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Waterworld Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 63

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    A decent futuristic action picture with some great sets, some intriguing ideas, and a few images that will stay with me.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    The script doesn't do a great job with either the spiritual or the physical trek, but the spectacular action sequences occur with enough regularity that strong writing isn't necessary to keep Waterworld afloat.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Mike Clark

    A two hour aquatic pursuit pic with bruising stunts, fun-to-watch performances, a dozen good chortles and imposing Panavision renderings of post-apocalyptic crud, Waterworld clearly has the makings of a cult movie.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    Costner's surfer-bum affectlessness works here; he turns the Mariner into the world's most jaded lifeguard.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Wilmington

    Waterworld is often entertaining because it's screwy. Could even Ed Wood Jr. have come up with those cigarette-puffing villains, in a world with hardly enough dirt for a tobacco plant? [28 July 1995]

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 13+

Seagoing sci-fi swashbuckler fun despite bad reputation.

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.

  • 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.

The good stuff
  • message true1

    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.

  • rolemodels true1

    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.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: 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.

  • sex false2

    Sex: 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.

  • language false3

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

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: The villainous "smokers" live up to their names, chain-smoking cigarettes.