American History X

1998

American History X

Critics Consensus

A compelling and provocative story led by an excellent performance by Edward Norton.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 83

96%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 479,458
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Movie Info

Tony Kaye made his feature directorial debut with this dramatic exploration into the roots of race hatred in America. In a shocking opening scene, teen Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) races to tell his older brother, neo-Nazi Derek (Edward Norton), about the young blacks breaking into his car in front of the house, whereupon Derek gets his gun and with no forethought shoots the youths in their tracks. Tried and convicted, Derek is sent away for three years in prison, where he acquires a different outlook as he contrasts white-power prisoners with black Lamont (Guy Torry), his prison laundry co-worker and eventual pal. Meanwhile, Danny, with a shaved head and a rebellious attitude, seems destined to follow in his big brother's footsteps. After Danny writes a favorable review of Hitler's Mein Kampf, black high-school principal Sweeney (Avery Brooks) puts Danny in his private "American History X" course and assigns him to do a paper about his older brother, who was a former student of Sweeney's. This serves to introduce flashbacks, with the film backtracking to illustrate Danny's account of Derek's life prior to the night of the shooting. Monochrome sequences of Derek leading a Venice, California gang are intercut with color footage of the mature Derek ending his past neo-Nazi associations and attempting to detour Danny away from the group led by white supremacist, Cameron (Stacy Keach), who once influenced Derek. Director Tony Kaye, with a background in TV commercials and music videos, filmed in L.A. beach communities. Rated R "for graphic brutal violence including rape, pervasive language, strong sexuality and nudity." ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for American History X

All Critics (83) | Top Critics (24)

  • Norton is an amazing actor, a hot-dog whose delight in transformation is infectious.

    Aug 19, 2011 | Full Review…

    David Edelstein

    Slate
    Top Critic
  • Two things hold the interest: Norton's astounding performance, and a feeling for the male reality of reactionary working class environments.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The problem is that Kaye, who's used to selling cars on TV, shoots Derek the Hater as lovingly as he would a new Volkswagen.

    Oct 7, 2002
  • What partly redeems American History X from its most preachy excesses -- and makes it worth seeing -- is a brilliant, career-high performance by actor Edward Norton.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • Though well-intentioned, turns out to be a simplistic and unconvincing look at a serious problem.

    Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…
  • This journey to unpleasantville is too often manipulative and strains to maintain tension.

    Jan 1, 2000

Audience Reviews for American History X

  • Jun 22, 2016
    Despite the very extreme content and message, this controversial movie will leave you thinking about your own feelings and actions at the end of the film. The film depicts a former neo-nazi skinhead in southern California trying to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path he did. Edward Norton gives arguably the best performance of his career in this film. No matter how many times you see this film it seems to leave you in a state of shock and self reflection. The director filmed all flashback scenes in black & white and does an amazing job stylistically in this film. An absolute must see.
    Patrick W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 07, 2016
    For the most part I quite enjoyed this film. But there is a genuinely contrived angle to the story and characters that just doesn't ring true. I watched it for the second time tonight, the first being at the cinema upon its initial release. And the thing that really stuck with me is what a great movie this would be for young teenagers who would most likely fall under its spell. Well intentioned and certainly not bad, but by no means a classic
    Super Reviewer
  • May 05, 2016
    A true masterpiece of storytelling
    Kameron W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 17, 2014
    Powerful and gripping from beginning to end. American History X provides a great performance from Edward Norton and a graphic tale involving the influences of society in the household and relationships. Very explicit, destructive and compelling, the film makes a strong mark that's as challenging as its direction. 4.5/5
    Eugene B Super Reviewer

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