American Skin

Movie review by
Jordan Elizabeth, Common Sense Media
American Skin Movie Poster Image
Father seeks justice in violent police brutality drama.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Positive themes of humility and forgiveness are heavy-handed and ultimately overshadowed by a cynicism toward humanity. Systemic racial justice feels reduced to an exercise in social-emotional learning.

Positive Role Models

Characters are motivated by positive themes like justice and truth. But they seek those things through kidnapping and holding innocent people hostage. Main character Linc is a military veteran with deep love for his country -- which makes his choice to torture and inflict trauma on others extremely problematic. Officer Mike Randall is a hardened cop who learns to value empathy and the power of apology, but only when his life is on the line. Diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender, but little diversity of thought.


Frequent gun use. One character is shot and killed. He's shown lifeless with blood pooling from his head. Conversations about historical forms of violence that Black people have suffered for generations.


Frequent use of "bitch," "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Skin is a drama about police brutality that's also brutal to watch. It follows Linc (Nate Parker), a bereaved Black father who seeks justice when a White cop (Beau Knapp) murders his son. When the cop faces no legal repercussions, Linc takes the law into his own hands. Mature content includes frequent use of "bitch," "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word, as well as punching, shoving, and gun violence resulting in death. There are also conversations about the historical forms of violence that Black people have suffered for generations. While positive themes of justice, truth, and empathy are present, cynicism toward humanity prevails. There is diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender, but little diversity of thought. Omari Hardwick and Theo Rossi co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjenlucas February 14, 2021

Important and impactful movie

Finally, there is a movie that shows the truth about racism in this country from so many angles, especially with regards to the police. This movie is exceedingl... Continue reading
Adult Written byRahiem Thomas May 12, 2021

This movie is highly underrated

Thought-provoking. Black Lives Matter vs. The Police & The Judicial System. In truth, the script writers for this movie were too authentic, and I believ... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bytylerkell April 2, 2021

A Mixed Bag

I don't really know how to feel about this film. On one hand, I can appreciate Nate Parker discussing police brutality, paired with some (mostly) great per... Continue reading

What's the story?

In AMERICAN SKIN, Lincoln "Linc" Jefferson (Nate Parker) and his son are pulled over by police when Linc is suspected of speeding. Linc's son tries to film the encounter on his cell phone and is shot and killed by a White police officer named Mike Randall (Beau Knapp). When Randall faces no legal repercussions, Linc and his ex-military friends storm the police station, holding everyone hostage and staging a mock trial in pursuit of justice. The event is captured by a young documentary filmmaker who's unaware that this all-too-common incident of "White cop kills Black boy" would result in a raid.

Is it any good?

Police brutality is an important topic in American society that's worthy of being depicted with thoughtfulness, nuance, and deep knowledge -- unfortunately, this drama falls short on all three. Star Parker also wrote and directed American Skin, and while the characters are diverse in their identities, their voices reek of his heavy-handed, self-important style. American Skin feels much like a play: one room, a small cast, and many preachy monologues. There's no subtlety in its design, either, with "Blue Lives Matter" and "Back the Blue" flags hanging on the precinct walls.

The arc of American Skin hinges on Randall's ability to empathize with the trauma of being held at gunpoint -- reducing systemic racial justice to an exercise in social-emotional learning. Characters who've been taken hostage unrealistically put aside what must be immense fear in order to go along with the mock trial. And the trial is "justice by force," which goes against Linc's desire for an unbiased outcome. American Skin doesn't do its own topic justice. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how American Skin handles the topic of police brutality. Have you seen other movies that address this subject? What did they do similarly? Differently?

  • Do you think justice is served at the end of American Skin? Why, or why not?

  • What role does forgiveness play in the film? What about empathy?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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