55 user 16 critic

American Me (1992)

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


Edward James Olmos


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





Cast overview, first billed only:
Sal Lopez ... Pedro Santana
Vira Montes Vira Montes ... Esperanza Santana
Roberto Martín Márquez Roberto Martín Márquez ... Acha (as Robert Martin Marquez)
Dyana Ortelli ... Yolanda
Joe Aubel Joe Aubel ... Tattoo Artist
Rob Garrett Rob Garrett ... Zoot Riot Bystander
Lance August ... Young Sailor
Cody Glenn ... Older Sailor
Don Pugsley ... Police Officer
Panchito Gómez Panchito Gómez ... Young Montoya Santana (as Panchito Gomez)
Albert Joe Medina Jr. Albert Joe Medina Jr. ... Street Mechanic
Alex Solís Alex Solís ... Street Mechanic (as Alex Solis)
Raymond Amezquita Raymond Amezquita ... Abuelito
Steve Wilcox ... Young JD
Richard Coca ... 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:

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Did You Know?


Rapper Big Tray Deee's favorite movie. See more »


At the neighborhood party, many of the guests, gang members are wearing modern clothing and modern hairstyles that weren't in style in the early 60's. See more »


Young Montoya Santana: [Mundo is being devoted into the gang] Come on, give me your hand. You know what, ese, White Fence, Maravilla, Lomita, they've been around here longer than us, you know. It's cool. We've got our own clika, strong clika. Finally getting into our own, gaining respect.
Young JD: Our clika, our barrio, our family - that's all we got, ese.
Young Mundo: Simon.
Young JD: When we were kids, belonging felt good. But having respect, that feels even better.
Young Montoya Santana: Cause La Primera lives through us. It gives to us. It is us. We make it, carnal, we ...
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Referenced in Be Kind Rewind (2008) See more »


Corazon Corazon
Written by José Alfredo Jiménez (as Jose Alfredo Jiminez)
Performed by Mariachi Soul de Mexico
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User Reviews

Packs an Emotional Wallop
26 April 2005 | by bubbazanettiSee all my reviews

This almost qualifies as the "Goodfellas" of Mexican Mafia movies, although it lacks the humor and character development that make the violence wrought by Scorsese's goons somewhat palatable.

Not for the weak of heart, this is one of the more daring works of early 90's American cinema. Violent, ugly and (allegedly) based on true events, the film yanks you into a world that lifelong residents of Los Angeles (like me) have never seen. The film starts with the L.A. zoot suit riots of the 1940's as a backdrop (Olmos portrayed "El Pachuco" in the stage and screen versions of "Zoot Suit"), and chronicles the rise and fall of Santana (Olmos) who, along with his boyhood "crime partners" (the always good William Forsythe and Pepe Serna), becomes the overlord of the Mexican prison mafia.

From the get go, the viewer is yanked down to the violent streets of East Los Angeles, then it's on to Folsom State Prison for some of the most brutal prison sequences this side of "Runaway Train."

This film has its critics - some lambaste the acting as second rate, and some view the dialog as corny (the poetic voice over by Olmos worked for me). Personally, I noticed none of this. I regard this as a very important film that deserves to be seen, now more than ever.

Not quite Scorsese, but light years better (and more socially relevant) than the "Penitentiary" movies. Those who can stomach the brutality will be richly rewarded with a film experience not easily forgotten.

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Release Date:

13 March 1992 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

American Me See more »


Box Office


$16,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,378,100, 15 March 1992

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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