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Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
Tony Kaye


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Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard
Edward Furlong as Danny Vinyard
Beverly D'Angelo as Doris Vinyard
Avery Brooks as Dr. Bob Sweeney
Jennifer Lien as Davina Vinyard
Ethan Suplee as Seth Ryan
Stacy Keach as Cameron Alexander
Fairuza Balk as Stacey
Elliott Gould as Murray
Guy Torry as Lamont
William Russ as Dennis Vinyard
Joseph Cortese as Rasmussen (as Joe Cortese)
Jason Bose Smith as Little Henry (as Jason Bose-Smith)
American History X Storyline: Derek Vineyard is paroled after serving 3 years in prison for killing two thugs who tried to break into/steal his truck. Through his brother, Danny Vineyard's narration, we learn that before going to prison, Derek was a skinhead and the leader of a violent white supremacist gang that committed acts of racial crime throughout L.A. and his actions greatly influenced Danny. Reformed and fresh out of prison, Derek severs contact with the gang and becomes determined to keep Danny from going down the same violent path as he did.
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A masterpiece
Consider this: an ultra-low-budget movie on the subject of racism, with no CGI and few special effects of any kind, with all of the action taking place on two or three sets, the plotline basically consisting of two or three people talking at a time punctuated by occasional outbursts of no-holds-barred violence, a massive downer of an ending, and not starring the usual assortment of Hollywood stars. Sounds like an indie for sure, right? But it's not. It was a Hollywood film, although for the life of me I can't imagine how any major studio got behind it. AHX is one of the best films of the decade if not of all time. Norton, who was just kicking off his career, is absolutely mesmerizing as a repentant skinhead and Furlong, known primarily for his role in T2 (and whose career has sort of sputtered out), is right up there with him as the confused younger brother. A must-see for everyone, although not the kiddies. An amazing film, right up and through the incredibly sad ending.
Not perfect but still very strong
Years have past since Danny saw his neo-nazi brother, kill several black males who were robbing his car. Since he has been in prison, Derek's legacy has grown among the white gangs of the area and Danny has followed in his brother's footsteps. When he writes a racist paper for school, his teacher makes his write a new paper, focusing on recent history – that of his brother and how he influenced him. Meanwhile Derek leaves prison a reformed man with only the desire to repair the damage he once did to his family with his beliefs and his hate.

I was looking forward to see this film as I missed it at the cinema and am a firm believer that Edward Norton is one of the most talented actors of his generation and is always worth seeing (even if some of his films have given less than he deserves). It was maybe better that I only saw it recently as I was able to enjoy it without all the hype and fighting over who did what to who, or all the comments from director Kaye as to his opinions of the film. Having seen the pompous fool interviewed several times, I find it quite self assuring that I don't agree with his opinions of it!

The plot is a mix of flashback into Derek's hate filled past (told in b&w) and the present (colour) where he is desperate to save his brother and family from suffering anymore from his `sins'. As a basic narrative the film struggles at times to make a solid story and seems to be trying too hard to create confrontations to up the drama within the film. It still works mind you but this is not it's best asset.

The main thing the film does well is to be a very true representation of white male disillusionment. The film avoids painting these people as monsters straightaway (although makes no bones that they are confused, misled and wrong). The arguments and discussions they have in the film are not so far from reality that the characters seem fiction – the characters and the film's world seem very real. The film's message that hate is no way to live no matter who it is directed at may be a little simplistic but it is a valid point. One particular weakness which I felt was a little hamfisted was Derek's `road to Damascus' experience in prison – it was OK but was far too easy given the character we had just seen brutally kill several black men.

The other main selling point the film has is a performance by Norton that simply ensures he steals nearly every scene he is in. In b&w flashback he is at his best – a larger than life character who is never allowed to just be seen as a thug. Norton acts out the various stages of his life well and makeup ensures that he looks younger when required. In the present he is less dominant but still is very good giving a different performance. Furlong is also very strong, although he only has a few scenes where he is able to be outside of Norton's shadow. Support from Balk, Gould, D'Angelo and Brooks is mixed – Gould's Jewish character is only in the film to allow for one scene to occur, while Brooks' righteous teacher is simply a `morally upright teacher' with no meat on his character.

Overall this is a good film, which occasionally struggles when it forces the issue in the `present' scenes. However for the most part it is a powerful film which owes a lot to well captured themes and an excellent performance from Norton.
Absolutelty awesome!
This movie blew me away. I had heard of it a while ago but never got round to watching it. I cant tell you how glad i am that i did. First off, Ed Norton - already one of my favourite actors - is absolutely flawless in his portrayal of a Neo-Nazi (Derek) who gets locked up for murdering two black thieves. When he comes out he realises what he has done to himself and his family, which includes a superb Edward Furlong of Terminater 2 fame. Told through his eyes the story flashes back to the incidents that lead Dereks incarceration and the impact it has on him. Also featuring excellent performances from Ethan Suplee and Fairuza Balk this film is the cream of the crop. If you haven't seen i suggest you do - quick. But be sure you can handle plenty of profanity (the word f**k is used 205 times) and some disturbing and brutal violence.
American History X: A List of Grievances

American History X is a film filled with clichés and melodrama. I am astounded that it is considered by IMDb users to be among the top 250 films ever made, let alone the top 100.

Edward Norton's performance was good, considering the material, and Edward Furlong is also a decent actor. However, the other performances here were third rate and totally over the top. Avery Brooks as Dr. Sweeney acted as though he were performing in a community theatre production of Shakespeare. Totally unbelievable.

Speaking of unbelievability, how about, for starters, the incredibly lame scene wherein the movie's title is used as a line of dialogue? So stilted and corny I almost turned the movie off right then and there. (After seeing the end, I wish I had, but hindsight is always 20/20...)

Let's move on then, to the absolutely asinine basketball game. What the hell was this, West Side Story? I expected at any moment that they were going to start singing and dancing, doing the splits in an effort to get each other off their turf. I mean, come ONNNNN. Then, when the white boys won, the black guys said, "Oh, gee whiz!" and turned around and left, never to return? PLEASE! I didn't buy it for a second, and I can't believe anyone else did.

On to my next grievance. Norton's co-worker in the prison laundry was sent to prison for six years because he dropped a television on a cop's foot and it was considered assault. He says he was caught because the store that he stole the TV from was right next to a donut shop filled with cops. This movie supposedly tries to teach the viewer a lesson about how wrong it is to stereotype, but the whole thing is full of nothing BUT stereotypes.

Most annoying in my opinion, however, was the score. The music constantly drowned out the dialogue (which, considering the writing, was probably a blessing). I abhor films that insult my intelligence by continuously attempting to manipulate my emotions with music. If you want me to be moved by your film, cut out the sappy music, and give me good directing, good performances, and a believable story. Don't try making me feel moved by music that's ten times louder than the dialogue because you can't make a decent film.

The ultimate insult in this film is the ending. Absolutely beyond ridiculous. Totally beyond moronic. The kid that Edward Furlong blew cigarette smoke at is now going to shoot him in the face in the school bathroom? Is he mentally retarded? Why not just shoot him in the middle of a police station, perhaps one full of white guys and black guys making angry faces at each other while fat cops sit around eating donuts? At least a stealthy drive-by shooting would have been more realistic, if blowing smoke in someone's face is really an offense worthy of death. Additionally, what was up with there being no paramedics in the bathroom when a child had just been shot? They are just going to leave him there with his head in the urinal??? PLEASE!!!!

Overall, this is an awful, awful, AWFUL movie. Predictable, trite, with the most offensively contrived ending I have seen in quite some time. I knew what was going to happen, and was appalled when it did. Not because it shocked me or made me think, but because I couldn't believe the filmmakers thought I was really stupid enough to buy it.

What a piece of trash. * out of *****. Norton's acting couldn't come close to saving this steaming pile.
Norton's astounding performance!!!!!!
American History X is a 1998 American crime drama film directed by Tony Kaye and written by David McKenna. It stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and co-stars Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach, Elliott Gould, Avery Brooks, Ethan Suplee and Beverly D'Angelo.

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 inter cut 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
oddly dissatisfying
The problem with "American History X" has nothing to do with the acting. Edward Norton and Edward Furlong are both convincing and terrific, despite the fact that Norton's character seems more like a misguided youth than a evil neo-nazi (the brutality of his crimes seemed to exist only to mask this impression). The fact is that it tries to cram too much into too little. Ideas and characters are presented that are never followed up on and thus the film seems disjointed. Despite the fact that Norton's character broke through a lot of the typical characteristics that typify the neo nazi, the prison scenes contain characters that exemplify many these stereotypes. The well rounded characters (such as Guy Torry as the laundry guy in prison) are canceled out by poorly developed ones (Faruiza Balk and Ethan Suplee as a couple of dunce nazi followers). The flashbacks really aren't that well placed in my opinion. The opening scene presented Norton's character with simply too much brutality, and seemed designed to do nothing more than shock the audience. The scenes that supposedly develop the background of the Norton character are really pointless and do not at all indicate the nature of his beliefs. His dad telling him that affirmative action is wrong is not the reason he became a crazed nazi. Tony Kaye clearly wasn't thrilled with the final product, as evidenced by his bizarre "Humpty Dumpty" scandal. He just didn't get all of what he wanted on to the screen. The overrated reaction to this movie is hard to explain. Emotionally, the film is fairly powerful and contains a great ending, though it is a bit too preachy. The "hate is bad" message was really an elementary conclusion that was drawn to a sprawling movie that really should have aimed higher.
It will leave you speechless.
AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998) Rating: 10/10

I could not applaud this film more. What really make this movie are 2 people. First is Tony Kaye, you have done a breathtaking directing job in turning what potentially could've been a replay of all the racist movies over the past years into a film that I will never forget. Whenever something comes up on the news about Nazis, skinheads, African-American fights etc I'll remember this film. Second person and probably the person who deserves it most is Edward Norton. Edward, your performance has changed my life. I have never seen a male give what is such an effortlessly amazing and truly masterpiece of a performance. Were you really acting, Ed, or was Tony Kaye just following you around for a few years? Kudos also to script-writers, Edward Furlong, other supporting characters and good cinematography and design which flips from black-and-white to colour cleverly. This movie is totally violent, has a lot of coarse language and is extremely graphic about all its subjects. This is what they should really be teaching kids in school, all about what really happens in America. I don't live in America myself but I thought it gave a very apt description of skinheads who live there. Totally amazing stuff, American History X earns a place on my top 10 films of all time, making it not only the best movie of 1998 but the third best of the decade, following American Beauty (it is obviously good to have American as the first word for your film title – all the movies that start with the country are fantastic – American Beauty, this film, American Pie, American Psycho, so on and so on) and The Shawshank Redemption. Truly unforgettable cinema.
A masterpiece! Truly one of the best film I have ever seen
I have been wanting to see this movie for a long time, since my English teacher mentioned it in our class in grade ten. Gosh I wished I wouldn't have waited all this time to finally watch it, although maybe it's a good thing cause I would have probably been a little bit more traumatized at 14... This movie is exceptional!!! Makes u think, makes you frustrated, makes you wanna scream and even makes you cry! Edward Norton is just phenomenal playing the role of a freak skin head and even more so playing this skin head who finally realizes how stupid he was and tries to protect his younger brother. Edward Furlong also does an amazing job!!! This film is moving in so many ways...I can't even describe how real and heartfelt it felt. I definitely think Edward Norton should have won the Oscar for his performance, cause he was absolutely terrific! I can't get why they didn't gave it to him... This movie will surely stay on my mind for a while now... just thinking that some place in the world things like that still crushes my heart. This is a wonderful movie that every single person should see at least once in his life... Watch American History X, it totally worth it!
I wsih the director didn't have to preach
This film began with such promise and toward center somehow lost its momentum and started to preach.

The film had potential to move and defend without attempting to show how wrong rascism is. I ofcoure feel its wrong, but hardly needed a film like this to show me.

The drama should just have unfolded without the Neo Nazi suddenly getting religion. Why not let the pieces fall where they will.

It could have been a strong and powerful film, but turned into just another we want to show you why and please don't do this.

It struck an almost condescending and proselytizing level. That why I gave it a six. Good, but hardly great.
Tremendous performance ... dangerous ending
This film has always bothered me as deeply as any I've seen, and I've seen thousands. I'm a film buff, and have been from the time I was a youngster watching old films with my mother. Many films have impacted my life, much the way they have a lot of people, and that's why it's important that filmmakers (real filmmakers) put deep thought into what they put on the big screen.

I saw AHX when it was first released. I saw it again a number of times since, mainly because I have tried to come to terms with the ending. Had it been a lesser film, I would have just labeled the ending thoughtless racism, as is in a lot of films, and moved on. But this film is so thoughtful in other ways that I have to believe that the filmmakers thought as deeply about the ending - often considered the most important part of a movie - of their film.

I've accepted that the white characters in the film were deep and layered characters, and the black characters, for the most part, were one dimensional stereotypes because the film is from the point of view of Edward Norton's character, and his family are the supporting characters. The black characters are secondary. That is until the end.

When the black kid shoots Daniel in the end, it makes him a much more important character to the story. And, we haven't seen enough of this character to understand his motivation. So, he just becomes some black kid who overreacted and killed a white main character who the audience loved and who was changing for the better. To me, that would go to make some in the white audience despise this kid, and be more sympathetic to Derek's point of view.

The filmmakers can't even argue that they were just giving a look at real life in this situation, as the scene does not at all fit what we know, or knew about violence among youth. (Excuse me for the upcoming generalizations, but race is the topic of the film, and I'm simplifying for time's sake.) We know we've had the school shootings by the outcast white kids, and we've had a number of inner city shootings by underprivileged black kids. The white kids have, in general, gone after the kids who made them feel like outcasts, and the inner city shootings have been part of gangs or the drug trade, where the intended victims are involved in the same. The issue of a black kid shooting a white kid because of some racist spat is just not reality.

So, we have a one dimensional black kid shooting a audience favorite character in an unrealistic scene. This is at the end of an otherwise well made film containing a thought provoking discussion dominated by a very intelligent and convincing skinhead character (played by the dynamic Edward Norton).

We've all heard that this film is praised by racists as well as "non-racists". So, I can't help but to wonder what the intentions of the filmmakers were.

Some might say that you can't dismiss the rest of this well made film because of the end. And I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, it's the poignancy and quality of the rest of the film that gives the ending such power. The ending of a film often brings together the themes and point of view of the film. So again, what were the intentions? I find the ending of this film to be out of place. Otherwise, this film is well made, well acted and so well respected across the board, and that may make it dangerous.
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