Kurt Sutter's Outlaw Empires

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Kurt Sutter's Outlaw Empires TV Poster Image
Docu about criminal groups is both insightful and violent.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series takes a fairly non-judgmental approach to documenting criminal groups. It offers in-depth information about various illegal organizations, and the impact they have had on American society from the point of view of key people involved in them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the individuals interviewed have served or are serving time for their criminal activity. A few express regret for their actions; many of them are proud of their associations.


Lots of images of people punching, kicking, slapping, and beating each other. Images of people (including kids) holding guns, rifles, and machine guns are frequent; reenactments feature shootings and bloody wounds. Archival footage of shooting victims being wheeled away or covered up is also visible.


Activities relating to businesses in the sex trade and related behaviors are occasionally discussed.


Words like "f--k" are bleeped.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Discusses the relationship between gangs/organized crime and the drug trade. Prohibition is discussed. It also contains images of people smoking (cigarettes, cigars) and drinking beer and wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Outlaw Empires focuses on violent gang and mob organization history and activities, and discusses how this has impacted American society. The series contains violent descriptions and images of physical fights, shootings, and people with bloody wounds, though without the drama of a fictional account. Activities relating to the drug and sex trade is also discussed. Folks are shown drinking (beer, wine) and smoking (cigarettes, cigars). While there's a lot to be learned here, parents may want to preview before allowing younger teens to watch.

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What's the story?

OUTLAW EMPIRES is a documentary series that looks into the world of street gangs and organized crime families that have dominated American streets and shaped American history. Produced by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, the series features interviews with some of the key people involved with underground groups like the Italian Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, and the Crips. Through their detailed accounts, the unique inner workings of each organization is revealed. How they have changed over the years is also discussed. Archival imagery and reenactments of key events are also featured. Throughout it all, Sutter offers his own insight about the activities of each organization, and helps underscore how they have impacted overall American society.

Is it any good?

The series offers an unapologetic and non-judgmental look at the culture and activities of some of America's most well-known underground organizations. It also offers some interesting discussions about the roles they have had in criminal activities like the prohibition, the current illegal drug trade, and major violent events, like the L.A. riots.

Learning about these events through the personal narratives is interesting, but the way they share their stories is also intriguing. The pride that many exhibit for being a member of these groups often tells us more about the culture of these organizations than the disturbing details about some of their criminal activities. As a result, the series offers viewers a way of understanding them from a perspective that is both insightful and disturbing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about making documentaries. How are documentarians able to interview people who are considered dangerous, or who live and/or work in out-of-the-way or violent places? Do they put themselves in harm's way when they do this? Why do you think they do it? Is it worth the risk?

  • Why is it important to understand how criminal organizations develop and function in American society? What are the lessons to be learned? Do you think violent images and reenactments shown make these lessons stronger? Or does it simply make the series more entertaining?

TV details

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