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This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.

audience

93

liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 125,005

My Rating

Movie Info

Largely improvised by director Rob Reiner and his cast, This Is Spinal Tap looks and sounds like a "real" documentary, with Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest as David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls, and Nigel Tufnel, the key members of a going-nowhere British heavy metal band called Spinal Tap. The "group" started as an informal skiffle band, eventually maturing into an R&B act called the Thamesmen (their hit was "Gimme Some Money"). After going through a psychedelic period with

R,

Comedy

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer

Jul 14, 1998

MGM

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All Critics (62) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (58) | Rotten (3) | DVD (23)

For music biz insiders, This Is Spinal Tap is a vastly amusing satire of heavy metal bands.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For all its japes and jokes, the movie is really about exhaustion of the spirit: sitting in a bleak hotel suite at 4 a.m. with the bad taste of last night in the mouth and the feeling that tomorrow will not be a better day.

August 19, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The material is consistently clever and funny, though ultimately the attitudes are too narrow to nourish a feature-length film.

December 17, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (16)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Reiner's brilliantly inventive script and smart visuals avoid all the obvious pitfalls, making this one of the funniest ever films about the music business.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It stays so wickedly close to the subject that it is very nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is a composite of classic moments, all of which we sense could have happened to any of the classic heavy metal bands -- or at least to those whose members combined delusions of greatness with low I.Q.s.

August 15, 2002 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Yes Nigel, you did go to 11. Where would cinematic comedy be if you hadn't?

March 3, 2014 Full Review Source: Mania.com
Mania.com

Consistently funny, with sheer brilliant turns from every performer on the cast...

January 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Returning to Spinal Tap always brings with it a pronounced sense of discovery, a freshness that is uncommon with movies generally and unspeakably rare in a comedy.

June 18, 2012 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

[VIDEO] Although examples of the mockumentary genre existed before "Spinal Tap" this heavy metal comedy is considered an epitome of cinematic satire.

April 14, 2011 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

If you didn't know this was a fake film, you could easily believe it's real.

March 2, 2011 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

...a sporadically amusing but all-too-uneven piece of work...

February 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews | Comments (3)
Reel Film Reviews

Hilarious, ribald, drug-filled rock send-up.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The original suffers upon review simply because its novelty has worn off. But being the first mainstream feature of its kind, it deserves due reverence.

June 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Bangitout.com
Bangitout.com

The story of an embarrasingly inept heavy-metal band called Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner's film set the mockumentary standard that has come to define much of modern screen comedy. [Blu-ray]

July 28, 2009 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

Scores an 11 (out of 10) for sheer inspired lunacy but it's the writers' unexpected fondness for their subject matter that puts the film in a class all its own.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: rec.arts.movies.reviews
rec.arts.movies.reviews

Hilarious, bitingly perceptive and cinematically assured.

August 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Mildly funny, not a whole lot better than the best Christopher Guest mockumentary I'd seen before this, 'Best in Show.'

April 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

There had been countless documentary spoofs before This Is Spinal Tap, but this inspired put-on was the first to actually capture the texture and style of real documentary.

March 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Seanax.com
Seanax.com

Hilarious pseudo-documentary spoof of a British rock group that was so on-target in its satire, many viewers took it for the real thing.

December 17, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

This superb satire became the standard against which all mockumentaries are evaluated. The film was so successful that the fictitious group reunited for a series of live concerts and a TV special, further blurring the line between real and reel.

October 22, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

The satire is ever so refreshingly played straight, is seemingly benign and dead-on funny.

June 3, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for This Is Spinal Tap

The best mocumentary ever made. A hilarious ride concerning a slowly desinigrating rock band. To think that some people took this seriously when it first came out is actually frighteningly believable, because the acting is that good. This is an effective satire on the rock and roll genre that features many gags that work effectively. A slim running time is actually ideal this kind of movie as well, Reiner cuts the risk of running the same joke over and over again for a long time period, instead this short running time works out perfectly that it doesn't go overboard into self-indulgence territory. Quite simply this is one of my favorite films and a movie that should not be missed.
March 5, 2013
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Great for someone who loves rock music, like me. The film works because it feels like a legit documentary. Funny thing is, the music that this so called band makes is pretty good. Turn it up to 11 and enjoy some great satire. By the way, be prepared for a lot of dry humor.
August 21, 2012
Market Man
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

"You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?"

Spinal Tap, the world's loudest band, is chronicled by hack documentarian Marty DeBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour.

REVIEW
The soundtrack itself is stand alone (satirical) brilliance, before we even delve into the mockumentary of the fictitious British band whose speakers are so loud, they go to eleven. Reiner's documentary style film follows the band on its tour of the USA, as they traverse the country playing to half empty houses, experiencing myriad crises (e.g. band members leaving, shows being cancelled) and minor debacles (e.g. the appetisers and set work). Their struggle to deliver a unique brand despite the critics scorn is nothing short of heroic.

The principal trio (McKean, Guest and Shearer) are pitch perfect as no-brain rockers with dim ideas and infantile (yet still potent) lyrics ("big bottom, big bottom, talk about mud flaps my girl's got 'em"), led around by their faithful manager (Hendra) enduring every ignominy a touring band could experience from getting lost en route to the stage via the green room to the bass player becoming locked inside a cocoon as part of an act. Director Reiner plays the band's documenter, Patrick MacNee has a cameo as a promoter and Fran Drescher, Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby, Ed Begley Jr, Howard Hesseman and Paul Schaefer all have bit parts.

The documentary style filmmaking, mostly handheld, makes it look even more realistic, and makes the band's antics that much more amusing. The film's slim plot is punctuated by interviews with individual band members (some of the funniest parts of the movie), as well as music videos and live performances of the band's god-awful music. No matter how bad their reputation or their sales or their popularity is, they just keep pressing on, assuming that things will pick up soon, and it is an endless source of amusement watching them rationalize their dropping success rate and coming up with reasons that the band should stay together. This is not Oscar winning material. Not by a long shot. None of the actors in the film were well known when it was made, nor are any of them famous today, but the uniqueness and effectiveness of the comedy and of the film as a whole make it worth while. Fans of all kinds of music, not just metal, can enjoy this very funny comedy.
August 1, 2012
LorenzoVonMatterhorn
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

Great satire to rock bands and culture pop.
July 23, 2012
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

    1. Marty DiBergi: Do you feel that playing rock and roll music keeps you a child... that is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?
    2. Derek Smalls: No, no, no. I feel it's like, it's more like going, going to a national park or something, and there's... you know, they preserve the moose. And that's my childhood up there on stage is that moose, you know.
    3. Marty DiBergi: So when you're playing, you feel like a preserved moose onstage?
    4. Derek Smalls: Yeah.
    – Submitted by Taylor P (20 months ago)
    1. David St. Hubbins: I think that the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.
    – Submitted by Leia B (2 years ago)
    1. Morty the Mime: Mime is money.
    – Submitted by Daidoji Z (2 years ago)
    1. Nigel Tufnel: These go to eleven.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (4)

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