Parents' Guide to

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

By Sarah Orrick, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Coming-of-age film only for those already of age.

Movie R 2002 105 minutes
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 17+

One of my favorite movies

A good movie to watch with your 17+ kid, together. Great conversation starter.
age 18+


With independent films, the experience is often either very good or very bad. I was bitterly dissapointed with this movie, and had to have me finger on the fast forward button throughout. I do not know what offended me more, the obnoxiousness of the boys, the one-dimensional portrayal of religious men and women, or the negative view of Catholic education. The title itself is misleading. The story had nothing to do with the fact that these boys were alter servers at Mass. Their behaviour throughout the story was more suited to John Belushi's "Animal House". I am also a product of Catholic schools, and I find it difficult to believe that students in their early teens are capable of such destructive behaviour. As a Catholic, I am very much offended by this movie.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4):
Kids say (2):

This coming-of-age film is much too dark for those actually coming of age, but for mature older teens and adults, it's well worth watching. The film nicely contrasts the dirty minds and knowledge the boys possess with their social awkwardness and hesitancy around girls. The comic-book-like animation sequences are initially distracting, but ultimately enhance the story. Although the nostalgic coming-of-age genre is generally a great one to watch with your family, hold off on this one until your kids are old enough to handle all of the mature themes -- these kids engage in substance abuse and other activities that you don't want them emulating.

Standout performances by the young actors render the characters lovely and believable, although the plot stretches the realm of possibility. Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch put in wonderful performances as Tim and Francis, and Jena Malone shines as Margie. Jodie Foster's character suffers from the necessary distance given to all adult characters, but she manages to impart enough humanity to allow the audience to relate to her.

Movie Details

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