• Release Date: Oct 30, 1998

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 32
  2. Negative: 3 out of 32
  1. 100
    A shockingly powerful screed against racism that also manages to be so well performed and directed that it is entertaining as well. [30 October 1998, Friday, p.A]
  2. 91
    Feels as true as a documentary, as painful as a blow to the heart.
  3. What makes this film so powerful is that its unanswered questions force the audience to examine hate and its consequences making American History X one lesson you can't miss.
  4. This is the sort of incendiary role a lot of actors would kill for, yet the shock of Norton's performance isn't its showboat flamboyance. It's that he makes this sadistic junior sociopath rueful and intelligent.
  5. 80
    American History X is a crash course on how to make a message movie that resonates with crackling power.
  6. Reviewed by: Gemma Files
    A true achievement -- no matter who eventually wants to take, or deny, credit for its creation.
  7. Reviewed by: Norman Green
    Despite a cheap, Hollywood ending and despite Kaye's kooky campaign, X is a killer.
  8. Reviewed by: Janet Maslin
    An inflated yet gut-slugging film.
  9. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Jolting, superbly acted film.
  10. 75
    A series of well-drawn sketches and powerful scenes, in search of an organizing principle.
  11. Unflinching in its depiction of racism, anti-Semitism, violence and jailhouse politics.
  12. Reviewed by: Craig Marine
    Such an ambitious, well-acted film that it's easy to overlook its flaws as relatively minor.
  13. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    While this movie is sometimes overbaked, it is the first major studio release in a while to engross wall-to-wall.
  14. 75
    May be flawed, but it's not easily forgotten.
  15. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    It's Norton who makes the film such an enlightening experience, and he's mesmerizing.
  16. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    Norton's performance, which is every bit as varied as his Oscar-nominated work in Primal Fear, once more demonstrates that he's one of the most remarkable chameleons working in film.
  17. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    It's a testament to Norton's utter immersion in the role that he can even halfway connect the dots between this fundamentally sweet, brainy kid and the magnetic, white trash monster who'll haunt our minds long after the movie's liberal pieties fade into static.
  18. Trenchant and visceral, American History X may not be perfect, but it's a darn sight better than good.
  19. The movie can't explain as much as it wants to about what makes (and unmakes) a skinhead, but it carries us a fair distance.
  20. 67
    A violent, sober cautionary tale, strictly middle-of-the-road when it comes to its much-ballyhooed politics and grimly obvious in its telling.
  21. Excellent in flashes, unintentionally absurd and lead-footed at other moments, the movie stumbles under the weight of its own grandiose intentions.
  22. 60
    Director Tony Kaye may be reaching for opera, but screenwriter David McKenna has set his sights distinctly lower.
  23. Reviewed by: Joshua Klein
    There may be much to like about his movie, but it's all been done before to more challenging degrees of moral ambiguity. That's a pretty fatal flaw.
  24. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    This material is charged enough without piling on the melodrama and the lip-smacking violence. The movie too often sacrifices reportage for razzle-dazzle.
  25. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    It's hard to know whom to blame for the film's choppiness, its mixture of rage and sentimentality, the stridency of some of the acting.
  26. Reviewed by: Rod Dreher
    The picture is smothered by solemn right-mindedness, and hobbled by scripter David McKenna's simplistic, knee-jerk liberal take on suburban white racism.
  27. As a visit to a world and a way of life most of us will never experience, American History X is vivid, and it feels honest. At the very least, it's not typical.
  28. For all its surface verisimilitude and for all its focus on a problem that couldn't be more current, this film can't manage to feel more than sporadically real.
  29. 40
    Fails dramatically as well as ideologically.
  30. Norton's high-energy acting is the only element that saves the picture from being a total loss.
  31. Reviewed by: Gary Dauphin
    A mess of a film.
  32. A mousy little nothing of a picture.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 362 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 98 out of 102
  2. Negative: 3 out of 102
  1. Nov 23, 2010
    One of the greatest movies I've ever seen, with an amazing, captivating performance by Edward Norton. This film sheds light on issues that many people in society are afraid to discuss or take seriously. A beautifully composed film, a must see. Full Review »
  2. Dec 3, 2012
    If I had to describe this movie with a word limit this is what I would say:"A must watch classic".Unexpected turn of events more than once & Edward Norton makes it even better as he shows his true talent from the beginning.Mixed feelings and a variety of thoughts are brought up by the performances.Definitely 9/10. Full Review »
  3. Aug 25, 2011
    What we have here is a message picture determined to undo itself, with simple ideas (see: I think racism is a tad more complicated than Norton and his black friend) needlessly histrionic dialogue (see: interactions with family), and manipulating moments of over-drama with the force of a chainsaw rising out of a volcano (see: every scene in which racial atrocities are committed, which are all in black and white, slow-motion and have a choir singing the music of hell in the foreground). Full Review »