Who Killed Malcolm X?

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Who Killed Malcolm X? TV Poster Image
Docu about death of Black icon lacks historical context.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Who Killed Malcolm X? doesn't lend much focus to the messages Malcolm X or other black activists of the '60s, choosing instead to focus on the mystery behind Malcolm X's murder.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Who Killed Malcolm X? is about the community Black activists in the 1960s, it doesn't provide a very rich history of its subjects.

Violence

The documentary's central event is an assassination, and it spends a good deal of time on gun violence and police brutality.

Sex
Language

Features mild profanity ("damn," etc.) and racially-charged language, including multiple uses of the "N" word.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People are shown drinking and smoking in historical photographs and film. No drug use is shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Who Killed Malcolm X? is a documentary series about the 1965 assassination of the Black minister and activist, Malcolm X. The documentary series is primarily based on the research of one man, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, who believes that some of the men behind the murder have not been caught. The documentary focuses more on unraveling the facts surrounding Malcolm X's death than it does the historical context surrounding it or his activism work. Who Killed Malcolm X? features historical violence, including gun violence and police brutality. There is also mild profanity ("damn," etc.) and racially-charged language, including multiple uses of the "N" word.

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What's the story?

WHO KILLED MALCOLM X? Black minister and activist Malcolm X was assassinated while giving a speech in Manhattan's Audobon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. For years, a tour guide and historian named Abdur-Rahman Muhammad has been researching the assassination in the hopes of figuring out what really happened. Who Killed Malcolm X? traces Abdur-Rahman Muhammad's research in an attempt to find the real killers behind Malcolm X's death.

Is it any good?

The series ends up as a true crime documentary, rather than a historical one. Malcolm X is a rich, complex, and vital historical figure. Unfortunately, Who Killed Malcolm X? is less interested in the history surrounding its central character and his activism than in the mystery behind his death. And no matter how legitimate Abdur-Rahman Muhammad and the documentarians' research may be, presenting a conspiracy theory in a true crime format is problematic, especially when no alternate viewpoints are shown. All of this makes Who Killed Malcolm X? a missed opportunity on multiple levels.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Malcolm X. Who is Malcolm X? What were his beliefs? Why is he such a popular and enduring historical figure? 

  • What do you know about America in the 1960s? What was happening in the early-to-mid 60s that changed the country? How did Malcolm X fit into that change?

  • What is known about Malcolm X's murder? What does Abdur-Rahman Muhammad believe happened? How do his theories differ from what is popularly believed to have happened? Why is it so important to know the right version of events?

  • How does Malcolm X differ from other Black activists across the decades?

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TV details

  • Premiere date: February 7, 2019
  • Network: Netflix
  • Genre: Educational
  • TV rating: TV-MA
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 30, 2020

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