We're No Angels (1989)

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
We're No Angels (1989) Movie Poster Image
Weak '80s fish-out-of water tale has violence, profanity.
  • PG-13
  • 1989
  • 107 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Possibility of redemption; all criminals are not bad people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are simplistically good or bad, though the main characters, both escaped convicts, demonstrate that you can make a mistake and still be a good, caring person who becomes part of a community.


A man is shot to death by a barrage of gunfire and falls into an icy waterfall; some guards are shot and killed during a jailbreak; a deer is run over and shown bleeding at the mouth; a girl almost drowns; a convict is whipped and punched; guns pulled throughout.


Brief shot of a woman naked from the waist up, dressing; a strategically covered pinup poster; a guy confesses to a priest that he cheats on his wife.


Handful of instances of profanity: "son of a bitch," "hell," "goddamn," "bulls--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We're No Angels is the 1989 remake of the 1955 Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name. It features Robert De Niro and Sean Penn as escaped convicts posing as priests in a Depression-era border town. There's a bit of jailbreak violence, gunshots, a brief shot of female nudity, a small body count with a little bloodshed, some minor profanity sprinkled throughout ("s--t"), but it's mostly a fish-out-of-water tale about two unrefined, uneducated characters passing as priests. Best for older teens but not likely to enthrall kids who aren't fans of De Niro or quirky late-'80s crime comedy.

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What's the story?

Escaped convicts Ned (Robert De Niro) and Jim (Sean Penn) have broken out of jail, but now they have to get out of their small New York town and over the border to Canada if they want to stay escaped. The problem is, they've just been mistaken for two priests missing from the local church. Now they have to convince locals, believers, and skeptics that they really are two priests, even as the town is closed in by law enforcement hot on their trail.

Is it any good?

WE'RE NO ANGELS may be tough sell for adults, it's unlikely to attract teens. It has a couple of bankable, still-recognizable stars in De Niro, Penn, and Demi Moore and a talented supporting cast, but the crux of this movie -- two escaped convicts passing as priests -- only has so much mileage, and that mileage runs out quickly. So much of the gags are simply watching these roughnecks attempt to pass muster, receive confessions, and guide the bumbling souls of this small Depression-era town, and it just can't sustain the length. There's a little profanity, a brief flash of nudity, and a few deaths by gunshot, but none of that holds a candle to the lack of spark in the rest of the movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how We're No Angels portrays religion. What are the viewpoints expressed here about religion, and which sorts of people believe in God? How does this compare to other film portrayals of faith and religion you've seen?

  • Does this comedy hold up? What works about it? What doesn't? 

  • What is the larger message the film seem to push about belief? Is there something in it for everyone? What are your beliefs?

Movie details

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For kids who love to laugh

Themes & Topics

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