American Psycho

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
American Psycho Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Bloody, gruesome black comedy that's not for kids.
  • R
  • 2000
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 18 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This is a story about emptiness, as characters simply try to satisfy their urges and cravings, earning huge amounts of money and spending it on pleasure and narcissism. No amount of this will ever be enough. No one ever seems to connect with or care about another human being, and no one really learns any lessons. Women, especially, are treated as objects.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The lead character is a heartless, callous, wealthy man who either kills or fantasizes about killing numerous people, mostly women. His only concerns are for his looks and his possessions. He doesn't care about other people unless they make him look good, or unless they can provide some kind of pleasure.

Violence

The movie shows several gruesome killings with gallons of blood on display. These involve stabbing, shooting, explosions, bashing, hacking, and chain-sawing, frequently involving women. The movie does tend to cut away at the last second, leaving more to the imagination than is actually shown. However, severed heads and body parts are shown in a refrigerator and a closet. A clip from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is shown on television during one scene.

Sex

The main character has a lover in addition to his fiancée, but also sleeps with, or tries to sleep with, several other women. In one scene, the main character has a "threesome" with a prostitute and a woman friend. Thrusting is shown, as well as brief glimpses of breasts and buttocks. (This scene was extended by a few seconds in the director's cut.) The main character is shown shirtless, with a chiseled torso. His naked bottom is shown in one scene. The character picks up a prostitute. Two women are shown passionately kissing. A woman is shown in a sexy negligee, with her bottom visible. A porn video is briefly visible on TV. A notebook is filled with nude, deviant drawings. There's also some strong innuendo.

Language

Strong, fairly frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "d--k," "vagina," "Goddamn," "loser," and "faggot."

Consumerism

Though the characters are strongly materialistic, the movie doesn't specifically mention any brand names. The characters are more concerned with stylish business cards and getting tables at posh restaurants.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters, especially the main character, drink alcohol frequently, as well as smoke cigarettes and cigars, snort cocaine, and take pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Psycho is based on Bret Easton Ellis's controversial 1991 novel, which is set in the 1980s and deals with materialism, narcissism, and the amassing of great wealth to be spent on personal pleasure. It's also a story about a callous murderer, with several gruesome killings shown, and lots of blood, as well as shots of severed heads and body parts. Sex is an issue, since the main character has both a fiancée and a lover, and then participates in a threesome with a prostitute and yet another woman. Not much nudity is shown, even if sex is strongly implied, although there are some breasts and bottoms on display. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k" as well as many other strong words. The characters quite often drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and cigars, and sometimes snort cocaine or take pills. These characters are clearly irredeemable, and do not learn much of anything during the course of the story. The movie is entertaining in a horrific, comical way, but is certainly not for kids under 18.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycitizencody97 March 26, 2019

An amazing film for adults, yet not as graphic as the novel

American Psycho is based on a novel by Brett Easton Ellis, which depicts Patrick Bateman a wealthy wall street investment banker who is a worker by day and ser... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byDumb-Dumb December 13, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written byFilms123 October 19, 2019

Sex-fuelled, gruesome thriller is a blast

Stylish and blackly comic, American Psycho isn’t for kids. Normally, I completely disagree about making people wait until 16, 17 or 18 to watch a film. I find 1... Continue reading

What's the story?

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) makes a lot of money in some kind of financial job that doesn't seem to require much work. Instead, he spends time drinking with friends, snorting cocaine, keeping up appearances with his fiancée Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon), sleeping with other women, and -- oh yes -- indulging his psychotic urges to kill people, going so far as to invite prostitutes, and even his loyal secretary (Chloe Sevigny) to his apartment for some deviant behavior. Things take a turn for the worse when a cop (Willem Dafoe) begins investigating the disappearance of one of Patrick's acquaintances. But even then, Patrick can't seem to stop, pursuing his devilish hobby until the breaking point.

Is it any good?

Adapted from a novel by Bret Easton Ellis, AMERICAN PSYCHO largely misses some of the book's more pointed critical and satirical points, going more directly for dark comedy and shocking horror. It's too bad that director Mary Harron and her co-screenwriter, actress Guinevere Turner (who plays one of Patrick's victims), couldn't have given it a fresher, more feminist spin. As it is, the movie's depiction of a young, wealthy culture looks almost as appealing as it does repellent.

Fortunately, the way the movie mixes these ingredients makes it subversively fun to watch. Certain scenes -- especially when Patrick listens to banal pop music (Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News, etc.) while preparing for his murders -- push the envelope so far that the only breaking point is laughter. And Christian Bale's performance helps a great deal; he's never been so fearless in a role, or so in touch with a character's darkest fears and desires. However, many movie fans will not like the twist ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's bloody violence. Does it seem to go over the top? What reactions do these scenes cause? Laughter? Squeals? Shock?

  • How does the movie connect sex with violence?

  • What does this movie say about the male body image? Does Patrick represent an impossible physical ideal to live up to? What does he mean when he says he could still improve his looks?

  • What does this movie have to say about money, materialism, and consumer culture? What do these people spend their money on? Do they seem happy?

  • Why do these characters drink so much, in addition to smoking and taking drugs? What are they looking for? What other options do they have?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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