen as naive, dependent, and easily taken advantage of. Over the course of the film, she learns self-determination, wisdom, and acquires great courage and faith. There are no main male characters seen in a positive light. Ike Turner and his cronies are self-promoting, insensitive, disloyal, sex-obsessed and misogynistic. Ike, himself, is a consistent heel, never able to conquer the demons that make him violent, cruel, and self-destructive. 


Several disturbing scenes of domestic violence including fierce open-handed slaps, beating with fists and a shoe, dragging, brandishing a gun, hair pulling, and choking. In all instances, results of the beatings are clearly visible: blood, swelling, abrasions, etc. In one extended terrifying scene using head shots only, Tina Turner is raped by her husband. A young woman threatens a character with a loaded gun, then moves into a bathroom from which gunshots are heard. The self-inflicted injuries do not result in death.


One prolonged love-making scene with passionate kissing, embracing, and implied full sexual intercourse. Kissing, embracing, and sensual behavior among many characters in other scenes as well. The movie vividly details Tina Turner's trademark performance persona: short, sexy clothing and lots of sensual movement and dancing.


Frequent use of coarse, sexual language, usually  uttered in anger and with the intent to insult and degrade.  Many forms of "f--k," including "motherf--k," "s--t," "ass," "Goddamn," and numerous instances of racial slurs, including the "N" word.


Coca Cola, Lux soap, Trailways buses, Fairmont Hotel, Ramada Inn, A & P Markets.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Continuous drinking and smoking throughout. Characters hold bottles of beer, shots, mixed drinks and cigarettes or cigars in clubs, at parties, during musical recording sessions, relaxing at home, et al. Cocaine abuse is seen to add fuel to Ike Turner's increasingly violent and erratic behavior. Tina Turner attempts suicide using pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this adult movie about an iconic musical star and her abusive husband-partner is violent, sexual, and filled with obscenities, alcohol, and drug-induced behavior. A husband graphically terrorizes and brutalizes his pliant, forgiving wife in many scenes (including an extended rape sequence). The bloody aftermaths pile up until she attempts suicide and then even beyond that. Characters drink, smoke, use cocaine, and swear (continuous use of "f--k," in many forms, as well as some racial slurs and other coarse language). There is also consensual sexual behavior, with a long passionate love scene between the two leads which includes implied intercourse and some partial male nudity. The musical performances are faithful to the Tina Turner imprint, with lots of sexy clothing and exuberantly sensual dancing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bystand up February 12, 2012

wake up women we are human beings

women deserve to be treated equal and women dont deserve to be abuse god gave us our own mind and how we choose to live our mind is totally up to us not to men... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byJohn A. August 25, 2019

Rated 18 (scene of sexual violence, domestic abuse).

SEX/NUDITY - There is a strong sex scene with some detail, as well as some sex references. VIOLENCE/GORE - There is a very sudden scene of sexual violence where... Continue reading

What's the story?

Naive and damaged by her mother's abandonment, the enormously talented Anna Mae Bullock, still in her teens, meets Ike Turner, a slick, manipulative local rock star in St. Louis. He takes control of her unusual voice, exuberant style, and incredible energy and turns her into Tina Turner, a rising international star with "The Ike and Tina Turner Revue." But trouble, in the form of Ike's volatile personality and increasing substance abuse, nearly costs Tina her sanity, her safety, and finally, her life.

Is it any good?

This movie is fueled by dazzling performances from both Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. What's more, it's shot by director Brian Gibson with extraordinary faithfulness to the style and substance of Tina Turner's greatest hits and stage moments (both with her husband and on her own). This is a two-hour journey from the lowest lows -- many graphically brutal scenes with the unrepentant Svengali that was Ike Turner -- to the highest highs -- the fantastic Bassett re-creating Tina's iconic performances with her own astonishing versatility. The voice is always original Tina, but Fishburne's rendition of the Ike Turner sound is more than credible. The soaring talent nearly destroyed by adversity and victimhood is a familiar story, but when combined with the unique sound, style and persona that is Tina Turner, and the commitment of the two stars, it's a thoroughly engrossing film.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the harm caused in family relationships by drug and alcohol abuse. Do you think movies like this glamorize the behavior or act as cautionary tales?

  • Tina Turner was the victim of horrendous spousal abuse. Incidents of teen relationship abuse are known to exist as well. What resources are available in your school or community for these victims?

  • Musical biographical films often have a number of issues in common (i.e. alcohol, drugs, unstable relationships). What do you think might contribute to the behavior in that very special world?

Movie details

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