A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
In a bad situation or desperate moment, trust that help is on the way (a message that some may interpret as the idea that greater spiritual forces are looking out for you). Prejudice and institutional racism can make people feel like outsiders, like they don't belong in a community.
Positive Role Models
Jaylen repeatedly finds himself in a difficult situation and tries to make good decisions, but he doesn't always handle problems appropriately. He endures a racist community with self-control, but it's made clear that in the past he chose differently.
Main character and other positive characters are Black/POC. Offers an empathetic perspective on what it's like to be Black in an all-White rural town and the way that institutional racism perpetuates. A Black male teen is depicted as a quiet, sensitive, caring person who tries to avoid physical confrontations. Written and directed by Black men.
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Violence & Scariness
Plenty of reminders that guns are ever present in this community. A man shoots at an intruder. People stalk, intimidate, and beat up a sympathetic character. Police brandish weapons and handle a suspect roughly (the implication is that it's rougher than it needs to be). Car crash leaves bloody, swollen wounds that are seen for extended periods of time. Attempted rape (victim seen escaping).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple forge a romantic bond and kiss. Teen girl strips to her underwear and tank top to go swimming.
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Language includes "damn," "goddamn," "s--t," "son of a bitch," and "p---y" (used to mean "weak").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens and adults smoke cigarettes throughout, including the teenage main character and his best friend. Teens drink heavily at a party; liquor bottles are displayed. Negative character drinks whiskey from the bottle with another nearby, implying that he has an alcohol dependency.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Outsiders is a sci-fi mystery thriller that focuses on a Black teen's experiences in an all-White town. It captures the many ways in which someone can be made to feel like they don't belong somewhere; prejudice and institutional racism are part of the story's fabric. Violence includes bullying kids beating up a teen, attempted rape, and a car accident that leaves the victim's face bloody and swollen. There are references to domestic abuse, plus constant reminders that guns are ever present in this small town (though the only firearms seen are used by the police and by a blind man shooting at a burglar). Romantic feelings fuel the plot, and a young couple shares a kiss. Language includes "son of a bitch" and "s--t," and teens are shown smoking and drinking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Jaylen is trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Amira, but this compelling sci-fi thriller tackles an even more relevant question: How and why does racism still exist? Director Delmar Washington asks for empathy in understanding what it's like to be Black in a mostly White community. He captures the fact that racism can just as easily be expressed in what comes out of someone's eyes: the side eye, the eye roll, the stare down. And he makes it clear that all of this is perpetuated in everything from school curriculum to what parents say in passing to their kids.
All of that said, while the movie effectively presents the impact of racism, that's not all that it's about. If Jaylen were White, many of the film's events wouldn't change: He's a kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, who couldn't have done much differently at the time of Amira's disappearance. It will feel like a relatable situation for many teens, regardless of their color. But the fact that Jaylen is Black makes proving his innocence far more difficult. Scenes offer painful reminders of the kind of tragedies that fuel the Black Lives Matter movement: Jaylen is a Black teen wearing a hoodie who's pulled over by an intimidating White cop for a broken taillight, and deputies aggressively hold his head and neck down on the ground during arrest. (Shane West is so believably formidable as a small-town sheriff that he should worry about typecasting.) The mystery of Amira's disappearance is solved, but viewers will likely be left wanting more information. Perhaps this is intentional, a reminder that even when we get answers to life's big questions, they're often not as satisfying as we hope.
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.
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