The Untouchables

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Untouchables Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Cops vs. the mob in bloody Prohibition-era drama.
  • R
  • 1987
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 23 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Somewhat mixed message: It is possible to resist overwhelming public corruption. But to bring down a crime lord, "incorruptible" Eliot Ness must cross the line himself, becoming a liar and a revenge-driven murderer. In short, good guy must be more ruthless than the bad guys.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Eliot Ness is an upstanding family man and bribe-proof lawman who nonetheless resorts to vigilante justice and blackmail in pursuit of justice (and revenge). Many police and politicians are corrupt. There's a brief audio clip of radio's Amos and Andy sitcom, now considered racist, plus slurs about Irish and Italians.


Much shooting with revolver, rifle, and shotgun, with and bloody wounds and death (including head shots).
Capone fatally beats a man with a baseball bat. Bomb blasts (one of which instantly kills a little girl). A villain falls to his death from a great height.


Plenty of swearing, including "f--k," "Goddamit," "whore," "s--t," "ass," "piss," and "Christ" used as an exclamation. Also, some ethnic slurs, like "wop."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Prohibition era  and drinking alcohol are key elements in the plot; Ness orders police not to drink while Prohibition is in force (smoking is OK, though), though even the heroic "Untouchables" drink when nobody is looking. When Prohibition is lifted at the end, Ness himself turns out to be a drinker.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJackBauer April 11, 2021

Great movie, must watch!

violence 5/5 lots of violent scenes with one particularly disturbing baseball bat scene.
sex 0/5 no sex.
language 3/5 some language.
drinking 2/5 whole movie b... Continue reading
Adult Written bySamLucas March 8, 2020

One of the best Chicagoan movies.

I’m from Chicago so this movie was extra awesome. There is great choreography in the fight scenes, and the film manages to make a gripping and powerful film. So... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn September 8, 2011

Overrated prohibition era crime thriller is for adults only.

Love him or hate em, I just really have never been a big fan of Brian De Palma. I know, I know. I just don't know what it is about him. I just don't e... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJ4k3OC May 20, 2021

A classic

It can be violent but not anything too gruesome. Just what you would expect, guns and shooting. Though there is one scene that is kinda bloody but it’s not that... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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