Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Whitney Movie Poster Image
Intimate, frank doc reveals insight behind icon's addiction.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 122 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Houston's life story is a tragedy, with no positive outcome. But by seeing the story of a woman who appeared to have so much that society values -- beauty, talent, success, fame, and fortune -- lose it all due to drug addiction, older teens may recognize the danger of substance use. Also shows that hard work can pay off. Spotlights the significance of Houston's role in The Bodyguard's then-rare interracial kiss.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite her many challenges and ultimately tragic end, Houston did overcome adversity to become one of the most accomplished singers of her generation. One person close to Houston demonstrates a true act of love, putting Houston's happiness before her own. 


News footage includes images of police officers with guns pointed at unarmed black men, bloody children, and a person trapped inside a sinking car in a flood. A menacing death threat is made into the camera. Incest is discussed.


Other than one deep kiss between a married couple, nothing sexual is shown. But there's lots of talk about sex/sexual identity, including bisexuality, solo sex/sex toys, infidelity, and more. Houston's husband faces legal woes for exposing himself. A crude sexual comment insults a female music artist's desirability.


Frequent use of words including "damn," "pissed off," "ass," "bitch," "d--k," "s--t," "f--k," and "motherf----r." Middle-finger gesture.


Products are shown only as they pertained to Houston's life and may be identifiable in the background -- for instance, the label on a bottle of Evian held in a casual family photo.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Houston, her husband Bobby Brown, and multiple family members discuss their frequent drug abuse. At times, Houston appears to be high. Photos of a room turned into a "drug den," with spoons scattered around. Houston and several people in her life were smokers; they hold lit cigarettes. In a more melancholy moment, Houston is alone in a bar. Negative consequences are substantial.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Whitney is a documentary that explores the life and career of late singer Whitney Houston -- and, in doing so, delivers a powerful anti-drug message. Fully supported by Houston's family, the film offers frank, revealing interviews that help viewers better understand Houston's inner conflict. Viewers learn how she was introduced to the drugs that would ultimately destroy her, how substance use impacted her career and her family, and how those around her enabled her to continue. Houston's hearty sexual appetite (for both genders) is discussed; one friend mentions giving the singer a vibrator. Houston and her family swear frequently; expect to hear everything from "f--k" and "s--t" to "bitch" and "damn." The film doesn't offer up a moral, but rather effectively explains the why and how of Houston's situationHopefully that will help convince teens of the dangers of drugs/substance abuse.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byThomasReview July 7, 2018

Whitney 2018

Whitney donned a vote Obama bennie which wasn’t part of the documentary. Whilst the New Jersey riots were used to portray racial tensions from Whitney’s childho... Continue reading
Adult Written bySkyy55 July 7, 2018


The movie was very distrurbing. Bobby Brown was instrumental in ruining Whitney's career. The movie exposed the family as a bunch of leeches. Cissy was a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylaurasia682 July 19, 2018


I watched the movie and I was devastated by the end of the movie. It shows alot of Whitney's struggles behind closed doors, which became heartbreaking to m... Continue reading

What's the story?

WHITNEY explores the life, career, and untimely death of iconic singer Whitney Houston in an effort to answer this question: How did it all go wrong? Houston broke more records than any other female artist in music history, she was undeniably beautiful, she achieved success as an actress, and she came from a loving, tight-knit family rooted in the church. Since she really appeared to have it all, her public downfall was all the more confusing. Using interviews with those closest to the singer and footage from home videos, Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald opens the door for audiences to see and understand "Nippy" (Houston's childhood nickname) as her family did. Houston's family and colleagues provide candid accounts of the issues she struggled with and an understanding of why she made destructive decisions.

Is it any good?

Macdonald should make some room on his mantle: This documentary may just earn him another Oscar. Whitney delivers the thing its audience wants most: answers. We want to understand why someone who appeared to be on top of the world would trip, fall, and choose to stay in the mud until it became quicksand -- and by the time the credits roll, we will. Macdonald starts by introducing a Whitney everyone can relate to: an everyday girl who could be anyone's daughter, or even the viewer herself. He takes audiences through her meteoric rise, shows why the world fell in love with her, and addresses the ensuing tabloid headlines. Then, we ride her descent. It's heart-wrenching, but in a true feat, Macdonald allows Houston to retain her dignity. Through archival footage, personal video, never-before-released materials, and interviews with the people in her world, Macdonald allows the public to see the real Whitney Houston and her demons.

Whitney will satisfy most audiences. Music fans will thrive on nuggets like a capella renditions of Houston's hits and trivia about how she came to reinvent "The Star-Spangled Banner." Parents will be engrossed in the missteps and red flags that Houston's family inadvertently made and missed. And teens will soak up the story of the Pop Queen turned Movie Star turned Drug-Addled Diva; hopefully it will leave them feeling that, when the story is all laid out, Houston's inner chaos and ultimate demise were, sadly, predictable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mix of fame, fortune, and drug problems that the music industry seems to serve up so frequently. According to Whitney, do you think Houston's success influenced her substance abuse?

  • Houston's brother said, "When you don't deal with things, they never go away." What do you think he meant by that? Why do you think the family kept Houston's secret for so long? What's the point in revealing it now? 

  • Houston's mother, Cissy, was often on the road as a singer, leaving Whitney and her siblings with close family and friends. Those experiences had a negative impact on Whitney, so she brought her own daughter on the road with her -- which had its own negative consequences. Do you think Cissy did the wrong thing? What about Whitney?

  • "If you love someone, you want the best for them, even if it's not the best for you." If that statement from the film is true, who in Houston's life acted in her best interest? What are your thoughts on her marriage to Bobby Brown? How did their actions impact their daughter, Bobbi Kristina?

  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you give Whitney Houston?

Movie details

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