America's Most Wanted TV Poster Image

America's Most Wanted

Offers a valuable service, but it's awfully scary.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Offers a valuable service -- to date nearly 1000 criminals have been caught due to viewer tips.


Graphic crimes (including rape, murder, and more) are described, with some crime scenes shown. The re-enactments can be bloody and graphic.


Sex is sometimes referenced in cases involving rape or child pornography.


Minor profanities ("hell," "damn,"); stronger language is bleeped.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Crimes often involve drugs and alcohol.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while this crime-fighting show offers a valuable service, it's also scary and violent. With the creepy close-ups of criminal photos and graphic descriptions and re-enactments of horrible crimes, the show can be unsettling for adults as well as kids. It's intense -- watching victims' families deal with the aftermath is heart-wrenching, and knowing these dangerous criminals could be lurking nearby is terrifying. The crimes that are described and re-enacted (including murder, child pornography, and kidnappings) are violent and often bloody. Sometimes the program shows actual crime-scene photos.

What's the story?

AMERICA'S MOST WANTED offers viewers the opportunity to catch criminals, locate missing children, and help federal and state police solve and prevent crimes. It's been on the air since 1988 and continues to enjoy great popularity. Created by host John Walsh, whose young son was kidnapped and murdered in 1981, the program seeks to empower everyday people who want to stop crime.

Is it any good?


While the show offers a valuable service (to date nearly 1000 criminals have been caught due to viewer tips), it's too frightening for kids (and some adults). The descriptions, re-enactments, and crime-scene photos are graphic, and the close-up photographs of the criminals are potentially nightmare-inducing. The show instills a fear that the criminal in question could be lurking right outside your door.

Need an example? One episode profiled a man who brutally murdered his wife then went on a crime spree in which he sexually molested several young girls. The whole sordid tale was re-enacted to drive home the horror of these crimes. Bottom line: Kids shouldn't be watching this show. Even adults who tune in may be left feeling unsettled -- and checking to make sure the door is locked.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether the value of catching criminals outweighs the fear the show inherently creates. How does the program use the anxiety it evokes to its advantage? Would people be as likely to call in tips if the show's tone wasn't so alarmist? Are the re-creations of the crimes necessary, or do they serve merely to titillate the audience?

TV details

Premiere date:February 7, 1988
Cast:Don LaFontaine, John Walsh, Wes Johnson
Networks:Fox, Lifetime Television
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-PG

This review of America's Most Wanted was written by

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Adult Written bygrizmaster1981 January 27, 2012

Violent but we need to get these creeps off the streets

We must remember this service has also brought grieving families justice. Sometimes it involves the retelling of violent sexually explicit crime scenes. Sometimes we must rehash this stuff to make it clear that certain mollesters, murderers and other criminals are out there and are a considerable threat.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old September 19, 2009

Someone made a big uh-oh!

Ooo...not good for sensitive teens and tweens.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byjoshua martinez May 1, 2010

14 and up.

America's most wanted is one of my favorite shows and good to watch but parents this show is only for teens they show violent graphic crime scenes that can be seen up close and can be very disturbing at times they also show how children are being rape and being film by showing child pornography some characters use foul language at times and some criminals are seen smoking and drinking.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking