Best Movies of All Time + Tony Kaye

Movie Recommendation: AMERICAN HISTORY X

I've never done a post like this before, but I think that instead of writing an entire review for a film that I've already seen, I'll just give you the reasons why I'm recommending it. Hopefully this will turn into a common type of post with films that I've seen before and am only re-watching because I enjoyed them so much the first (or second or third or three hundredth) time around. Enjoy the movie recommendation!


American History X is a 1998 film directed by Tony Kaye that tells its story through an essay written by Daniel Vinyard (Edward Furlong) that talks about his brother's involvement in the skinhead scene in Venice Beach. Derek (Edward Norton) reigns king-supreme until he is charged with voluntary manslaughter when he kills two African-American men - one in rather gratuitous fashion - attempting to steal his car. While incarcerated, Derek learns the error of his ways and commits himself to bettering himself and bringing his family away from the atrocities committed by his former gang. This proves to be more difficult than he had originally anticipated when he finds that his younger brother Daniel has crafted himself into Derek's heir apparent with the white supremacist troupe.

No one can talk about American History X (which I will refer to as AHX from this point forward, in order to save myself some typing) without talking about the performance given by Mr. Edward Norton. It's a role that garnered him his first - and to this date, sole - Academy Award nomination which he ultimately lost to Roberto Benigni. However, I've seen both of those films, and I personally think that Norton was robbed of that illustrious statuette. Norton essentially plays two distinct roles in AHX: the biased and bigoted but seemingly well-informed white supremacist, and the reformed and still highly-intelligent parolee who wants to straighten out his life. At times, he's over-the-top, but at other times, he brings it all in and takes a very subtle approach. It's easily a career-best performance for a man who's had a slew of fantastic roles.

While I'm on the topic, the rest of the cast fills out quite nicely. Furlong, who most will recognize as John Connor from 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, plays an interesting and captivating character that I wished I could have hit and hugged all at the same time. It's like I wanted to smack some sense into his warped train of thought then fill him in on the realities of life. Furlong makes Daniel Vinyard very, very real. Beverly D'Angelo also gives a stirring display in a supporting role with a few moments that should've been enough to land her an Oscar nomination. But I suppose that's just my opinion.

I can't say enough about David McKenna's screenplay, and I'm shocked it didn't receive a slew of accolades back in 1998 and 1999. We're given an intense look at the psyche behind a powerful leader in a white supremacist movement. We get into his head and learn and understand the reasoning behind his hate-centered thought process. But what's really fantastic about the screenplay is that, while Derek still dabbles in his hate-mongering, he makes us believe that his ideals are the true and real ones that we should all believe and follow. Although we may not agree with these ideas at any other time, Derek draws us in and makes us believe that his word is law and should be followed to the letter. In my opinion, that makes his turn all the more powerful because we're experiencing that turn simultaneously, albeit from different perspectives. While Derek is experiencing this different train of thought for the first time, we're being led back into the light, so to speak. David McKenna takes us to the depths then brings us back to the surface, giving us a glimpse into something that, in today's 21st society, we may not and should never have to experience.

Now, most people who have seen this movie always refer to one particular scene (I'll just say it involves a death, but I won't go any further than that), but I know that there's so much more power in this film than just one singular act of violence. I personally find AHX to be one of the greatest films that has ever graced the silver screen, as evidenced by its current hold as my sixteenth greatest film of all time. I have yet to find anyone who wasn't satisfied with AHX, so I think you should do yourself a favor and give it a chance.

Best All-Time: #19

1998, American History X, Beverly D'Angelo, David McKenna, drama, Edward Furlong, Edward Norton, Oscar nom, recommendation, and more:

Relevant to: Movie Recommendation: AMERICAN HISTORY X + Tony Kaye