A fair criminal justice system is one of the cornerstones of any free society. In the United States, criminal justice exists not just to punish criminals, but to ensure that all those who pass through it receive a fair hearing and trial before being declared guilty of a crime. Given the importance of this system in upholding the ideals and principles of the United States, it is hardly surprising that so many students want to study for a degree relating to criminal justice.
Hollywood doesn’t always do a very good job of portraying reality, or of providing us with reliable and dependable representations of some of the most complex aspects of modern life. However, there are always films which break this mold, especially when it comes to criminal justice, for students of the subject, these films have much to offer as studies of the cultural perception of the criminal justice system.
Thelma and Louise
This iconic film, released in 1991, is regarded by many as a modern feminist classic. It tackles issues such as the psychological complications caused to victims of sexual violence, and how these complications can influence decision making as well as victims views of the world. It remains relevant today, almost 30 years later.
12 Angry Men
If there is one film relating to criminal justice that people are likely to have heard of then it is 12 Angry Men. This is one of those films which truly is timeless, being just as relevant now as it was upon release more than half a century ago. The film tells the story of a panel of 12 jurors who must decide if a young man, on trial for murdering his father, is guilty or not.
The film is a striking and poignant tale of the role that prejudice and bias often play in our view of the world and of our fellow humans. 12 Angry Men has been an incredibly influential film and is often cited as a prime example of how good, smart directing can be used to effectively tell a story which is set in a single location.
Students who are studying for a masters in criminal justice online will find 12 Angry Men also provides an interesting look at the past of the criminal justice system. In fact, many students pursue a masters in criminal justice because of an interest they develop from watching this film.
The Green Mile
Along with The Shawshank Redemption, another adaptation of a Stephen King story, this is one of the author’s most famous works. The film is a powerful story about corruption and brutality, as well as the hope that many people hold for a kind of supernatural justice that exists outside the fallible human systems of laws.
These 3 films all, in their own ways, represent fascinating examinations of how we view crime and the role of justice in our society. For students of criminal justice they make for essential viewing. Each has something different to say, but all tell their tales in such a way that their themes become accessible to all viewers.