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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Couple's romantic relationship spoken about.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.