Dirty Harry

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Dirty Harry Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
'70s rebel-cop classic is way too edgy for kids.
  • R
  • 1971
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Strong message of the sacrifices made by police, how underappreciated police are, and how thankless their tough jobs have become.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Generally negative view of society. Though "Dirty" Harry is supposed to be a scowling antihero, everything he does aims to protect the public (who don't appreciate it), saving lives and upholding the law. Harry disparages his new nice-guy (Hispanic) partner for having graduated from college. Ethnically diverse characters include good guys, bad guys, and victims, but only males seem to have major roles. "Negroes" (as the script says) seem particularly threatening. Harry is said to be an equal-opportunity hater of all races.


Bloody gun violence, sniper fatalities, hand-to-hand punchouts. A car wreck. Harry and other characters savagely beaten and kicked. A leg stabbing. An old man hit with a bottle. A character threatens suicide by jumping (with graphic verbal description of what the result would be).


Full-frontal female nudity with a girl victim's naked corpse and a naked lady apparently welcoming people to a sex party. Nude go-go dancers and strippers in a bar. Harry discusses a past incident involving a would-be rapist with an erection. Bare breasts when Harry interrupts a romantic interlude. A patrol past a block of San Francisco strip shows and sex parlors. Harry gets a coy proposition from a young homosexual.


The f-word once. The s-word, SOB, the N-word, "bastard," "Jesus Christ," a-hole.


Touristy element in the prominent display of San Francisco landmarks. A Coca Cola sign.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Harry and a comrade share "booze." A visit to a bar. A liquor store purchase-robbery.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while this classic police thriller inspired a video game and numerous other PG-13 Hollywood cop-opera shoot-em-ups, it was intended as a very adult film, with frank swearing and occasional full-frontal nudity -- often in the context of a decadent community crawling with degeneracy and lawlessness. Violence includes bloody shootings, stabbings, and even schoolchildren threatened. For all the action, the movie doesn't exactly make police work appealing as a career path (especially the bitter last scene).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGoozer November 27, 2020

Not as ”R” rated as you might think.

This is a great classic, it's the foundation for the career that Clint Eastwood would have. So, I think it goes without saying that this is a good movie, w... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous November 17, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written byMytzplizik May 22, 2018

Gritty Cop Thriller

This is a great film which features Clint Eastwood in one of his signature roles as Harry Callahan. There is some strong violence as well as language and it sti... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 12, 2021

Good Cop Movie, But Not For Kids

This film is pretty good, but is full of sex and nudity. there is also language and violence.

What's the story?

In San Francisco a young psycho killer calling himself "Scorpio" demands that City Hall pay him in cash, or otherwise he will embarrass the wimpy mayor by murdering random citizens every day, including priests and children. The officer assigned to the case is the notorious "Dirty Harry" Callahan (Clint Eastwood), a cynical, widowed lawman expertly wielding a .357 Magnum and ace crimefighting instincts, whose previous cases left a string of his partners dead or hospitalized. Harry is not happy to be partnered up anew with a young rookie fresh out of college, but together the two cops play cat-and-mouse games with the sadistic Scorpio around a city filled with anti-police graffiti and unhelpful citizens. Late in the action Callahan finds his investigation crippled by a "justice" system that's concerned with protecting the rights of the loathsome Scorpio -- more so than with keeping his potential victims (or the police) safe.

Is it any good?

This is a hard-hitting reminder that 1960s social liberalism had gone too far, leaving society vulnerable to creeps and savages whom cops literally couldn't touch without warrants and red tape. Clint Eastwood had established himself as a laconic star in violent 1960s westerns, and a lot of this is his steely gunfighter persona well-transplanted to a modern city setting, with the accompanying taut narrative and some satisfying (but increasingly farfetched as the tale goes on) shootout-showdowns. A lot of the film's appeal -- less noticeable to the 21st century's young viewers, but still there -- also came from the political message. Harry, a hero cop, becomes an outlaw just for trying to do his job. Dirty Harry would be much imitated, and the theme of a law-and-order Clint Eastwood working for a system that doesn't deserve his heroics (and a more thoughtful villain who even talks about that irony) was done again in In the Line of Fire.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about a theme in the film, that the law -- in the post-1960s, post "civil rights" era -- protects lawbreakers, not victims, and that a dedicated policeman like Harry can't even do his job. Do you agree?

  • Is this movie still relevant? Do teens feel that modern police officers face similar challenges?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

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