American History X movie review - Aussieboyreviews


American History X is a powerful, violent and well-crafted drama starring Edward Norton. The film’s themes centre on racism in America, executed masterfully with incredibly faultless acting.


After having served three years in prison for brutally killing two young black men who attempted to steal his car, a former neo-Nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path.

Movie Images

Movie details

Director: Tony Kaye
Cast: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D’Angelo, Fairuza Balk, Jennifer Lien, Stacy Keach, Elliott Gould
Writer: David McKenna
Release Date (Australia): 6 May 1999
Runtime: 119 minutes/1h 59m
Genre: Drama, Crime
Country: USA
Language: English

CONTENT GUIDE (warning: May contain spoilers)

Themes (MA15+)

The film contains themes of racism, murder and acts of racial violence that are strong in impact.

Violence (MA15+)

There are depictions of shootings that are accompanied by blood sprays and a scene in which a man is raped by several men in a prison shower. A man implicitly kills another man by stamping on his head.

Coarse Language (MA15+)

The film contains frequent and often aggressive use of the word “f**k”, and uses of the words “s**t”, “ass” and “n****r”.

Drug Use (PG)

Verbal references are made to drug dealing and marijuana.

Nudity (M)

There are depictions of female breasts nudity during a sex scene and frontal male nudity.

Sex (M)

There are verbal sexual references and sexual violence throughout the film, as well as a sex scene that features thrusting detail and nudity.

mpaa rating

R (for graphic brutal violence including rape, pervasive language, strong sexuality and nudity)

Aussie boy's thoughts

In an extremely powerful, important and often brutal drama looking at white supremacy, Edward Norton’s acting is beyond Oscar-worthy. It’s one of the rare movies that truly displays the extreme realism of violence, evil and cruelty of some humans in this world, and whilst it’s not for kids, it’s highly necessary. The film’s themes focus on racism and violence in America, likely to leave a lasting effect on every audience.

Norton is insanely good and incredibly flabbergasting in this movie. He plays horrifyingly violent skinhead who’s finally released from prison after a brutal hate crime. Before his release, there’s a short but substantial period of time during the first act of the film that focuses on his younger brother, who is clearly following the same path as his older brother, before Norton then tries to guide him away from white supremacy and racial violence.

This film is superbly-crafted, to hold one’s attention from beginning to end. A very clever and effectual technique of storytelling American History X uses is to briefly give us an idea of Norton’s character’s crime at the start of the film in a black-and-white sequence, but then when we follow him later on as he tries to positively influence his younger brother, we receive more black-and-white flashbacks set before his prison time as the story plays out.

It’s effective to wait for the present setting to play out more before we get more details, including black-and-white sequences of before the crime, the violent actions and his time in prison. It’s one of those movies where they don’t have to show every single detail of the racial violence, but it’s just as brutal left off the screen. And the ending, which you’ll never predict, leaves viewers with an unforgettable message about the subject matter of the film. American History X is very well-written, finely acted and phenomenally executed, best for mature teens and adults.

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