American Made

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
American Made Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Language, some sex in tense but funny drug war comedy.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This isn't a message film; it's far more about irony than morality, inclusiveness, etc. If anything, it's a cautionary tale against getting in over your head, but even that's a stretch.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Positive role models are hard to find in a story in which just about every character is deeply flawed. Everyone is pretty much amoral, incompetent, murderous, or outright evil. But you still root for the main character.


Plenty of tension, but while the war on drugs and Central American insurgencies are the backdrop to the story, the related violence isn't shown (though it's taken seriously). A car bombing has an emotional impact on the characters/film, but it isn't graphic.


A few instances of non-graphic sex, including in the pilot's seat of a plane in flight. Brief partial nudity (of a few folks) from behind, including the main character humorously mooning his family more than once.


Many uses of "f--k" and its variants. Also "s--t," "goddammit," "c--t," "pr--k," "hell," "goddamn," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," and more. "P--sies" is seen written twice.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cocaine smuggling is at the heart of the story, but viewers don't see many drugs being used. Some drinking/toasting, evidence of men drinking beers. Lots of talk about drugs and the drug war, but mostly for ironic effect. Memorable visual gag with spilled coke powder. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Made is based on the true story of a CIA pilot (Tom Cruise) who doubled as a drug runner in the 1980s. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.) and a few sexual situations, plus brief nudity (a man moons his family, etc.). For a film about drugs, not much actual drug use is shown; characters do drink. And there's a non-graphic car bombing, but otherwise violence is more referred to and discussed than shown. Still, the tension and stress of the high-wire act the main character walks might be too intense for kids. But the main issue for parents may be whether a film this ironic is right for their family. It takes a bluntly, hilariously cynical view of 1980s American foreign policy and secret operations, as well as of the war on drugs itself.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byBeach Girl T. January 3, 2018


I do not understand what is wrong with the other people who reviewed this movie. My husband and I sat down with our two boys age 13 and 14 to watch the movie ba... Continue reading
Adult Written byinaun June 27, 2019

Good flick -- too bad they didn't tell the real story

This is an entertaining film, and overall well done. It's really is too bad they didn't tell the real Barry story though. The real story would make... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMovieguy78 February 22, 2018

American Made - Review

American Made is true story that is a mixture of a comedy/ dark comedy. In my opinion I thought the movie was just okay, but for some people out there who want... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 1, 2017

Fresh Funny Flick

I really enjoyed this movie. It was very entertaining and funny. I found that it was very realistic because it is based on a true story. This film stars Tom Cr... Continue reading

What's the story?

Tom Cruise stars in AMERICAN MADE, a tense but funny, ironic look at the war on drugs and American covert operations in Central America in the '80s. Cruise plays a version of real-life pilot/convicted smuggler Barry Seal, who -- per the events portrayed in this film -- gathered intelligence and ran guns (and eventually drugs) for the Reagan-era government. Though each escalation seems more dangerous and insane, the inveterate thrill-seeker and risk-taker can't seem to help himself.

Is it any good?

Thankfully a comedy rather than a documentary, this is a gonzo, ironic barrel roll through the war on drugs and U.S. covert ops in Central America in the '80s. American Made gleefully distorts the facts to entertain, and it succeeds, managing a rare balance of tension and humor. Cruise and director Doug Liman reunite after their pairing for the hit Edge of Tomorrow; considering the quality of both films, it's good news that they intend to work together again. Here, Cruise plays a kind of funhouse version of pilot, convicted smuggler, and eventual DEA informant Barry "Fat Man" Seal (not so fat in this film). Seal is portrayed as an inveterate thrill-seeker who cheerfully gets in deep with both the CIA and the Medellín Cartel. The money to be made is unfathomable. The license to steal proves addictive. The dangers, the morality, the law -- all are pushed aside with Machiavellian delight. Domhnall Gleeson plays Seal's CIA handler and Sarah Wright co-stars as Seal's wife.

American Made is cynical in the best way. It's like a drunken rollercoaster ride at the rickety amusement park that was 1980s U.S. foreign policy; it's appropriately absurd. Although doing even just a little research confirms that the filmmakers played fast and loose with the facts, that's not important. What is important is that it all feels insane enough to be true. As always, Liman moves the story along briskly and compellingly. The flying sequences are thrilling. The script is loaded with little tricks and laughs. The leads are good, but the secondary casting is great: Caleb Landry Jones is deliciously disgusting as a relative bound for trouble. As top Medellín figures Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar, respectively, Alejandro Edda and Mauricio Mejía mix easygoing humanity with real menace. (Mejía, by the way, has played Escobar three other times, so he seems to have it down.) Movies about this period and subject tend to be pretty dark, for good reason. But not this one. So don't take American Made as a historical document -- enjoy it as a fun commentary on an otherwise unfunny chapter in recent history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how American Made builds tension without having much in the way of violence -- and while still being funny. Do movies have to be violent in order to keep you on the edge of your seat?

  • It clearly didn't bother Barry to do illegal, immoral things. Did you root for him anyway? Would you root for someone who did those things in real life? Why is it different to watch someone like that in a movie as opposed to in real life? 

  • How does the movie depict drinking and drug use? Are they glamorized?

  • It's not likely we'll ever know which parts, if any, of this story are completely true. But we do know the filmmakers changed some story elements from documented facts. Why do you think they'd make that choice? What do you think really happened? How could you find out more?

  • Had you ever heard of the Iran-Contra affair? Do you have an opinion about it or the United States' involvement?

Movie details

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