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American Me (1992)

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A Mexican-American Mafia kingpin is released from prison, falls in love for the first time, and grows introspective about his gangster lifestyle.



(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pedro Santana
Vira Montes ...
Esperanza Santana
Roberto Martín Márquez ...
Acha (as Robert Martin Marquez)
Joe Aubel ...
Tattoo Artist
Rob Garrett ...
Zoot Riot Bystander
Young Sailor
Cody Glenn ...
Older Sailor
Police Officer
Panchito Gómez ...
Young Montoya Santana (as Panchito Gomez)
Albert Joe Medina Jr. ...
Street Mechanic
Alex Solís ...
Street Mechanic (as Alex Solis)
Raymond Amezquita ...
Young JD
Young Mundo


This epic depiction of thirty years of Chicano gang life in Los Angeles focuses on a teen named Santana who, with his friends Mundo and the Caucasian-but-acting-Hispanic J.D., form their own gang and are soon arrested for a break-in. Santana gets into trouble again and goes straight from reform school to prison, spending eighteen years there, and becoming leader of a powerful gang, both inside and outside the prison, while there. When he is finally released, he tries to make sense of the violence in his life, in a world much changed from when last he was in it. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In prison they are the law. On the streets they are the power.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and sensuality, and for language and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

13 March 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sans rémission  »

Box Office


$16,000,000 (estimated)


$13,086,430 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Most of the extras who were dressed as prisoners quit after the first day of filming. They were kept in a gated area next to an open sewer and had to ask guards to use the bathroom. Guards are used to ignoring prisoners, so they mostly ignored extras dressed as prisoners. They weren't given enough water and lunch wasn't served until late in the day. Conditions slightly improved on the second day, but on the third and final day of filming at Folsom Prison there were about 25 of the 200 that showed up on the first day. See more »


When the Mexican inmates are walking up with the mop and bucket to assassinate the African-American inmate, it shows the African-American inmate lying in just a t-shirt on his bed. In the next scene, after he's caught on fire, he's wearing his long sleeve button up. See more »


Montoya Santana: What we'd done in Compton was wrong. It was supposed to be business, but came out racial. We wanted to send a message to BGF about staying away from our business. And we sent a bunch of fucking cowboys in other people's home turf, talkin trash and shooting some guy in the dick.
J.D.: I don't know what's wrong with you. I don' know if it is that woman or what? But you're starting to show weakness and we both know that you can't do that.
See more »


Referenced in Decker: The Butterfly Effect (2016) See more »


Dedicated to You
Written by Egnoian and Morgan
Performed by Sonny Knight
Courtesy of Starla Records
by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment/Celebrity Licensing Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Excellent directorial debut from Edward James Olmos.

American Me (1992) was the directing debut of long time character actor Edward James Olmos. This film is a historical fiction depiction of the rise of La Emme, The Mexican Mafia. The movie follows the lives of three street gang members who by a sad twist of fate end up in Juvenille Hall. From there they graduate to the big time. Folsom Prison. Inside the walls of Folsom, the three form the most powerful gang inside the California Penal System.

Olmos turns the story into a Shakespherian tragedy. A story about a dangerous cycle that repeats over and over within certain communities and how the lack of education can be dangerous. Like they say, an idle mind is the devil's playground. Many of these characters had too much "idle time" before they hit rock bottom. Olmos' direction, editing and use of lighting is that of a long time film-maker. The cinematography complements his directorial style. He makes these figures into noble persons who live and die by a code forged from blood, shanks and sweat. Great stuff from Mr. Olmos, a true masterpiece from a first time director.

Sadly, Mr. Olmos has took a lot of flack for this film and has made some powerful people very angry. If I were him I would have taken a safer route and gave the prison gangs some fake names and cut all ties to any "Technical Support" but that's not his style. He should be commended for his efforts because others wouldn't have the courage or conviction to do this. Mr. Olmos doesn't glamorize the lifestyle either. Although they're men of honor amongst themselves I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. But what people have to do to stay alive in prison should not be looked down upon and on the other hand, when one's on the outside they should leave what they learned within the prison walls. Because it's a whole different ball game out here.

Highly recommended.

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