Parents' Guide to

Donnie Brasco

By Will Fertman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Decent mob movie, but not meant for children.

Movie R 1997 127 minutes
Donnie Brasco Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 18+

Depressingly sober depiction of undercover police work

This movie is a rare oddity for a dramatized undercover police crime drama as it does not glorify the profession one bit. In every instance, it conveys at the very least an underlying mood of dread and terror. Donnie Brasco is in a jungle where he does not belong, yet he must somehow push himself to fit in with the hollow sociopaths around him... Even at the cost of his own family. He is a true hero, not chivalrous, but doing what is necessary at great sacrifice to himself and those he holds dear... And yet there is no reward for him in the end, no glory to behold. He's just another cog in the machine, more meat for the meat grinder, but at least he made the world slightly brighter. What this film does particularly well is its ability to demonstrate that in the ecosystem of organized crime, values such as honour, compassion, civility, and honesty are weaknesses-not strengths. Cunning, backstabbing, greed, and sheer brutal force wins the day. Brasco forgivably comes close to humanizing the inhumane, desperately looking for some manner of good in a somewhat fatherly-figure... Only to be starkly reminded that for the monsters inhabiting this dark underbelly of society, they will gut him like a fish should he reveal himself as a human being walking among them. This film has excellent performances by its entire cast and good direction... My main criticism is that the ending feels a bit abrupt, and left me with the feeling there should have been more explanation for the aftermath of the events transpired. It almost feels tired, but maybe that was the whole point all along.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
age 16+

Dramatic Mobster Movie Starring Johnny Depp

As with many other famous mobster/gangster movies, there’s a lot of swearing, violence, and crime— there is a sex scene (however it’s between a married couple), a LOT of swearing and reference to committing crimes (selling drugs, ordering hits, murder, etc.), and an equal amount of violence (mostly gun violence, but also a very brutal and graphic scene towards the end where two men are murdered and then chopped into pieces to be discarded). The synopsis surrounds around an undercover FBI agent (played by Johnny Depp) who is in deep cover attempting to infiltrate a dangerous gang of mobsters based out of New York, where Depp finds himself actually befriending one of the mobsters while portraying one himself. It is based on a true story. For the most part the movie is slow, but throughout the entire film there are various scenes of viscous beatings, shootings, stabbings, etc. This is not a movie for children, but may be appropriate for late teens depending on what is allowed.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (8):

Donnie Brasco is a fine film, a supposedly true story that covers many of the usual mafia movie bases -- family, loyalty, trust and betrayal. The film proves note-worthy, however, by providing the audience with an in-depth view of characters who are typically portrayed as one-dimensional corrupt law enforcers.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: February 28, 1997
  • On DVD or streaming: January 20, 1998
  • Cast: Al Pacino, Anne Heche, Johnny Depp
  • Director: Mike Newell
  • Studio: Columbia Tristar
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 127 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: some strong graphic violence, pervasive strong language and brief nudity and sexuality
  • Last updated: February 21, 2023

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