American History X is a film about the love between two brothers, Derek and his little brother Danny, and and how the choices they make as teenagers affects them, their family and the rest of the society for life. The story takes place in a neo-nazi environment on Venice Beach, a suburb in South-California.
Derek Vinyard is a intelligent and well read young man. He lives in a normal family and is just like every other teenager. He is doing well in school and has a good relationship with his black principal, Dr. Sweeney. When his father founds out about this relationship he startes to poison him with his racial opinions against black people.
But these opinions doesn’t seem to affect him much until one day his father is out doing his job as a fireman and gets killed by a black man. Derek changes radically and becomes a person full of anger and hate towards black people and other minorities.
When he meets Cameron Alexander, who is the leader of the neo-nazi group White-Power, he’s like a fly caught in the spiders-web and he directly becomes a member. Alexander uses his sorrow, depression and frustration and turnes him into one of the strongest neo-nazist in the group.
Derek’s brother Danny is easy influenced , as teenagers often are, and looks up to his older brother. He sees Derek as his rolemodel and watches everything he does and listens to what he says. Derek’s behavior transfers to Danny, and soon after Danny is a member of the nazi-environment too.
One night some black men tries to steal Derek’s car and Danny wakes up and tells his brother who is going out to stop them. This incident ends with Derek killing two black men. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced for three years imprisonment.
During the time in jail Derek learns a lot and his stay locked up becomes the turning point of his life. In the beginning he is protected by a group of white nazist from the black and the hispanic gangs that where out to get revenge for the racial manslaugther he did. But Derek soon learns that he can’t even trust his own when he one day criticized them for bying drugs from the hispanics. The nazists felt insulted and as a punishment for his statement he was brutally raped in the shower.
While Derek is lying in the prison hospital his old principal Dr. Sweeney comes to visit him. Sweeney talks to him and gives him books that makes him query about his earlier life. Because of this and his new friendship with a black man, who probably saved his life by preventing pay back time from the other prisinors, he changed his way of thinking and living. Derek was now a totally converted man and wanted nothing to do with the neo-nazi environment, and he also wanted his younger brother away from it.
Meanwhile back at home Danny is trying to gain respect and love by getting advanced in the neo-nazi environment.
In school Danny had been given a task to write a report from a book. He chose “Main Kamf”, a book written by Adolf Hitler. Dr.Sweeney didn’t approve this report and gave him a chance to write about his brother, find out the reasons for why he became so hatefull and why he joined the White-Power gang. He also wanted him to write about how this affected him and the rest of the family.
Derek came out of prison the same day, now as a new man, more grown up and responsible. Derek had become an icon for the neo-nazists after the murders. And on his first night out they organized a party to honour their hero. Derek showed up but only to tell Cameron Alexander that he wanted out of the environment and he was going to take his brother Danny with him.
The reappearance developed to a big fight and Derek almost killed Cameron. He managed to drag Danny with him. Derek succeeded in persuading about how destructive the life he was living, and together they tore down all the posters, flags and marks with nazi-symbolism.
The next day Danny was going to hand in his paper, that he called American History X, and Derek followed him to school. On the way back Derek sees a car that he has seen before outside their house, and he thinks they are after him. But when the car just drives on towards the school, he understands that Danny is the one they want. Derek starts running back to the school, hoping to find his brother alive.