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American Graffiti Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 13+

Coming-of-age classic still a must-see for teens.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that American Graffiti holds up beautifully for teens. Because it's set in the '60s, there is smoking and loads of drinking. There's a fistfight, some off-screen gunshots, drag racing, a car explotion, and a small amount of profanity ("s--t," "damn," hell"). Teens challenge authority, drink and drive, talk about sex, make out, and there's one shot of a boy's naked backside (in a drive-by mooning).

  • Families can talk about how older teens feel about leaving home, and moving away from everything they know.
  • How does American Graffiti compare with contempory movies about high school kids? How is it different? The same?
  • Which characters do you most identify with?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Lots of edgy, rebellious teen behavior here: drag racing, drunk driving, disrespecting authority (cops are mocked, for example). Non-white kids don't exist in this slice of early '60s America that George Lucas chooses to portray. One girl says she's not allowed to listen to Wolfman Jack because her parents (mistakenly) assume he's black. But friends express their loyalty to one another and Steven and Laurie thoughtfully try to figure out what the uncertain future will do to their relationship.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Most of the teens in American Graffiti are struggling with their identity and the transition to life after high school. Steven is thoughtful and loyal to his girlfriend.

What to watch for
  • violence false1

    Violence: Fisticuffs but no blood. Gunshots during a robbery. A car crash and a car explosion.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Flirting and backseat necking and petting. Flashing of bare bum (mooning).

  • language false2

    Language: Sevearl uses of "S--t" and a handful of "damn," "ass," "hell," "bitchin'."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: One boy gets a stranger to buy alcohol at a liquor store and then gets so drunk that he throws up. He also drives after drinking. Teens smoke cigarettes, too.