City of Men

TV review by
Lucy Maher, Common Sense Media
City of Men TV Poster Image
Gritty drama about Brazilian boys growing up fast.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The teen characters have to rely on their wits and each other to survive their poor neighborhood's mean streets. This show doesn't provide lessons, per say, but it's eye-opening and informative.


The drug lords pull guns on their victims and also use emotional manipulation to get their way. The slum that the characters live in is violent by nature.


Some flirting and kissing. Later seasons find the teen characters thinking a lot about sex. One of the characters' older, unmarried sisters gets pregnant.


"Chicken s--t" is spelled out in a subtitle.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The boys' neighborhood lives and breathes the drug trade, and they interact with many people who are invovled in dealing/using/selling.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this somewhat gritty Brazilian series centers around the lives of a pair of teen boys who live in an impoverished area of Rio de Janeiro. They encounter violence every day, most often generated by the drug lords who rule the streets. Though this may alarm some viewers, the show is well done and may serve to open the eyes of teens who aren't aware of how their peers across the globe live.

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What's the story?

In CITY OF MEN, the filmmakers behind the 2002 Oscar-nominated film City of God portray the lives of at-risk teens living in a drug-ridden section of Rio de Janeiro. Each episode is a mix of comedy and drama as the cameras follow Acerola (Douglas Silva) and Laranjinha (Darlana Cunh), teenage friends trying to lead a normal life amid the squalor and chaos of the slum they call home. They don't have much supervision: Their mothers work long hours as live-in maids, and their fathers have disappeared. In between typical pursuits like video games and girls, the pair must stay alert to the dangerous goings-on around them. Certainly, their lives aren't boring: In one episode, a new gang takes over after a drug lord is hauled away, and in another, Acerola's sister starts dating one of the neighborhood's gang leaders.

Is it any good?

Subtitles and complex storytelling can make the show a bit tricky to follow, but City of Men is engrossing television. Fast-moving scenes expertly convey the chaotic environment in which the boys live. Though parents might be wary of exposing their kids to the show's drugs and violence, the series is much more lighthearted than the movie, and it might even enlighten some young viewers about the conditions in which other kids their age live.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about different living conditions around the world. Why do some countries have plenty of food and resources while others suffer from famine? Do you think parts of America are similar to the environment shown in this series? Do the media pay enough attention to poverty and need, both locally and internationally? What is the government's role in making sure citizens are taken care of?

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