L.A. Confidential Movie Poster Image

L.A. Confidential



Dense, tangled period cop drama for adults.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1997
  • Running Time: 156 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

With cops like these, who needs gangsters? Police use bullying, blackmail and frame-up tactics against suspects, showing particular hatred for minorities. One police character says planting evidence and using brutality is standard for how cop detectives operate. Though technically "good" guys, Exley and White have their ruthless dark sides and both sleep with the same glamour-girl prostitute, though they manage to set aside their hatred for each other in the end.


Vicious beat-downs, gun-downs, men riddled bloodily with machine-gun and shotgun blasts. People with slashed wrists/throats/legs; bloody bodies pile up after a massacre. A rotted, rat-eaten corpse. The heroine is slapped around by a boyfriend.


Revealing clothing and brief female nudity, in bed (including a tied-up rape victim) and in the morgue. References to masturbation and pornography. Hints of kinky sex. The heroine is a working prostitute.


"F--k" and "s--t" uttered frequently, and a lot of derogatory terms for women.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking that results in a violent, drunken brawl. Talk and depiction of marijuana, heroin, and cocaine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this isn't a thrill-ride cops-a-go-go actioner for kids. Laden with vicious homicide, numerous subplots and multiple characters, it depicts deep police-force corruption and entrenched brutality in law-enforcement. Even its "heroic" policemen are badly flawed, self-serving characters. One crusades chivalrously against assailants who batter women; yet he himself becomes one, out of sexual jealousy. Swear words flow thicker than the bloody wounds, and there is much talk of prostitution and sex.

What's the story?

Based on a book by leading crime author James Ellroy, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL recreates a Los Angeles in the 1950s where organized crime, corruption, and Hollywood culture mingled. Saga-like narrative (hard)boils down to three gutsy, basically honest but flawed LAPD officers. Hot-tempered Bud White (Russell Crowe) knows he's not smart, but he has an elemental anger towards lawbreakers -- especially those who abuse women and children -- and a fierce loyalty to the department. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) moonlights as technical advisor/inspiration to a TV police show (a takeoff on the original Dragnet and it's gone to his head. Rookie Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a brilliant sleuth but tactless and ruthless in his career aims. Their busy caseloads and personal lives converge on the mystery of a grisly diner massacre (in which White's partner was among the slain) connected to massive police/City Hall/drugs/blackmail corruption. Added complication: White and Exley hate each other and are having passionate affairs with the same movie-star-lookalike prostitute (Kim Basinger).

Is it any good?


Though it comes highly praised by critics, L.A. Confidential makes a lot of the same questionable moves as a lot of lesser police actioners. Heroes who take beatings that would put anyone else in ICU, then heal up instantly; LAPD so criminal they make the mafia look wimpy; and the paternal chief who turns out to be the worst villain. Plus, after all the sinister twists and turns, an ending where everybody shoots everybody and lives happily ever after.

So why all the Academy Award nominations? The terrific 1950s California mood, dialog, and performances (winning an Oscar for Kim Basinger) are what make L.A. Confidential a standout adult drama. Plus there's the complex and fascinating relationship between cops Exley and White, who confront the worst aspects of themselves and nearly kill each other, only to end up allies.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the time period of the early 1950s, and the parallels between this script's scandal-sheet Hush-Hush with the real-life one called Confidential. Research crime/showbiz scandals of the time (the Web has the juicy details), about the Johnny Stompanato murder, and how Confidential magazine went too far. Are popular gossip Web sites such as TMZ.com just as bad today or not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 19, 1997
DVD/Streaming release date:September 23, 2008
Cast:Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Russell Crowe
Director:Curtis Hanson
Studio:Warner Home Video
Run time:156 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence, language and sexuality

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Parent of a 1, 8, 9, and 14 year old Written bythejokerspencil January 10, 2009

Great Sets,Great Score,Great Acting must equal Great Movie?

Wrong. This film was made outstanding and the actors in this are the best of the best but it does not live up to all the hype.
Teen, 15 years old Written byevolinag February 6, 2012

Superb cop thriller has some thriller violence.

"L.A. Confidential", winner of 2 Academy Awards (Kim Basinger - Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Best Script written directly for the Screen), is an excellent cop thriller. The actors are terrific, the plot is excellent. The movie deals with corruption and how police sometimes lies in order to get a job done. The Hush-Hush magazine is based upon the real one, "Conidential" (as the movie's title suggests) and the movie shows a very corrupt and unfortunately true depiction of reality. Very good! The movie has nothing too strong. It focuses on 3 cops and a prostitute. I think it is clear that with these protagonists the movie has violence and sex as thematic elements. But there is never anything strong or inapproriate for mature tweens. Some corpses are shown, sometimes bloody, sometimes decaying. The scenes are not disturbing. The character played by Russel Crowe is rude and a bit violent, but in contrast to him the character played by Guy Pearce is calm and gently. The role played by Kevin Spacey is neutral. The violence is never depicted in a way it could disturb or harm tweens. The movies has a prostitute as one of the protagonists, so there is sexual talk. No strong sexuality is depicted. The language is average R-profanity. If you don't mind the language, it is suitable for teens and up. And nowadays it would have been rated 15 in the UK and Ireland, not 18.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares April 10, 2009
If the shootout didn't seem like an attempt to bring in more audience members, if the plot was rearranged in flashback form to add to the post-noir effect, and if it didn't seem so full of itself, L.A. Confidential would be perfect.


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