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The Untouchables Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100


    The Untouchables is a beautifully crafted portrait of Prohibition-era Chicago.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    May not have much thematic depth, but it represents two hours of pure, exuberant entertainment – an epic gangster tale rendered on a grand scale.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Time Richard Schickel

    Mamet's elegantly efficient script does not waste a word, and De Palma does not waste a shot. The result is a densely layered work moving with confident, compulsive energy.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    Hollywood's latest big-budget, high-concept, mass-market reworking of material not entirely fresh, has more endings than Beethoven's Fifth, but it's also packed with surprises, not the least being that it's a smashing work. It's vulgar, violent, funny and sometimes breathtakingly beautiful.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Sheila Benson

    It's strange that in this somber inspection of moral fiber and what causes it to fray, De Palma couldn't have made his hero at least as interesting as his villain, and both of them at least as complicated as they were in life.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    De Palma's Untouchables, like the TV series that inspired it, depends more on cliches than on artistic invention.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    Ethics aside, the filmmaking by DePalma is stylish and alternates between shocking surprise and hold-your-breath quiet.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 14+

Cops vs. the mob in bloody Prohibition-era drama.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic top-cop vs. the mob drama has bloody violence and deaths of heroic and sympathetic characters, principally in shootings (including head shots) and shotgun blasts. A bomb explosions kills a child, and another in a baby carriage is nearly caught in a crossfire. There's a messy aftermath of a notorious shock scene in which Al Capone beats a character to death, just offscreen, with a baseball bat. Swearing is heavy ("f--k" and "s--t," etc.). Most characters smoke and drink.

  • Families can talk about the violence in this movie. How realistic is it? How does it affect you after watching it? Does who is commiting the violence make a difference? 
  • The newspapers in the film seem to be friendlier with Al Capone than with Eliot Ness. Are there criminals today who have the media spotlight? What is so appealing about colorful criminal characters, if anything?
  • Elliot Ness ends up breaking the law himself. Do the means justify the end?
  • This movie is based on real lives and real events. How have they been changed or dramatized? How can you find out the real story?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Somewhat mixed message: It is possible to resist overwhelming public corruption. But to bring down a crime lord, "incorruptible" Eliot Ness must cross the line himself, becoming a liar and a revenge-driven murderer. In short, good guy must be more ruthless than the bad guys.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Eliot Ness is an upstanding family man and bribe-proof lawman who nonetheless resorts to vigilante justice and blackmail in pursuit of justice (and revenge). Many police and politicians are corrupt. There's a brief audio clip of radio's Amos and Andy sitcom, now considered racist, plus slurs about Irish and Italians.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Much shooting with revolver, rifle, and shotgun, with and bloody wounds and death (including head shots). Capone fatally beats a man with a baseball bat. Bomb blasts (one of which instantly kills a little girl). A villain falls to his death from a great height.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not an issue

  • language false4

    Language: Plenty of swearing, including "f--k," "Goddamit," "whore," "s--t," "ass," "piss," and "Christ" used as an exclamation. Also, some ethnic slurs, like "wop."  

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: The Prohibition era  and drinking alcohol are key elements in the plot; Ness orders police not to drink while Prohibition is in force (smoking is OK, though), though even the heroic "Untouchables" drink when nobody is looking. When Prohibition is lifted at the end, Ness himself turns out to be a drinker.