American Graffiti

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
American Graffiti Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Coming-of-age classic still a must-see for teens.
  • PG
  • 1973
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Friends express their loyalty to one another, and Steven and Laurie thoughtfully try to figure out what the uncertain future will do to their relationship. But also lots of edgy, rebellious teen behavior: drag racing, drunk driving, disrespecting authority (cops are mocked, for example). Non-white kids don't exist in this slice of early '60s America. One girl says she's not allowed to listen to Wolfman Jack because her parents (mistakenly) assume he's black.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the teens in American Graffiti are struggling with their identity and the transition to life after high school. Steven is thoughtful and loyal to his girlfriend.


Fisticuffs but no blood. Gunshots during a robbery. A car crash and a car explosion.


Flirting and backseat necking and petting. Flashing of bare bum (mooning).


Sevearl uses of "s--t" and a handful of "damn," "ass," "hell," "bitchin'."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One boy gets a stranger to buy alcohol at a liquor store and then gets so drunk that he throws up. He also drives after drinking. Teens smoke cigarettes, too.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Graffiti holds up beautifully for teens. Because it's set in the '60s, there is smoking and loads of drinking. There's a fistfight, some off-screen gunshots, drag racing, a car explotion, and a small amount of profanity ("s--t," "damn," hell"). Teens challenge authority, drink and drive, talk about sex, make out, and there's one shot of a boy's naked backside (in a drive-by mooning).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRuby O'Neill2066 June 17, 2019

Great Movie, but way too much sex!

There is so much sex it is almost uncomfortable to watch . In one seen there was a gun. In a mother seen some one said b**h and the middle finger was used at a... Continue reading
Adult Written byLoved one March 23, 2020
It may be a good movie, but it started off using God's name in vain.
Teen, 14 years old Written bybadgers rule November 16, 2020
um how is this pg its like the worst movie ever so much cussing and sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byConker22 September 5, 2020

Kids movie

American graffiti is not as bad as some people make it out to be.There is some sex scenes but mostly for comedic effect like the mooning scene.Other than that t... Continue reading

What's the story?

AMERICAN GRAFFITI is a coming-of-age dramedy set in Modesto, Calif. Steven (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfus) are leaving for college. Over the course of a long last night, Steven and Laurie (Cindy Williams) resolve to date others, while Curt chases a mysterious blond woman (Suzanne Sommers) in a T-bird. Meanwhile, Steven's friend Toad takes Steven's car and romances the somewhat dim Debbie. Another friend, John Milner, wants to drag race hot-shot Bob (Harrison Ford). Unfortunately, Milner gets saddled with a whiny 13-year-old for the evening (Mackenzie Phillips). Teens tangle with a gang, destroy a cop car, get into another car crash, and consult with DJ Wolfman Jack. With varying degrees of anticipation and fear, the teens leave high school behind.

Is it any good?

An unknown George Lucas, four years before he would make Star Wars, set a standard for teen movies with this exceptional film. The cast is uniformly strong. Most of the young actors are famous now -- Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Sommers, Mackenzie Phillips. And the soundtrack, virtually a greatest hits collection from the era, includes recordings from such early rock legends as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Fats Domino. The songs are beautifully woven into the restless teenage world.

Like the characters themselves, America in 1962 was on the brink of enormous changes, and Lucas captures that momentous feeling tinged with uneasiness in the exceptional American Graffiti. Children may ask, "Was it really like that?"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how older teens feel about leaving home, and moving away from everything they know.

  • How does American Graffiti compare with contemporary movies about high school kids? How is it different? The same?

  • Which characters do you most identify with?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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