American History X (1998)



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

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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
R (for graphic brutal violence including rape, pervasive language, strong sexuality and nudity)
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Edward Norton
as Derek Vinyard
Avery Brooks
as Sweeney
Edward Furlong
as Danny Vinyard
Fairuza Balk
as Stacey
Stacy Keach
as Cameron
Beverly D'Angelo
as Doris Vinyard
Jennifer Lien
as Davina
Elliott Gould
as Murray
Joe Cortese
as Rasmussen
William Russ
as Dennis
Guy Torry
as Lamont
Jason Bose Smith
as Little Henry
Alex Sol
as Mitch McCormick
Paul Le Mat
as McMahon
Nicholas R. Oleson
as Huge Aryan
Jordan Marder
as Curtis
Cherish Lee
as Kammi
Sam Vlahos
as Dr. Aguilar
Anne Lambton
as Cassandra
Steve Wolford
as Reporter
Richard Noyce
as Desk Sergeant
Danso Gordon
as Buddy No. 1
Jim Norton
as Randy
Alexis Rose Coen
as Young Ally
Kiant Elam
as Lawrence's Partner
Paul Hopkins
as Student
Keith Odett
as Random Skinhead
Paul Short
as Stocky Buddy
Nigel Miguel
as Basketball Player
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Critic Reviews for American History X

All Critics (82) | Top Critics (24)

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

Full Review… | August 19, 2011
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
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.

October 7, 2002
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

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.

April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Though well-intentioned, turns out to be a simplistic and unconvincing look at a serious problem.

Full Review… | February 13, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

This journey to unpleasantville is too often manipulative and strains to maintain tension.

December 31, 1999
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for American History X


I haven't wanted to watch this as I was afraid of more Hollywood racist propaganda. Boy was I surprised when the propaganda turned out to be of the liberal variety instead. Regardless of the movie-of-the-week underpinnings, the acting is first rate, Norton and Furlong turning in superlative work.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

One of the most powerful films I've ever seen, with an incredible lead performance from Edward Norton. The overall message of the movie is extremely important - that even the most heinous and hateful of people can change, as seen by the slow-burn approach of Norton's friendship with a black man in prison. The ending always gets me, it's a heart-wrenching finale that is hard to watch but extremely appropriate. This is a film everyone should see.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer


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 Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

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