American Assassin

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
American Assassin Movie Poster Image
Poorly written, violent thriller about cold-blooded revenge.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Most of the movie is about revenge, both on the part of the good guys and the bad guys. Much is sacrificed to save a single person.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a cold, revenge-minded loner who doesn't really get along with others. Most other characters are likewise unsympathetic. Stan is at least fun, though he's also prone to fairly negative traits. That said, supporting characters include tough female spies who can hold their own.


Lots of guns and shooting. Blood spurts, dead bodies. Martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting. Stabbing/slicing with knives. A scene of torture: a man's arm is in a vise, his fingernails pulled off. Nuclear explosion.


Topless woman. A marriage proposal includes a kiss.


Frequent use of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "d--khead," "a--hole," "ass," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," "hell," "balls," "hard-on," and "Jesus Christ" and "for god's sake" (as exclamations).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Background smoking. Drinking from flask.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Assassin is an action/thriller about a group of secret agents trying to stop the sale and assembly of a nuclear bomb. Expect graphic violence, with lots of guns and shooting, blood spurts, dead bodies, both martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting, stabbing/slicing with knives, and a nuclear detonation. Also, a man is tortured: His arm is clamped in a vise, and his fingernails are ripped off. Language is also strong, with several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A woman is shown topless in one scene. Characters drink from a flask, and there's some background smoking. The movie is clumsy and poorly written, so unless teen fans of the Maze Runner films and TV's Teen Wolf are champing at the bit to see Dylan O'Brien on the big screen, it's unlikely to hold much interest. Michael Keaton co-stars.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5, 11, and 14-year-old Written byMadenb September 17, 2017

Had to review in response to the unhelpful Common Sense review

American Assassin is a well made, gritty geopolitical thriller. Here is what you need to know if your teens want to see it: American Assassin is appropriately... Continue reading
Adult Written byMobey_Deck December 27, 2020

Great escapist entertainment

Great action movie. Its not going to change the world. But if you are looking for a good action / spy/ movies for a enjoyable 90 minutes or so , don't lo... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byUser1234567891 May 30, 2021

I like Dylan O'Brien but the plot was honestly a letdown

The trailer for this movie looked SO. GOOD. However, the actual movie fell way short. The trailer made it look like there is a bunch of intertwining plot and th... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bylola_ March 16, 2021

amazing, but not if you have a weak stomach :)

as someone who loves a bit of gore and violence, i found this movie great! i thought that the acting was amazing and it had a really good plot, but don’t watch... Continue reading

What's the story?

In AMERICAN ASSASSIN, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) proposes to his girlfriend on a beautiful beach, and she says yes. But then, from out of nowhere, terrorists attack and kill everyone except Mitch, who escapes. Newly driven and focused on cold revenge, Mitch starts training to infiltrate terrorist cells and take them out. CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) intercepts him and recruits him as a black ops agent, sending him to train with crusty ex-Navy SEAL Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Their first mission is to track nuclear weapon components that are being sold on the black market. But when they discover who's actually assembling the weapon, they must change their tactics.

Is it any good?

Based on a novel by Vince Flynn, this thriller adds "American" to its title in an effort to sound important or entertaining; it's not. Rather, American Assassin is clumsily written and directed and frequently absurd. Playing a crusty, veteran agent, Keaton brings the film its only real personality, but he's not enough. The rest of the cast, including O'Brien, is hopelessly bland.

Four writers -- including noted filmmaker Edward Zwick -- are credited with cobbling together the screenplay, which consists mainly of laughably bad expositional dialogue and awkward attempts to cover up plot holes. Director Michael Cuesta, who previously made the excellent Kill the Messenger, surprises with his lack of skill here, resorting to muddy cinematography and jigsaw editing to distract from the lack of coherence. The ending is especially awful, not only in its drastic departure from the movie's already ill-fated logic, but also in its blatant disregard for humanity in general.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about American Assassin's violence. How is it depicted? Which scenes are exciting, and which are shocking? Why? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Why do you think so many characters in movies, on TV, and in books are motivated by revenge? What does revenge accomplish?

  • How do father-son-type relationships enter into the story? Are they healthy relationships? Is there trust? Encouragement?

  • Does the movie feature teamwork? If so, how?

  • How does the movie end? Is it a happy ending? What kind of damage was done along the way?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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