American Animals

Out Now On-Demand

Nobody wants to be ordinary.

Evan Peters (X-Men: Apocalypse) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer's Barry Keoghan star in this true story heist thriller, told in part by the actual men who committed the crime. Nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. From the director of 2012's The Imposter.

Four university students (Peters, Keoghan, Blake Jenner, and Jared Abrahamson) living an ordinary existence brazenly attempt to execute one of the most audacious art heists in US history. But not everything is as it seems, and as the daring theft unfolds through each of their perspectives, each of them starts to question whether their attempts to inject excitement and purpose into their lives is simply a misguided attempt at achieving the American Dream.


Directed by

  • Bart Layton('The Imposter', 'Locked Up Abroad', 'Becoming Alexander')

Written by

Crime, Drama


Rating: R13 Violence, drug use & offensive language


It’s difficult to describe the second film by writer/director Bart (The Imposter) Layton without making it sound a) like a lot of other films, or b) shit. It’s Man On Wire meets Fight Club; Ocean’s Eleven via American Honey; Tarantino with teens. See?

A heist flick based on a true story, the film follows students Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters and accomplices as they plan, prep and mount a daring (not to mention extraordinarily dim-witted) robbery on their university library. The prize? Some priceless books on evolution by Charles Darwin and John James Audobon. The chance of getting away with it? Practically zero.

As a thriller, it’s funny, fast and tongue-chewingly tense. The performances are excellent, with the presence of Ann (Aunt Lydia) Dowd a gold-standard guarantee of quality. The soundtrack, from Elvis to Rodriguez, is your new please-everyone Spotify playlist. And the cinematography is both striking and thought-provoking. Witness the moment when, on the drive to the robbery, the image flips upside down, like the boys’ lives are about to. But Layton has an ace up his sleeve even if the characters don’t.

Throughout the film, he cuts away to interviews with the real-life perpetrators, their parents and victims. Material this strong would probably have worked as straight-ahead fiction, but these documentary elements add pathos and perspective to the rapidly unravelling action, elevating the film from entertainment to a meditation on truth and trust. If that all sounds a bit heavy, fear not. For the most part, you’ll be digging your nails into the arm-rest so hard you won’t notice.

Hollywood Reporter


A crackerjack real-life heist thriller.

Screen International


A supremely-crafted doc/fiction hybrid which is genuinely innovative, pleasingly entertaining and deliciously more than the sum of its parts.

Variety (USA)


A riveting college-boy crime caper that tiggers along on pure movie-movie adrenaline, before U-turning into a sobering reflection on young male privilege and entitlement.



The heist genre is one that's been done to death, but with American Animals, filmmaker Bart Layton manages to pull off something wholly unique.

Los Angeles Times


While the participants in "American Animals" only imagine they're different, the film about them is the real deal.

New York Times


There is something soulless and mechanical about "American Animals," as if it had been made by a Martin Scorsese smartphone app and scored to a Spotify classic rock playlist.

Rolling Stone


The holes in the script are a pesky issue, but filmmaker Bart Layton's blend of recreations and real-life participants commenting on the action gives this true-crime comedy an edge.

NZ Herald (Tom Augustine)


What initially appears to be a slight, if entertaining, true-crime heist romp, in fact, hides untold depths in a muscular offering from The Imposter director Bart Layton. (James Croot)


All in all, American Animals is at once a stylish thriller and an insightful documentary.


A good mix of tense drama with lots of comedic moments strewn about. A very unique way of telling the story as well. Soundtrack was on point, so was the cast and most things about the film really.

proof that most criminals aren't too smart...

the film is far smarter - very well assembled doco/drama - than the subjects and what they were attempting

they had a good idea, but... well, you'll see. and you should. it's not fast paced, but it's very entertaining.

So indie I can't believe this is a true story

The best feature of this movie is the way in which it's told. The commentary is great. It seems as if it's unscripted but I expect it is. The events unfold as narrated by the heist meisters. The real players from the story appear and give their spin on the events. The main protagonist is larger than life and seems very likeable. You can see how it all snowballed and they went through with it. Quite amusing. Very entertaining. Definitely worth a viewing.

Engrossing Docu-Drama

An excellent exploration of what can only be labelled an ill-conceived, poorly executed art heist. Excellent character portrayal and close, claustrophobic cinematography keep the story tight and interesting. The splicing of real interviews with the dramatized story works well. Considering this was supposed to be a life-changing event, the memories of the main protagonists are wonderfully inaccurate.




An interesting blend of reality and fiction... of documentary and crime-thrillers?

Surprisingly, it works, and it works well.

My favourite part of this film is not its "real story" narrative, nor its well-suited soundtrack (featuring singles from Leonard Cohen, Donovan, The Doors, etc.), it isn't the fact that life lessons (I wouldn't really go as far as emphasising the philosophical aspect of the film as some critics have done, because I was left underwhelmed in that department) learnt by relatable characters were thrown at me and into a very fragile place, but the undeniable wit in the visual presentation of "American Animals".

Nevertheless, though it would be ignorant to deny the film of its achievements in terms of innovation (presentation-wise), one cannot help but feel that the entire experience wasn't wholly unique nor risky or dangerous. But its heart and honesty are virtues to be praised. The acting works well, the tone is done well (comedy and suspense are crafted "well", though there was one scene in which the theatre burst out laughing when I suspect they weren't supposed to be from the film-maker's pov, but who knows).

Yeah. Enjoyed this one, and recommend it to anyone who's looking for something fun and touching.

Fascinating plot!

Hard to believe it was a true story! Great movie.

Way better then it looks on the trailer

Off beat and enjoyable gem. This ain't what you think it is. Worth seeing

Not my kind of movie

This was an interesting movie however just the kind of movie I would generally sit down and watch. Just being honest.

A well told compelling comedy of errors

Bart Layton has picked up the story of four young men who become wanna thieves and turns it into a compelling watch. With scenes of the real individuals providing a commentary mixed with actors playing their younger selves the movie draws viewers in to listen to what actual thieves say while deciding whether to laugh or cry at the events as they unfold. I found it similar to Kidnapping Mr Heineken but a lot funnier. Amateurs don't make good thieves of rare books but the story does make a good movie. Excellent work Mr Layton.

Good movie and good soundtrack

Very smart, sharp and stylish movie for 2018