Today’s Prayer Focus

Pirate Radio

also known as “The Boat That Rocked,” “Radio Rock Revolution,” “Radio Encubierta,” “Merirosvoradio”
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for language, and some sexual content including brief nudity.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Comedy, Historical Fiction
2 hr. 5 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 6, 2009 (limited)
November 13, 2009 (wide—900+ theaters)
Copyright, Universal Studios click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios Copyright, Universal Studios
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Studios

Music in the Bible

Dancing in the Bible

Lust and lasciviousness in the Bible

Fornication in the Bible

Drunkenness in the Bible

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Sin and the Bible

Christian living

What advice do you have for new and growing Christians? Answer

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

How can I decide whether a particular activity—such as smoking, gambling, etc.—is wrong? Answer

Sex, Love & Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.
Featuring Bill Nighy (as Quentin), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Count), Gemma Arterton (Desiree), Rhys Ifans (Gavin Cavanagh), Emma Thompson (Charlotte), Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost, Tom Sturridge, Rhys Darby, Tom Brooke, Ike Hamilton, Chris O'Dowd, Talulah Riley, Tom Wisdom, Will Adamsdale, Ralph Brown, Olivia Llewellyn, Jack Davenport, January Jones, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Francesca Longrigg, Kirsty Mather, Katherine Parkinson, Laurence Richardson, Stephen Moore, Olegar Fedoro, Dora Clouttick, Lana Davidson, Duncan Foster, Kristofer Gummerus, Sinead Matthews, Sarah Forster, Poppy Delvingne, Catherine Ashton, Guðmundur Auðunsson, Caroline Boulton, Gareth Derrick, Giovanna Falcone, Lucy Fleming, William Ilkley, Katie Lyons, Christian Wolf-La'Moy, Chrissie Wunna
Director Richard Curtis
Love Actually,” “Notting Hill
Producer Medienproduktion Prometheus, Portobello Studios, Tightrope Pictures, Working Title Films, Hilary Bevan Jones, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Richard Curtis, Eric Fellner, Emma Freud, Ronaldo Vasconcellos
Distributor Universal Studios

“1 Boat. 8 DJs. No Morals.”

The 1960’s was considered a golden age in rock and roll, especially in England, where bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, as well as countless others were winning the hearts and minds of teenagers across the country. This was also a decade of much stricter regulation regarding content on television, as well as across radio waves. In fact, such music wasn’t played on the radio, that is until radio DJ’s started setting up stations on boats out on the ocean, and because they were broadcasting from off shore, they were free to play their choice of music. “Pirate Radio” is a fictional account of one of these boats and their struggle with the British government to keep rock and roll on the radio.

While there isn’t technically a main character, the viewer is taken aboard the ship “Radio Rock” with Carl, an eighteen year old who’s just been kicked out of school, and his mother has sent him to stay with his godfather, Quentin, who happens to be the ship’s captain. It’s there that Carl meets the DJ’s who live out at sea, broadcasting in shifts all 24 hours of the day. The DJ’s range in personality and appearance from the famous American ‘The Count’ to raucous ‘Dr. Dave’ to good hearted ‘Simon,’ and so on. It’s with this gang of misfit DJ’s that Carl finds a family, a home, and a love for good music. While millions in the UK love “Radio Rock,” some aren’t too happy with it, specifically government minister Dormandy who makes it his goal to shut down the radio station within the year by any means necessary.

This sounds like a cut and dry plot, but “Pirate Radio” is anything but a movie that moves with a purpose. Just like the music of the era, the film is more about the journey itself than about the destination. It lingers on multiple scenes just to establish the camaraderie had by these DJ’s, even though their backgrounds are incredibly diverse. While there are bits and pieces of plot revelations, “Pirate Radio” urges you to enjoy the good times and the music as much as those on screen.

Sometimes it’s easy to enjoy the film for what it is. With an incredible cast including the likes of the amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”, “Doubt”) as ‘The Count’, Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dea”) as ‘Dr. Dave’, and Bill Nighy (“Love Actually”) as Captain Quentin, the actors are clearly having fun, and because of that it’s easy for the audience to, as well. The soundtrack, as you might expect, is worth the price of admission alone, as each song keeps your feet tapping. There are also some genuinely funny and heartfelt moments in the film.

Unfortunately, and all too often, it’s a much tougher film to enjoy. As was prevalent during the time and was a byproduct of the music, casual sex and sexual dialogue are a constant during “Pirate Radio.” Whether it’s sexual innuendos made by the DJ’s, the attempt to make sure poor Carl doesn’t stay a virgin, or the homosexual cook, a good bit of the film’s jokes revolve around sex. While the language is very strong, as well, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of drug content in the film, especially considering the era in which it takes place.

“Pirate Radio” is a movie that is filled with funny moments and funny characters, especially if you like British humor and ensemble comedies. It’s realistic to think that a movie like this would have some objectionable content, but unfortunately the heavy amount makes it tough to recommend. Add to that the fact that it carries no real redeemable message to Christian viewers, and you’re probably better off sitting at home with an old Beatles’ vinyl on the stereo.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—“Pirate Radio” was the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year and I disagree that there is no Christian messages in this film. First let me say that the film is hilarious, heartfelt, and while I was expecting great music I felt that music that was selected melded with each scene harmoniously. Lesser films would’ve had 1 main character and the rest underdeveloped.

In Pirate Radio we are taken aboard the boat introduced briefly to the characters and then mix with them and get to know them like we would in real life by interaction. That is the appropriate kind of character development for a movie of this type. The images of people listening to the music gives you a real feel for the joy that these djs bring to their lives which can be hard and humdrum sometimes.

I loved the use of split screen especially in a scene where Quentin dances and the screen splits into 4 images of him dancing. These characters are a family. When they are down they support each other(I loved the scene where Carl is depressed and two characters sit next to him offering him chocolate and milk to cheer him up and they way the scene develops is magical). When they have issues with each other they don’t punch each other out like in lesser movies but they work them out and push through with apology when necessary and forgiveness.

The crisis at the end of the film is handled believably and with very well done suspense and one of people who disliked pirate radio does try to help them at the end and the fans rally by the boatload to help these men who have brought joy to their lives had me cheering. The politicians who make efforts to shut down the pirates are portrayed as having no joy in their lives so they want to stop others from having joy in theirs.

I loved it when Phillip Seymour Hoffman informs the BBC that they are not going anywhere and the reaction of the main politicians face is priceless. “Pirate Radio” contains salty language(but far less then I expected), sexual content(but aside from some brief nudity all sex takes place off screen), mild drug use. The fact that the DJs broadcast personal issues isn’t because they are crude but because they consider their listeners an extended family and don’t believe in keeping secrets from family.

The fact that these DJs care about each other, support each other when times are tough, work through their problems creatively, and forgive one another their transgressions truly won me over to them. If these characters were real, I would be proud to call them friends and would be grateful to have people like this in my corner in times of trouble. “Pirate Radio” is one of the best films of the year.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Andrew, age 33 (USA)