Dog Day Afternoon

Movie review by
Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Dog Day Afternoon Movie Poster Image
Classic 1970s bank heist drama has swearing and violence.
  • R
  • 1975
  • 125 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

While characters break the law, their reasons for doing so are often admirable. They include caring for loved ones, striving for better wages for working-class people, less police violence, and greater social equality.

Positive Role Models

Sonny is a bank robber, but his motives are revealed to be more humane than simply wanting to steal money. Neither he nor sidekick Sal comes across as hardened criminal. They do take hostages, repeatedly claiming that they don't want to hurt them, and provide them food and drink. Mix of genders and races in the cast. Non-White and non-male characters are mostly in minor roles, shown doing less prestigious jobs. Non-White character is assumed to be a criminal by police. Gay and transgender representation among main characters, with homophobic attitudes expressed about gay weddings. Discussion of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety. Racial stereotyping about Latinx people.

Violence

Characters overpowered in scuffles, threatened at gunpoint. Threats against life made by bank robbers, who also claim to not want to hurt anybody. Hostages herded into a vault but not physically harmed. Shots fired. Violence with weapons alluded to and shown. Character shot in the head.

Sex

Couple's romantic relationship spoken about.

Language

Language used throughout, including death threats, along with "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "son of a bitch," "a--hole," and "damn." Police officer referred to as "pig." Some homophobic and bigoted language used.

Consumerism

Character robs a bank so that they can afford something that's important to their partner. Bank robbers demand takeout food for themselves and their hostages. Money thrown into a crowd.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters smoke cigarettes, partly to manage their stress. Smokers warned about health risks by other characters. Characters talk about drinking to manage stress, attempting suicide via overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dog Day Afternoon is a vintage 1970s bank robbery drama -- based on a real event -- starring Al Pacino and containing strong language throughout with some threat. Typically for the period, social issues lie at the heart of what motivates the characters. Bank robber Sonny (Pacino) criticizes social inequality, which he claims is caused by both unbridled capitalism and controlling labor unions. His motivation for the robbery is subsequently revealed to be for compassionate reasons, rather than simply to steal money for himself. A gay, transgender character is integral to the plot. There is some discussion of this, and characters express homophobic and misogynistic views. The threat of violence is constant, but very little is shown on-screen. The bank robbers use guns to intimidate and make death threats, but they also make clear their intent to not harm anyone. Most of the on-screen violence consists of scuffles between characters, with some minor injuries sustained. There are also some instances of gunfire as the situation slowly escalates. Swearing features throughout, in the context of characters becoming angry, stressed, and anxious as Sonny and his accomplice Sal's (John Cazale) standoff with the police intensifies. Characters smoke cigarettes, partly to alleviate the stress of their situation. They also talk about drinking to manage stress. Various mental health issues are discussed in regards to drinking and prescription drug use.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPat.movielover May 3, 2021

Pretty Good, crime film

Violence isn't really to bad in this film one character gets shot in the head and it's kind of tense but there's nothing except language, there... Continue reading
Adult Written byLaura_D May 3, 2021

Some Violence, Language

My 10 year old didn't seem to really care that the plot includes the theme that the main bank robber is robbing it because he needs money for his wife... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bytylerkell July 8, 2021
Kid, 11 years old March 7, 2021

Eh... not a big fan.

Very slow-moving film, and also very adult, And very boring, if you ask me ;-;

Violence 4/10: Very little actual violence, but lots of threatening and one shoo... Continue reading

What's the story?

DOG DAY AFTERNOON is a crime drama about a pair of bank robbers, Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale). Following a number of missteps, the would-be robbers find themselves in a tense standoff with police, with widespread media coverage unfolding around them in real time.

Is it any good?

A dizzying mix of crime drama, satire, and true story, this cinematic classic has lost none of its impact since its original release in 1975 and subsequent Oscar win for best original screenplay. Dog Day Afternoon finds a peak-era Pacino brimming with nervous energy as Sonny, a self-righteous but articulate bank robber whose motives are revealed to be far more compassionate than what first appears.

Inspired by the real-life case of 1972 first-time criminal John Wojtowicz, the stressful standoff between Sonny and the police re-creates real TV footage of the original heist gone wrong. Along the way, the movie's deft comedic and dramatic touches heighten the humanity of all the characters involved, while Sonny's scathing distrust of the press, the police, and U.S. labor laws highlights problems that persist today. This remains a boiling-hot, blisteringly tense two hours of must-see cinema.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the motives for the bank robbery in Dog Day Afternoon. Did your opinion of Sonny change throughout the movie as you learned more about him? Was he a sympathetic character? Did you find yourself rooting for him?

  • Talk about the strong language in the movie. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • Talk about the violence in the movie. Did you fear for any of the characters? How did the threat of violence compare to that in other movies you've seen?

  • The movie features a gay and transgender character. How have attitudes changed toward gay and trans people since the 1970s? What challenges remain in place?

  • The movie is based on real events. Did this make the story more dramatic and interesting? What other movies have you seen that are based on real events?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love movies based on true stories

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate