A group of Catholic school friends, after being caught drawing an obscene comic book, plan a heist that will outdo their previous prank and make them local legends.


Peter Care


Chris Fuhrman (book), Jeff Stockwell (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Emile Hirsch ... Francis Doyle
Kieran Culkin ... Tim Sullivan
Vincent D'Onofrio ... Father Casey
Jena Malone ... Margie Flynn
Jake Richardson ... Wade Scalisi
Tyler Long Tyler Long ... Joey Anderson
Jodie Foster ... Sister Assumpta
Arthur Bridgers ... Donny Flynn (as Arthur Bridges)
Scott Simpson ... Newsie
Melissa McBride ... Mrs. Doyle
Michael Harding ... Mr. Doyle (as Mike Harding)
Chandler McIntyre Chandler McIntyre ... Naturalist
Jeffrey West Jeffrey West ... Professor Sullivan
Yvonne Erickson ... Mrs. Sullivan
Nicky Olson Nicky Olson ... Colin Gibbney


In mid-1970s Savannah, two bright but rebellious boys, Francis Doyle and Tim Sullivan, fight boredom, hormones and harsh teachers as they struggle to find something meaningful beyond the walls of their parish school. Francis, an exceptional artist whose imaginative forays into a fictional universe of good and evil fill his notebooks with comic-book imagery, creates a netherworld of superhero alter egos for the two boys. When the ultra-strict Sister Assumpta seizes their artwork one day, the boys embark upon an obsessed trail of revenge that ultimately changes their lives. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Forgive me father, for I am 14. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, sexual content and youth substance use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Reunites Jena Malone with Jodie Foster after Contact (1997), where both played the younger and older version of Ellie Arroway. See more »


The poem quoted in the funeral is found in William Blake's "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience", not in "Marriage of Heaven and Hell". (possible character error?) See more »


[first lines]
Francis Doyle: Tell me again why we're doing this.
Tim: Homework, Francis. Your future's built on it.
Francis Doyle: [whispered] Right.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD deleted scenes include the following:
  • An extended scene of Sister Assumpta and Father Casey erasing things from the school's books while the boys dangle the statue outside.
  • The scene where the newsie gives Francis and Tim the angel dust is longer. The original scene ends with the newsie smoking the pot and saying "Tastes like one, too." The new addition to the scene shows Francis and Tim actually taking the drug and we see the newsie's wife come out and try some too. The aftermath of their drug use is slightly longer (the spinning trees).
  • Tim tells Francis angel dust is animal tranquilizer. Francis asks Tim why angel dust isn't called animal tranquilizer to which Tim responds, "They probably wanted people to try it. That's why they call them sisters and not permanent virgins."
See more »


Features The Woody Woodpecker Show (1940) See more »


Do It For the Others
Written and Performed by Stephen Stills
Courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

User Reviews

uneven, well acted film
5 July 2003 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

`The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys' is NOT, as you might expect, a film about predatory priests, but rather a slice-of-life tale about four malcontent Catholic schoolboys who spend most of their free time devising preposterously elaborate and life-threatening practical jokes to play on the faculty members of their school.

As a coming-of-age drama, the film is fairly conventional in its plotting - i.e. young boys, in their rebellion against the uncomprehending adult world, experiment with drugs, first love, sex and general rule breaking - although there is a tricky and touchy incest-related subplot that is handled with a certain amount of delicacy and sensitivity. The highlight of the movie is the outstanding performances delivered by youngsters Emile Hirsch, Kieran Culkin and Jena Malone, whom you might remember as the young Jodie Foster in `Contact.' In fact, Foster herself appears in this film (in addition to co-producing it) as the uptight nun, Sister Assumpta. Unfortunately, her character is probably the least well developed one in the film, a fact that seems more obvious than it otherwise might if an actress of Foster's caliber were not playing the part.

The film also displays a nice feeling for its early-70's setting and does a good job capturing the way young people actually speak and communicate (the cast members have their nonverbal expressions and gestures down beautifully as well). Working from the novel by Chris Fuhrman, screenwriters Jeff Stockwell and Michael Petroni, along with director Peter Care, interrupt the live action at regular intervals to provide animated sequences that are ostensibly derived from the anarchic superhero comic book on which the gifted boys are collaborating. We know that these sequences are intended to provide a kind of fantasy alternate universe for these troubled kids who seem to find no meaning in the restricted world of religion and rules in which they find themselves, but the fact is that these sections of the film, not very creative in themselves, merely serve to thrust us out of the story at crucial moments.

`The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys' is an odd and somewhat misleading title for this film, since most of the `danger' these boys face is, primarily, a product of their own stupidity and not of their religious upbringing. Indeed, the religious figures in the film are mainly cranky and/or ineffectual, not really dangerous. `The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys' is an uneven film, but the superb performances by its youthful cast members make it ultimately worth seeing.

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Release Date:

28 June 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys See more »

Filming Locations:

South Carolina, USA See more »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$55,000, 16 June 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital EX



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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