True History of the Kelly Gang

Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
True History of the Kelly Gang Movie Poster Image
Ultra-violent story about infamous Australian outlaw.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Characters steal, murder, and exploit others for sex. In one instance, a parent sells their own child. No remorse is shown for any of these acts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the characters display immoral behavior. Ned and his criminal gang set on a violent mission that involves murder and theft. But the police are just as reprehensible -- resorting to violence and using women for sexual gratification. Some of the criminals cross-dress claiming it scares and intimidates their victims.


Plenty of bloody violence throughout. Characters and animals are shot -- often with gory close ups. In one scene, a victim's ear is cut off after they've died. A corpse is seen tied to a tree with their genitals stuffed inside their mouth. An organized fight sees two characters punch, kick, and knee each other until one falls unconscious. Two people are shot in front of a young child. That same young child is later forced to shoot someone whose genitals have been tied up by a piece of rope. A police constable holds a loaded gun to a baby. A prolonged shoot-out results in much blood and death -- the criminal's hideout then burns to the ground. A hanging takes place. Some passive-aggressive sexual behavior.


One of the main characters is a sex-worker and is seen performing oral sex. A police constable suggests dropping the warrant for a wanted criminal in return for being introduced to their younger sibling. Characters visit brothels and in one scene a prostitute is seen straddling a naked man. A character -- dressed just in their underwear -- plays with their genitals in front of a prisoner. There is some male and female nudity, but no full-frontal. A suggestion of a gay relationship between two characters.


Plenty of strong language throughout including "whore," "pr--k," "bastard," "arse," "c--k," "p---y," "bloody," "bastard," and variants of "f--k" and "s--t." A song is sung on two occasions where the word "c--t" is used repeatedly. "Gypo" is also used as a derogatory term.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is referred to as a drunk and behaves both physically and sexually aggressively. A child is given a glass of wine and proceeds to drink it in one go. Other characters are seen drinking and smoking pipes and cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that True History of the Kelly Gang is an extremely violent yet superb portrayal of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. The movie is based on a Booker Prize winning novel, and despite the title is actually a work of fiction. The violence is graphic, gory, and often shocking -- particularly when it involves children. In one scene, a gun is held to a baby's head and in another, young Kelly (Orlando Schwerdt) is made to shoot a police constable who has been exploiting his mother for sexual acts. A dead body is seen tied to a tree with his genitals stuffed into his mouth. After shooting dead a policeman, the older Kelly (now played by George MacKay) cuts the dead man's ear off. Gun and fist fights result in bloody scenes. None of the characters have any redeemable traits -- including the police -- with even Kelly's loyalty to his fearsome mother Ellen (Essie Davies) misplaced. Women are generally used for the sexual gratification of men with a brothel playing a prominent setting. But Ellen is arguably the strongest character in the movie, albeit her actions are often reprehensible -- she sells a young Ned to a bushranger, played by Russell Crowe. There is strong profanity throughout, including uses of "c--t," "whore," and variants of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters drink and smoke, and Kelly's father is referred to -- and seen -- as a drunk.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byUsername101 July 10, 2020

Not a good movie

The only good thing about this movie is the cinematography and the acting especially from george mackay who nails the australian accent as a non-australian acto... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Set in the late 1800s, TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG explores the life of the infamous Australian outlaw. Born into an impoverished Irish immigrant family in the Australian outback, young Ned Kelly (Orlando Schwerdt) is introduced to a life of crime by bushranger Harry Power (Russell Crowe). Years later, and now a man, Kelly (George MacKay) forms a murderous and thieving gang who target the authorities while trying to avoid capture.

Is it any good?

This retelling of one of Australia's most infamous figures is brutal, shocking, anarchic, strangely beautiful, but above all, excellent. Despite its name, the movie is actually based on a fictionalized account of Ned Kelly's life -- a fact conceded in the opening credits -- as told in Peter Carey's 2001 Booker Prize winning novel. Fiction it may well be, but there's a realness to the movie that rings far truer than some of the other accounts of Kelly's life. Broken into three acts, the movie begins with a young Kelly -- a superb understated performance by newcomer Schwerdt -- being forcibly introduced into a world of crime. It's a backstory that provides the necessary humanity to, if not sympathize, understand the older more ruthless Kelly, now played by 1917's MacKay.

MacKay's performance is extraordinary -- at times resembling a muscle-ripped contortionist, while in others a confused onlooker trying to make sense of his place in the world. But this is no one person show. Essie Davies as Ellen, the Kelly matriarch, deserves a special mention. But there are also standout performances from Nicholas Hoult as Constable Fitzpatrick and a grizzled Crowe as Harry Power, Kelly's mentor and father-figure. It's a credit to director Justin Kurzel's ability to obtain such powerful performances from all his cast. How Ned Kelly should be viewed in history continues to divide opinion. Freedom fighter or murdering criminal? True History of the Kelly Gang doesn't answer that question, nor does it try to. But as contradictory as it sounds, for a fictional account, such is the realism of the movie, this may be the most honest account of a man enshrined in folklore.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in True History of the Kelly Gang. Did it feel integral to the story? What scenes did you find most hard to watch? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What did you think of Ned Kelly? Why is he thought of as a hero by some and a murderer by others? Can you compare Ned Kelly to any other historical figures?

  • What role do women play in the movie? Do you think it's a realistic portrayal for the time period? What influence does Ellen have over her son? Is it a healthy relationship? 

  • The movie is based on a novel that in itself is only loosely based on the real Ned Kelly story. What do you think of movies that play with the truth? Why is it important to recognize what's real and what's fiction? How to spot fake news (and teach kids to be media-savvy).

  • How is sex portrayed in the movie? Discuss your own family's values on the subject.

Movie details

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