Parents' Guide to

American Gangster

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Violent, drug-fueled drama isn't for kids.

Movie R 2007 157 minutes
American Gangster Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 7 parent reviews

age 17+

Frank Lucas is the American Gangster.

I showed this film to my Criminology class who are Grade 12's. I sent out permission forms and received permission to show this film in a school setting, uncensored. Without these protocols in place, this film would never have been shown due to the strong and often times very explicit content. The reason for my showing American Gangster is the study of one of America's most notorious crime bosses, Frank Lucas. Is it a film with a positive message about society. No, not at all! This is a realistic and hard matter of fact film which is extremely explicit in its portrayal of the underworld and the moral decay in society. This film is meant for those 17 and older who have a very strong stomach. The direction of this film and acting is top notch. In my province this film is rated 18A (or under 18 requires an adult present at all times). I completely agree with the rating of this film. Again, I'd only ever show this film to a very mature audience and one which has all parents, and administrators on board, or it is an absolute no show in school setting!
age 17+

Morally ambiguous, well-acted and well-directed film with some heavy violence

A solid and pretty great film that Ridley Scott maneuvers deftly. In the hands of someone else this could have gone quite poorly. But with Scott you have finesse, especially in the more elaborate scenes and then those super interesting scenes of just people talking, but with so much skill and high narrative stakes that although the film is long it does not drag. Who is the American Gangster? It seems that there are many responses throughout the film to this question. Scott portrays murky morality and allows the audience to decide. Well acted, well scripted and very well directed. And Ruby Dee's performance! She makes a lot out of a little!

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (7 ):
Kids say (12 ):

The problem at the center of Ridley Scott's film is that as much as the movie loves Frank's intelligence and charisma, it must also condemn his brutality and criminality. The movie's solution is typical: It pits Frank against worse villains and puts him on a parallel track with a familiar hero.

Still, as the film scrambles to its end (the last half hour moves very quickly), the two develop a mutual respect. In part, this is a function of Richie's liberal bent. He'll not only arrest a black man, he'll also work with him ... to build cases against a lot of other bad guys. And so they share a sort of moral code after all, premised on their recognition of racial equality. As corny as this relationship may be, it returns again to the movie's central problem: It loves Frank and has to hate him.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: November 1, 2007
  • On DVD or streaming: February 19, 2008
  • Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor , Denzel Washington , Russell Crowe
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Inclusion Information: Black actors
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 157 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: violence, pervasive drug conviolence, pervasive drug content and language, nudity and sexuality.
  • Last updated: September 12, 2023

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