The Usual Suspects Movie Poster Image

The Usual Suspects



Profane, violent crime thriller has novel twists.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: June 18, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1995
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Nobody here is very noble, with just a hint that cop-turned-crook Dean Keaton was on the verge of mending his ways for his girlfriend's sake (but didn't). Even the police are portrayed as internally corrupt and bullying, using threats and intimidation on suspects.


Brief, stylized flashbacks of a rape. Characters beaten, shot at close range and in the head. Gasoline poured on an occupied police car, set on fire. A mother and children are murdered in a flashback.


Characters tell off-color anecdotes.


Lots and LOTS of swearing, especially the f-word, plus just about every other profanity from time to time.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters smoke -- even through their stocking masks. Mentions of cocaine and other narcotics in terms of underworld drug deals.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is an abundance of obscene language, the F-word most prominent. Violence gets pretty severe too. In a flashback (which may not reflect actual events) children and a mother are murdered by their own husband/father. There is an overwhelming sense of film noir-style corruption, and even the police don't look terribly clean.

What's the story?

A favorite "guy movie" for its cool crook-talk dialog (filled with swearing) and breathtaking twist at the end, THE USUAL SUSPECTS starts with the finale of a mass-murder/explosion on board a boat in San Pedro, California. Flashbacks and divergent timelines -- and it is rather confusing at first -- fill in the story, as a police detective questions one of the few survivors, a crippled, wimpy con-artist named Verbal (Kevin Spacey). He claims that he and the dead men were all part of an outlaw band centered on Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a former New York City cop turned career criminal. Lured to the West Coast for a job, the victims were told they had offended a legendary international outlaw named Keyser Soze, a figure so shadowy he may or may not even exist, and much unsolved malice and mayhem surrounds him. The police are skeptical that nervous, rabbity Verbal could possibly be involved with Keyser Soze, let alone survive a close encounter. But then...

Is it any good?


Though it's a story without any "good" guys, in most any sense (one female character, who seems to represent possible redemption, is very marginal and gets coldly killed offscreen), The Usual Suspects remains a transfixing and convoluted film noir thriller that forces the viewer to think through events, maybe watch the movie a second time, to see where the filmmakers and their narrative fooled you. It does paint a picture of a pretty violent world, though, and the degree to which there's any philosophy or morality at work comes from Verbal Klint, who observes that Keyser Soze succeeds because he's willing to go farther and be meaner than other gangsters, and that, moreover, he's like the devil, "whose greatest trick was convincing the world that he didn't exist."

The mythic Soze works his ruthless will through unwitting dupes and hirelings, always staying in the background -- not unlike Voldemort from the Harry Potter tales. Unlike Potter, though, profanity is so thick here you'd swear the ship blows up at the start because of the heavy concentration of f-bombs.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why this film has become so popular. Did you see the trick ending coming? Do you want to watch it a second time, knowing how it comes out? You could use this movie to turn kids onto tricky crime thrillers of yesteryear, going all the way back to The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, The Lady from Shanghai, and The Big Sleep (which didn't have to swear to hold viewers spellbound). What does the film say about the criminal mindset and power? "Keyser Soze," is the all-powerful crime lord who may not really exist and who is feared like an underworld boogeyman. Can you think of real-life parallels in the realms of the Mafia and international terrorism?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 16, 1995
DVD release date:April 2, 2002
Cast:Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin
Director:Bryan Singer
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence and a substantial amount of strong language

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bycartmanwoodhouse April 9, 2008
Adult Written byEvanReviews August 14, 2009

Perfect for Mature Audiences Only

Awesome Movie with an amazing twist at the end. Language is extremely used frequently and some violence invovled including a very brief scene of rape.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Adult Written byMovie Man September 6, 2009

Impressive, Well-Cast Thriller Has an Infamous Character and an Excellent Twist

This may be the definition of magnificent twists and build-up. Granted, a website had already spoiled the infamous twist to me (which I was very upset about), yet I highly enjoyed the film nonetheless. Now, of course I won't spoil the amazing twist, for I want you to enjoy it. There is a lot of language, some graphic shootings (including an ending shootout), and a mostly off-screen rape, yet this film is fairly tame for an R-rated film. Please watch this movie; you won't regret it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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