Alpha Dog

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Alpha Dog Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Timberlake stars in fact-based drug drama.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Kids and young people are careless, mean-spirited, and selfish, as well as drug addicts; adults remain self-absorbed, remote, and angry, serving as poor role models; the story is inspired by the real-life kidnapping and murder of one addict's 15-year-old brother and the apathy of more than 30 witnesses.


Repeated graphic violence; graphic shooting in rap music videos (blood spurts from victims' chests); fights involve breaking glass table/windows, bloody injuries, broken arm, kicks to crotches, a boy punching out girls; a "crew" breaks into "enemy"'s home and destroys furniture, TV, etc. (one boy defecates on a rug); murder victim-to-be is shown begging for his life and is then shot anyway (blood all over ground); mother discusses three suicide attempts.


Sexual slang ("you chasin' tail?", "faggot," "p--sy"); frequent references to sex acts ("suck c--k," "dildo up the ass"); several sex acts (in bed, threesome kissing in pool); a girl's tatoo features naked breasts; sex scenes in the pool and in bed show naked breasts and bottoms; man entwined on sofa with two women in underwear; mother appears at door in sheet, telling her daughter to leave her alone so "I can screw your father."


Relentless language, including "f--k" (about 300 uses, several with "mother"); "s--t" (20), multiple uses of "faggot," "hell," "c--ksuckers," "d---wad," and "bastard," plus two uses each of "spook" (in reference to blacks/slaves) and the "N" word; one use of "c--t."


Beer logos visible at convenience store; Members Only jacket; Outbacks Steakhouse, Scarface poster in bedroom.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent drinking (mostly beer) by young adults, as well as 15-year-old boy; bongs visible and in use; several scenes chow characters drunk and behaving badly (sexual aggression, passing out); frequent pot-smoking and preparation (one character's father grows marijuana in his garden alongside organic vegetables); mother tells her daughter, "I'm ex-ing" cigarette smoking in nearly every scene (when 15-year-old Jake demurs, Frankie encourages him, "It's good for you"); central characters also deal drugs; Jake appears high (on some form of speed/crack) in several scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is a focuses on older teens and twentysomethings who do and deal drugs (some encouraged by parents who also smoke pot), have sex, drink, smoke, lie, and cheat. There is a lot of violence, including shootings, fights, bloody injuries, a nasty broken arm (it cracks loudly), kicks, a boy knocking girls to the ground, a "crew" destroying an enemy's home, and a murder in which the duct-taped victim tearfully begs to be spared. Sex scenes (in bed and in a pool) show naked bottoms and breasts (one father invites his son to join him and the two women he's with). Language includes hundreds of "f--k"s, plus other familiar obscenities and racist, sexist, and homophobic terms.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGorilla G Swagger March 10, 2021

I think it's a decent film, but nothing else

I saw this film for the first time last year and there are some good things and bad things about it. The good stuff was that it was very faithful to the real l... Continue reading
Adult Written byLes H. June 13, 2017


Awesome movie.

Too much swearing? Too much use of the F-word? Too much use of explicit terms involving sexual acts, homosexuality, racism, etc? I don't h... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySanjay407 October 28, 2011


Read: Rated R: Graphic language, violence, Strong drug use, and Strongly Graphic Sex. This does have content from Family Guy, South Park, etc.
Kid, 12 years old September 5, 2011



What's the story?

Based on the story of real-life murder suspect Jesse James Hollywood, ALPHA DOG focuses on a drug dealer and bully named Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), detailing the day-by-day chronology of his gang's 2000 kidnapping and eventual murder of 15-year-old Zack (Anton Yelchin). Justin Timberlake co-stars as one of Johnny's crew members.

Is it any good?

Director Nick Cassavetes' film is part formal experimentation, part big-screen America's Most Wanted, part showcase for talented young performers, and part lament for "today's youth." It begins with Eva Cassidy's sorrowful cover version of "Over the Rainbow," as home movie-style images show children laughing and playing with their families and celebrating holidays. When one youngster points a toy gun at the camera, you get a sense of the film's dire trajectory.

As energetic and sensational as it is, Alpha Dog gives short shrift to key themes having to do with class differences and gendered behaviors. As much as these boys want to show off their vaunted hyper-masculinity (they lift weights, fight repeatedly, pull out guns, and talk about sex a lot), they're unable to have conversations (they are, however, very adept at flinging obscenities in efforts to avoid self-examination). And the movie doesn't dig much deeper than the boys in its representation of the persistent problem of violent, careless kids who feel lost, their childhoods "stolen."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of bad parenting as a theme of the movie. How are the parents in the movie ineffective? How does the younger characters' behavior (violence, sex, drug use) reflect what they see on television and in their own homes? Do they have any other options? Do those options change after the kidnapping? How would you describe the characters' goals? How do the girls and young women respond differently (compare, for instance, Julie and Susan)? Do you think starring in a movie like this will affect Justin Timberlake's reputation/popularity? Why do you think he decided to take the part?

Movie details

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