A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic top-cop vs. the mob drama has bloody violence and deaths of heroic and sympathetic characters, principally in shootings (including head shots) and shotgun blasts. A bomb explosions kills a child, and another in a baby carriage is nearly caught in a crossfire. There's a messy aftermath of a notorious shock scene in which Al Capone beats a character to death, just offscreen, with a baseball bat. Swearing is heavy ("f--k" and "s--t," etc.). Most characters smoke and drink.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In Prohibition-era Chicago, organized crime prospers under arch-gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro), who earns millions selling bootleg liquor, extortion and other vices through various lieutenants and underbosses. Proud US Treasury Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is appointed to specifically tear down the criminal empire, but learns the hard way that Capone has well-paid agents, spies, and informants even in the police. Fortunately Ness befriends Malone (Sean Connery), a streetwise Irish-American officer who mentors the young lawman in street tactics, including putting together a core team of "untouchable," bribe-proof deputies. Cleverly determining that ordinary tax law can lock away Capone -- he's hasn't filed a tax statement, naturally, for his illegal millions -- Ness and the Untouchables clash with the crime lord's deadliest gunmen in the prelude to Capone's trial.
Is it any good?
THE UNTOUCHABLES is a lot fun despite the corniness and simplifications. It's often said real-life lawman and city safety director Eliot Ness, when he died virtually forgotten in 1957, had no clue his name would be famous as a pop-culture crimefighter. It was the inaccurate "nonfiction" bestselling book The Untouchables and a network TV-series adaptation (1959-1963) that inspired this entertaining, super-deluxe, big-scale feature film, which, despite frequent swearing and bloodletting, is very old-school Hollywood in its flavor and morality (and failure to get the facts straight). The good guys are really good, the bad guys are hissably evil -- none of that trendy romanticizing the mob or pretending criminals are cool rebels. With bigger-than-life actors, direction, and snappy dialogue (by playwright David Mamet), this film comes on like, well, gangbusters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in this movie. How realistic is it? How does it affect you after watching it? Does who is committing the violence make a difference?
The newspapers in the film seem to be friendlier with Al Capone than with Eliot Ness. Are there criminals today who have the media spotlight? What is so appealing about colorful criminal characters, if anything?
Elliot Ness ends up breaking the law himself. Do the means justify the end?
This movie is based on real lives and real events. How have they been changed or dramatized? How can you find out the real story?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love drama
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch