Catch Me If You Can

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Catch Me If You Can Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Excellent account of youngest FBI's Most Wanted.
  • PG-13
  • 2002
  • 141 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 35 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 68 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No real positive messages. The FBI finds a way to use Frank's extraordinary criminal gifts for good, eventually leading him to become a millionaire through his consulting work with banks and Fortune 500 companies. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While the movie does show the roots and reasons behind Frank's deceptions and con artistry, he is still someone who made a fortune through lying, cheating, and defrauding the lives of innocent people. Carl Hanratty, the lead FBI agent in charge of finding and capturing Frank Abangale Jr., is determined to see that justice is served but also does everything in his power to ensure that Abangale is not left to nearly die in a squalid French prison. He also seeks a way to use Abangale's gifts for the good of the FBI as well as a second chance for him to live an honest life. 


While pretending to be a doctor, Frank witnesses an injured young boy crying, injured, with lots of blood on his legs. Guns are frequently drawn by the FBI while in pursuit of Frank. 


Two characters have sex in a hotel room -- moaning and heavy breathing, no nudity. Frank comes home from school to find a man leaving his parents' bedroom -- strongly implied adultery. A prostitute propositions Frank in his hotel room; they come to a financial agreement in exchange for her spending the night. A character says that her parents refuse to see her following her out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion.


Brief strong language, including one use of "f--k" to the punch line of a knock-knock joke. "T-ts," "goddammit," "hell." 


Pan Am Airlines is featured prominently, as are other now-defunct airlines. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Mostly social drinking, but some scenes feature drunk partygoers and passed-out bar patrons. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Catch Me if You Can is a 2002 Steven Spielberg crime biography based on a true story, in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a teenage con artist who managed to convince people at various times that he was an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, while making and cashing forged checks all over the world. There's some mature material, including the fact that the main character is a con man who never considers the impact that his lies and scams may have or the risks he's taking until it wreaks havoc on his relationship with a woman he seems to honestly love, despite all his myriad false pretenses. It includes some non-explicit sexual situations and a negotiation with a call girl. A character says that her parents refuse to see her following her out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion. Characters drink and smoke and use strong language, including one instance of "f--k." The scene where Frank's parents tell him they're getting a divorce may be upsetting to some kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKristiD January 25, 2020

Trust the parent reviews

I faithfully check Common Sense Media before suggesting movies and books for my kids and have never felt let down ...until tonight. the The CSM reviewer led me... Continue reading
Adult Written byCBL4321 January 23, 2020

PG-13 with Prostitution and Extreme Sexism

Not a family movie, even with older kids. I have a daughter in tears that her younger teen brothers wouldn't fast forward the prostitution scenes. She not... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byDamatrix99 March 29, 2018

Another Hit From Spielberg

Catch me if you can is a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, based on a true story, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, and Christopher Walken. Th... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCoolpool785 June 7, 2018

Amazing performances, moves at a steady pace, and has a surprisingly likable criminal

It's a very well made film. The performances are extremely well done. The film is intriguing with everything that happens from start to finish. This film a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Frank Abagnale Jr. ( Leonardo DiCaprio) adores his parents. His father (Christopher Walken) relies on using an angle to get what he wants and employs his teen son in his scams. But eventually he gets the family into serious financial trouble. When Frank is 16, his parents get divorced, and he's told to choose which one he will live with. He can't handle it and he runs away. Like a child, he thinks he can recreate the perfect world he once thought he had. But he has one very un-childlike quality: an astonishing eye for detail. Combined with the charm and panache he learned from his father, the ability to appear innocent to give him apparent credibility and -- just as important -- youthful fearless (he just doesn't know how outrageous his scams are), he becomes one of the most successful con men in history. Before he is imprisoned in France, he manages to pass himself off as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. He also manages to pass off bad checks worth over $4 million.

Is it any good?

Part period piece, part chase film, part drama, Steven Spielberg's movie about the youngest person ever to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List is terrifically entertaining. It's set in the candy-colored ring-a-ding 1960s where jet pilots were glamorous and even bank tellers in big cities had a small-town belief in the honesty of someone cashing a check, especially if he had a charming smile. This is the 1960s of big hair, smooth surfaces, and bikinis, fueled by martini music like Sinatra's "Come Fly with Me."

Every single element of this movie works brilliantly together and the result is as irresistible as its con man hero. The screenplay by Jeff Nathanson (based on Abagnale's book) is excellent, as crafty as its subject and with just the right touch of heart. Tom Hanks, as the FBI agent who chases, admires, and ultimately inspires Frank, makes each moment on-screen a small masterpiece. DiCaprio captures us from his first moment as an awkward 13-year-old to his sheer pleasure in his own ability to master the adult world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different ways Frank and Hanratty felt about each other at different times. How were Frank Sr. and Hanratty like opposing father figures in Frank's life?

  • What are the challenges in making a movie inspired by actual events? Where do you think the movie heightened the action, drama, and tension for the sake of making the movie more engaging, even if it wasn't exactly what really happened? 

  • Do you think this movie glamorizes the misdeeds of Frank Abagnale Jr.? What are some other examples of movies in which outlaws or antiheroes seem to earn a kind of respect and admiration due to the audacity of their actions and their gifts at escaping from authority? What do you see as the appeal in movies centered on characters like these? 

Movie details

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