Parents' Guide to

American History X

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

This dark drama is not for kids.

Movie R 1998 118 minutes
American History X Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 21 parent reviews

age 16+

Please remove the stick from your behind, guys

Christ almighty, you think you’d never want your kids to learn by what I see on this website. The brutal realism of this movie IS THE POINT! Life is brutal and this movie poignantly reflects the bleak and depressing consequences of racism and living the lifestyle that goes with it. Show it to your kids and have a very real discussion with them. This movie is so important in showing the dangers of casual racism that leads to radicalization. If your kids are mature enough, show it to them whenever they are ready.
age 18+

A great movie that is not afraid to show why racial hatred Begins.

An emotional movie the pushes boundaries, with a powerful message. America history x is a great anti-racist film, but it is not for the faint of heart. Cussing is constantly with hundreds of uses of F*** and many uses of the N word. The violence is disturbing and quite realistic. The prison rape scene is hard to watch. If you can get pass all the harsh realities that this movie is not afraid to show, I highly recommend it. I'll end it with quote from this film "life is to short to be angry all the time".

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (21 ):
Kids say (24 ):

It's certainly "artier" than most films dealing with social ills; it's a live-wire drama, not a dry, TV movie-of-the-week that usually arrives complete with a teacher's study guide and lab coats. Some of the cut-and-dried reasons behind racist youth gangs (lack of economic opportunity, weak adult supervision) can be fleetingly discerned here. Mostly the vibe is emotional, not intellectual, making white-power lifestyles and repugnant politics feel as attractive as rock music to angry young people, then giving the viewer a tragic fadeout to ponder over the consequences. There are times when this movie scores trying to be a strong take on a topic that leaves no audiences feeling neutral. And there are other times when you can feel the filmmakers shaking their mighty fingers at the audience, naughty, naughty. Welcome to the After-School Special of your worst nightmares.

Norton was Oscar-nominated for his role, which he carries off with frightening physicality and conviction. You believe him thoroughly as a swastika-tattooed, head-shaved fanatic, and as a humbled, wiser ex-con trying to do good instead. But the key character of Danny seems badly underwritten, as are the simplistic motivations ascribed to the pathology in the Vineyard home. A late scene laying a lot of blame on the late Mr. Vineyard in the first place seems too convenient. First-time director Tony Kaye clashed with both the film studio and actor Norton over how to handle the story and tried to take his name off the completed film.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: February 24, 1998
  • On DVD or streaming: January 1, 2003
  • Cast: Beverly D'Angelo , Edward Furlong , Edward Norton
  • Director: Tony Kaye
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: New Line
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 118 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: graphic violence, racism, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual situations, mature themes
  • Last updated: February 26, 2024

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