The Five Heartbeats

1991 R 2h 0m DVD

The Five Heartbeats

1991 R 2h 0m DVD
  • Overview
  • Details
Rhythm-and-blues artists such as the Temptations and Sam Cooke served as the inspiration for filmmaker Robert Townsend's ambitious movie about five urban friends who climb the stairway to stardom. On their journey to the zenith of the 1960s music scene, the group overcomes rigged talent contests, double-dealing record company bigwigs, racial barriers, substance abuse, isolation and internecine squabbles -- only to find emptiness at the top.
Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon, Harry Lennix, Tico Wells, Diahann Carroll, Harold Nicholas
Robert Townsend
Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1
English, Spanish (Neutral)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1, English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
R - Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.
age 16+
Common Sense rating OK for kids 16+
age 16+

Common Sense Note

Parents need to know that vulgar language is pervasive in this film, including multiple forms of "f--k," "s--t," and several instances of the "N" word. Though there are many musical numbers and comic scenes, from time to time the tone changes drastically and becomes intensely dramatic with self-destructive behavior, on-camera substance abuse (cocaine), and sequences depicting murderous rages. A man is severely beaten and held dangling through a window high over a city street. A very sympathetic character is killed when a truck purposefully careens into him. While there are several sequences in which characters kiss, embrace passionately and/or are seen in bed together, there is no actual sexual activity and no nudity. There is some seductive dancing and scantily dressed females engaging in teasing provocative behavior while they are being leered at by eager young men. A promiscuous character talks openly about his sexual addiction, and in one scene an abortion is considered.

Sexual Content

Some seductive dancing, sexually-provocative musical performances and lots of leering glances -- along with female legs and low-cut costumes. One character is a self-proclaimed sex addict and womanizer. Couples are seen in bed together, but other than some kissing and embracing there is no actual sexual activity and no nudity.


Several victims of a poker scam chase the perpetrators through the streets and gunshots are fired. One man is hit, but not seriously injured. A brutal fight with fists and violent kicking ends with one participant held dangling out of a high window and threatened with death. In retaliation for a leading character's courage in standing up to a villainous record executive, the man is killed by a truck (on camera).


Frequent cursing and vulgar language, including "screw," "whore," "ass," "willy," "bulls--t," "s--t," "asshole," "d--k," as well as multiple instances of "f--k," and "motherf----r." Characters use the "N" word on numerous occasions.

Social Behavior

Loyalty, trust, and friendship enable people to overcome adversity and find redemption. Drug addiction and alcoholism lead to failure and unhappiness. Substance abusers can benefit from 12-step programs.


Rolling Stone, Ebony, Jet, Esquire magazines; Myers Rum, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Drugs / Tobacco / Alcohol

The lead singer of the group becomes a hardcore alcoholic and cocaine abuser. He snorts cocaine on camera. Nightclub scenes and bars show people drinking. Several characters are cigarette smokers. One man is introduced while drunk, slurring his speech and having difficulty with his balance.

  • Age appropriate
  • Not an issue
  • Depends on your child and your family
  • Parents strongly cautioned
  • Not appropriate for kids of the age

This information for parents is provided by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving kids' media lives.

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