FilmSite opens with this: "Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) is a classic example of a Warner Bros. gangster/crime melodrama of the 1930s - a slick, action-packed, hard-hitting studio film layered with a touch of social conscience." Slant Magazine has a positive review. Empire Online says, "Not pulling the melodrama punches in anyway but still a real Cagney gangster classic."
DVD Journal concludes,
The whole "crime doesn't pay" trope has never felt more quaint than it does today, but the way Angels With Dirty Faces balances hard-bitten gangster drama with warmly stage-managed religiosity gives us an entertaining period piece, one which shows that after more than sixty years you still can't go wrong with a Jimmy Cagney movie.Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%. This film is included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.