What Is the Subject of American History X?

American History X is a 1998 drama film that tells the story of Derek Vinyard, a former white supremacist who tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same path he did. The film was directed by Tony Kaye and stars Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard.

Plot Summary

The movie begins with a flashback of Derek’s father being murdered by African American drug dealers. This event shapes Derek’s worldview, and he becomes involved with a neo-Nazi group led by Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach). Derek’s hatred towards people of color leads him to commit acts of violence, including the murder of two African American men who were attempting to steal his truck.

Derek is arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for the murders. While in prison, he befriends an African American man named Lamont (Guy Torry) who helps him realize the error of his ways. After being released from prison, Derek attempts to prevent his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) from following in his footsteps.


American History X tackles several themes throughout its runtime. One of the main themes is the danger of hate and racism. The film shows how these ideologies can lead to violence and destruction, not just towards others but also towards oneself.

Another theme explored in the movie is redemption. The character of Derek shows that it is possible for someone to change their ways and become a better person, even after committing terrible acts. His journey towards redemption is not easy, but it is ultimately rewarding.


The performances in American History X are top-notch, especially Edward Norton’s portrayal of Derek Vinyard. Norton fully embodies the character’s anger and hate, as well as his eventual transformation into a more empathetic person.

The supporting cast also delivers strong performances, particularly Furlong as Danny Vinyard and Avery Brooks as Dr. Bob Sweeney, the man tasked with teaching Danny about the dangers of hate and racism.


In conclusion, American History X is a powerful film that tackles important themes such as hate, racism, and redemption. The performances are outstanding, and the story is both engaging and thought-provoking. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in exploring these complex issues.