American History X [1998] Movie Review Recommendation

American History X [1998]

This is one of two best movies about skinheads and their subculture. The other one is, of course, Australian masterpiece Romper Stomper, starring Russel Crowe. This is England and Made in Britain starring young Tim Roth are two British entries and both of the movies are pretty good. Starring Edward Norton who was phenomenal, American History X features a non-linear storytelling and compelling acting from almost all the cast. It would be a blasphemy to single out anyone, because they were all great. You never get the feeling that the scene is off or something like that. This is above all a well-directed and written movie, dealing with extreme racism that has managed to infiltrate ordinary families. Romper Stomper, released six years earlier, took a different approach, centering its story on a group of social outcasts who are living on the fringes of society. The most important thing about American History X is the fact that it’s not pandering. The movie doesn’t take moral sides and uses that disgusting preachy tone to discuss events that are unfolding. It trusts us, the viewers, to have the moral compass that determines whether an action is bad or good. If you’re moral compass is currently in such a state that you find the racists parts of the movie “cool” and “empowering”, in a few years you might change your opinion. This is parenting 101, where you hope that your child would eventually realize what you were trying to do with a certain, likely unpopular, measure. So, both those who want to see “cool” scenes and those who want to see what’s skinhead movement all about are drawn to this movie.

American History X [1998] Movie Review Recommendation PosterDanny Vinyard is one problematic high school kid. After his teacher told him to write a paper on struggles for human rights, he decides that the book he will read and write on is Main Kampf, written by Adolf Hitler. Influenced by his older brother Derek, a member of a local skinhead gang, he wants to be like him strong and respected. The principal of the school, Dr. Bob Sweeney who’s black by the way, decides to privately tutor Danny in a class that he calls American History X.

To tell you more about the story would be counterproductive, so just trust me on this one and check it out. It is above all realistic and not preachy, so you will have a hard time finding an argument against it. I think that this movie single handedly managed to curb the rise of skinhead movements all around the world by pointing out huge, gaping holes in the logic and purpose of these movements. Those older and well-rooted in the whole philosophy didn’t feel the impact, but huge number of young people finally saw that behind all those layers of false masculinity lies an empty promise and an empty head. Dead, more often than alive.


Director: Tony Kaye

Cast: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D’Angelo, Ethan Suplee, Elliott Gould

Fun Facts: Edward Norton gained 30 pounds of muscle for his role.


IMDb Link:

YouTube player