Dirty Harry

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

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 11 reviews

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.

Violence

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).

Sex

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.

Language

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

Consumerism

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 bydarthsitkur July 25, 2016

You gotta ask yourself one question, Do I feel lucky?, well do ya punk?

Dirty Harry is a really fun movie full of action, suspense, and humor with a side of cheesy one liners that I do recommend to action movie fans
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn October 3, 2011

Gritty classic has lot's of sex and violence

Dirty Harry is a very, very gritty cop classic that is not even appropriate for most teens, because of the fact that there is some very graphic violence includi... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byHALO13 November 13, 2014

Do I Feel Lucky?

Dirty Harry is a classic 1970's cop film with Clint Eastwood which depicts Harry Callahan a Good but Dirty cop who uses any means to bring down a criminal,... Continue reading

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

For kids who love action

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