Parents' Guide to

American Animals

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Smart, energetic tale of attempted heist; cursing, violence.

Movie R 2018 116 minutes
American Animals Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 13+

Great movie!!

It’s a nail bitter. Great editing. And the interaction with the real life characters is priceless! The depiction of violence isn’t so harsh. It’s a great medium to teach kids about bad choices, how they can avoid them and what they can ultimately do to their future.

This title has:

Great messages
age 18+

Pathetic Animals

bad movie

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3):
Kids say (2):

For this true-crime movie, writer/director Bart Layton attempts a new angle and succeeds. American Animals is narrated by the heist's actual participants, and it's brilliantly edited, bringing fascinating layers to the proceedings. Layton's previous movie, the documentary The Imposter, asked pointed questions about perception, acceptance, and truth, and he continues with those themes here (albeit in a more crowd-pleasing way). Not only does American Animals allow for its interviewees to sometimes contradict one another, it occasionally drops them right into the action along with the actors who are playing them to further underline possible inconsistencies in memory and storytelling. (The movie claims that it's not "based on" a true story; it is a true story.)

Even better are the imagined victories, the scenes that feel just like traditional heist movies, but with an outsider's knowledge; the scenes play against the characters' knowledge and the viewers' knowledge in fascinatingly different ways. American Animals probably wouldn't have worked if not for the fine performances, especially by the nuanced, vulnerable Keoghan (who was disturbingly good in The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and Ann Dowd, who brings great fear and hurt to her role as librarian Betty Jean Gooch (the real Ms. Gooch also appears as herself). The film eventually captures the horrible weight of committing a crime. In this way, American Animals isn't just highly entertaining, but it also provides food for thought.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: June 1, 2018
  • On DVD or streaming: August 28, 2018
  • Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Ann Dowd
  • Director: Bart Layton
  • Studio: The Orchard
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Run time: 116 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: language throughout, some drug use and brief crude/sexual material
  • Last updated: December 28, 2022

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