Common Sense Note
Parents need to know that Malcolm X -- Spike Lee's epic biopic about the black minister, leader, and human rights activist -- features some scenes of racial violence, notably disturbing news footage, and two violent incidents that involve guns and blood. Language is strong, but infrequent, except for many uses of the "N" word. Malcolm's early days living a life of crime include many references to and images of drugs and prostitution, and he also has an active sex life (everything changes when he becomes a Muslim). Teens should be OK, given the overall power and significance of this film, and the undeniably positive message it brings.
Malcolm leaves his chaste girlfriend for a "devil" white woman that "puts out." No nudity or sex is shown, but he is seen dominating her during their intimate moments. We see kissing and flirting. There are images of prostitution (one customer is about to receive oral sex), and a mention of rape. The movie also deals with the situation in which two women accuse Elijah Muhammad of fathering their children.
Most of the violence here appears in archival news footage, including the Rodney King beating of 1991, and various events from the Civil Rights era. Members of the Ku Klux Klan burn a house, but the family escapes. There's a bar fight, and a man in smashed in the face with a bottle. A man is killed while lying on top of a woman in bed. There are lots of guns, and some disturbing sequences having to do with prison. One Muslim is beat up by cops, and we see blood. Most importantly, there's the assassination of Malcolm himself, which involves some horrifying gun-related violence and blood.
The "N" word is heard very frequently here, which is justified by its historical context. "F--k" is heard once, as is "s--t." Other words include "bitch," "ass," and "hell."
The movie's ultimate point is that people are equal and everyone deserves the same amount of consideration, empathy, and tolerance, but the movie takes a long time to get there. It takes Malcolm X many years of trial and error to find his true calling. Up to the final stretch, he is seen living a life of crime (involving drugs, prostitution, etc.) and then preaching hatred and revenge. But the payoff is worth it.
One vintage Coca-Cola ad is visible. During the film's epilogue, we see images of the famous "X" baseball caps, which became popular around the time of the film's release.
Drugs / Tobacco /
The main characters are seen drinking whisky in bars. Eventually they become involved in selling cocaine. Drugs are mentioned often. One character smokes a cigar.