L.A. Confidential

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
L.A. Confidential Movie Poster Image
Dense, tangled period cop drama for adults.
  • R
  • 1997
  • 156 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBeamyApple October 8, 2020

Goddamn this movie is great.

You can't trust anything about “The City of Angels”. Anyone can be bribed, or blackmailed… or killed.

L.A. Confidential is an exciting homage to pulp noir... Continue reading
Adult Written byryan_craw April 8, 2020

A Modern Noir Masterpiece

The plot adaptation is brilliant, the acting is on point, and the cinematography and production design make it a classic.
Teen, 15 years old Written byLegend736 April 24, 2012
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... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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