Dirty Harry

  • Review Date: April 23, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1971

Common Sense Media says

'70s rebel-cop classic is way too edgy for kids.
  • Review Date: April 23, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1971

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strong message of the sacrifices made by police, how underappreciated police are, and how thankless their tough jobs have become.

Positive role models

Generally negative view of society. Though "Dirty" Harry is supposed to be a scowling antihero, everything he does aims to protect the public (who don't appreciate it), saving lives and upholding the law. Harry disparages his new nice-guy (Hispanic) partner for having graduated from college. Ethnically diverse characters include good guys, bad guys, and victims, but only males seem to have major roles. "Negroes" (as the script says) seem particularly threatening. Harry is said to be an equal-opportunity hater of all races.

Violence

Bloody gun violence, sniper fatalities, hand-to-hand punchouts. A car wreck. Harry and other characters savagely beaten and kicked. A leg stabbing. An old man hit with a bottle. A character threatens suicide by jumping (with graphic verbal description of what the result would be).

Sex

Full-frontal female nudity with a girl victim's naked corpse and a naked lady apparently welcoming people to a sex party. Nude go-go dancers and strippers in a bar. Harry discusses a past incident involving a would-be rapist with an erection. Bare breasts when Harry interrupts a romantic interlude. A patrol past a block of San Francisco strip shows and sex parlors. Harry gets a coy proposition from a young homosexual.

Language

The f-word once. The s-word, SOB, the N-word, "bastard," "Jesus Christ," a-hole.

Consumerism

Touristy element in the prominent display of San Francisco landmarks. A Coca Cola sign.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Harry and a comrade share "booze." A visit to a bar. A liquor store purchase-robbery.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while this classic police thriller inspired a video game and numerous other PG-13 Hollywood cop-opera shoot-em-ups, it was intended as a very adult film, with frank swearing and occasional full-frontal nudity -- often in the context of a decadent community crawling with degeneracy and lawlessness. Violence includes bloody shootings, stabbings, and even schoolchildren threatened. For all the action, the movie doesn't exactly make police work appealing as a career path (especially the bitter last scene).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In San Francisco a young psycho killer calling himself "Scorpio" demands that City Hall pay him in cash, or otherwise he will embarrass the wimpy mayor by murdering random citizens every day, including priests and children. The officer assigned to the case is the notorious "Dirty Harry" Callahan (Clint Eastwood), a cynical, widowed lawman expertly wielding a .357 Magnum and ace crimefighting instincts, whose previous cases left a string of his partners dead or hospitalized. Harry is not happy to be partnered up anew with a young rookie fresh out of college, but together the two cops play cat-and-mouse games with the sadistic Scorpio around a city filled with anti-police graffiti and unhelpful citizens. Late in the action Callahan finds his investigation crippled by a "justice" system that's concerned with protecting the rights of the loathsome Scorpio -- more so than with keeping his potential victims (or the police) safe.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Clint Eastwood had established himself as a laconic star in violent 1960s westerns, and a lot of this is his steely gunfighter persona well-transplanted to a modern city setting, with the accompanying taut narrative and some satisfying (but increasingly farfetched as the tale goes on) shootout-showdowns. A lot of the film's appeal -- less noticeable to the 21st century's young viewers, but still there -- also came from a political message that 1960s social liberalism had gone too far, leaving society vulnerable to creeps and savages whom cops were literally unable to touch without warrants and red tape. Harry, a hero cop, meanwhile, becomes an outlaw just for trying to do his job. Dirty Harry would be much imitated, and the theme of a law-and-order Clint Eastwood working for a system that doesn't deserve his heroics (and a more thoughtful villain who even talks about that irony) was done again in In the Line of Fire.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about a theme in the film, that the law -- in the post-1960s, post "civil rights" era -- protects lawbreakers, not victims, and that a dedicated policeman like Harry can't even do his job. Do you agree?

  • Is this movie still relevant? Do teens feel that modern police officers face similar challenges?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 23, 1971
DVD release date:February 16, 2010
Cast:Clint Eastwood, John Vernon
Director:Don Siegel
Studio:Warner Home Video
Genre:Thriller
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of Dirty Harry was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bySpielberg00 June 6, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Very boring. I couldn't get through the whole thing, but what I saw was pretty surprising. Probably PG-13 today.

My rating: PG-13 [borderline with R] for frequent violence and crime sequences, language, some nudity and a scene of drinking and alcohol use.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byindyhan October 2, 2011
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Good movie

Harry had a .44 Mag, not a .357.
Great movie, lots of nudity, action, and bad*** Clint Eastwood!

Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn October 3, 2011
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Gritty classic has lot's of sex and violence

Dirty Harry is a very, very gritty cop classic that is not even appropriate for most teens, because of the fact that there is some very graphic violence including numerous bloody gunfights, lot's and lot's of graphic nudity including many fully nude shots of a thirteen year old girl (which may severely shock some f the more modern day viewers), some occasional casual drinking, and some strong profanity including lot's of racial slurs and at least 1 F-word. So, yes, it is a great movie, but is it for kids? Absolutely not.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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