American Hustle

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
American Hustle Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Mesmerizing mature drama with just a bit of sex, violence.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 25 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Even among thieves and con artists, loyalty is a must. Also, love can sometimes be the only way out of a really big mess.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Irving isn't a pillar of decency by any stretch of the imagination, but he does have standards and approaches his line of work with zeal and respect. Also, he truly loves his step-son and makes sacrifices for him. Sydney is lost, sometimes sad, but bold and hardworking, and truly loves Irving, even though he's married to someone else. Sydney is a force to be reckoned with, mistress of her fate. She and Irving have an equal relationship.


This is not a violence-packed movie, but there are a few key moments of brutality. A man shoots someone at point blank (it's a brief but visceral scene). A woman finds herself hitting a man hard with a picture frame after he refuses to stop making advances toward her. A man beats a co-worker with a phone; again, it's brief, but long enough for us to get a sense of the moment's brutality.


A woman's wardrobe consists almost entirely of plunging necklines that show off her cleavage. A man and a woman go into a bathroom stall, and he's shown lifting up her skirt and making out with her while they discuss whether to have sex or not. Another couple is shown kissing passionately, and it's suggested that they sleep together, though we don't see any explicit sexual activity.


Swear words galore, including "ass," "s--t," "son-of-a-bitch," bulls--t," and "motherf--ker."


Some old-school brands, including Pimm's, Chase, Skippy, Cheez Whiz, and New York's Plaza Hotel.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief scenes showing adults snorting coke and smoking weed. Lots of social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Hustle is an intoxicating, brilliant -- but mature -- drama that will leave viewers breathless with its audacity and streak of humor. There's not a ton of violence or sexual activity, but the themes are intense and adult (reinvention, one-upsmanship, overarching ambition infidelity, an unhappy marriage). The movie also includes brief scenes of drug use and loads of swearing including multiple instances of "f--k." 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTheHero05 December 12, 2020

Best movie ever, and age friendly!

Dear families of children above 12, you should certainly watch it! If your kid thinks they should see it, good! Not too much violence, or even profanity. Writin... Continue reading
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byMonta B. May 1, 2014

Not to watch with your teen girl!

This was a fantastic movie, and my husband and I loved it. We had started watching it with our 15-year-old daughter, and thankfully she got bored quickly and le... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bytheoneandonly_me September 19, 2019


Although some minor "inappropriate"scenes, the movie was outstanding. The general audience should be rated 13+ due to teenagers responsibility and gro... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCassiopeia72 July 6, 2018


I watched this when I was 12, but I feel like it should be viewed by teens who can understand the themes and events of this story. The storyline was okay, but t... Continue reading

What's the story?

Inspired by the real-life story of a con artist who is compelled by the FBI to help snag bigger fish in a criminal pond, director David O. Russell's AMERICAN HUSTLE finds Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a small-time hustler and dry cleaning store owner, taking his game to another level when he meets, teams up with, and falls for Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a formidably smart stripper who helps to refine their scams. But when an ambitious FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) ensnares them, the only way out for Irving and Sydney is to set up a bigger con that would lead to a more valuable prize: a well-meaning but corrupt politician (Jeremy Renner) and a mob boss (Robert De Niro). Complicating matters is Irving's interesting, charming, but bizarrely eccentric wife (Jennifer Lawrence), whom Irving cares for but doesn't want to live with anymore. His step-son is the main reason he's sticking around. But if he and Sydney don't reel in the bigger marks, they're done.

Is it any good?

American Hustle immerses you in its pounding intensity from the very beginning, and it only accelerates from there. The moment we see Christian Bale's paunchy swindler create his intricate comb-over, we know we're in Wonderland territory. Nothing will be as it seems. And what comes next is a joy of non-linear storytelling, conjuring a world that still seems familiar despite being set decades ago. It's bold and operatic and unafraid. The ensemble is fantastic, led by Bale who leaves any vanity at the door to churn out a performance filled with layers. He's criminal and loving and admirable, even in the worst circumstances. Adams is stunning -- there's no other character like her Sydney. You root for them both, as well as Irving's nutty wife, and the politician, Mayor Carmine Pollito, who gets caught in the dragnet.

Just when you think the movie can't get any better, American Hustle pulls another brilliant sleight of hand, sending the plot careening in a new mind-bending direction. You'll find yourself holding your breath often, and not because the characters are pulling some feat-of-physicality stunt. The subjects are grand and complicated, and the story has the makings of a classic heist film. But, at the heart of it all -- and this is what makes it so memorable and insightful -- is a quest for love and partnership.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes this movie unique. Have you seen other movies with similar styles or themes? What sets this one apart? What do you know about how the director works?

  • What makes a movie better for mature viewers -- sexual or violent content or adult-oriented themes? What kinds of movies should teens not see?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

Themes & Topics

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