5 Movies Every Criminal Justice Student Needs to See  

The criminal justice system is a collection of agencies which both deter and apprehend criminals, process those accused, and deal with those found guilty through sanctions and rehabilitation services.

An online masters in criminal justice provides a good educational understanding of this field and is a popular choice for anyone already, or keen to, work in jobs such as policing, the courts, the FBI, law and correction facilities. Studying the criminal justice system involves using media sources as well as learning about legislature and procedures.

Movies can be a powerful tool used to relate how gender, race, social class and personal bias can influence experiences and outcomes of the justice system. Here are five movies anyone studying for a masters in criminal justice would benefit from watching.

12 Angry Men [1957]

Despite being over half a century old, this powerful movie still packs a punch. The story appears to be fairly straightforward – twelve men have to decide if a young man charged with murdering his father is guilty, or not. As the process unfolds it becomes clear that bias, prejudice and assumptions are influencing the decisions being made.

The Accused [1988]

Historically, there have always been issues with the de-crediting of rape victims, and the consequent issues with both prosecuting and gaining convictions, and this film is as relevant today as it ever was. This movie definitely provides plenty of fuel when considering more recent famous cases of rape accusations, and the way they have played out in the media and the courtroom.

Thelma and Louise [1991]

This iconic film raises issues similar to The Accused, namely the complications female victims of rape, (actual or attempted), experience, and the extent to which these can influence decision making, within a wider context of gender roles per se. It is also another movie which has as much to say today as it did then – making for some interesting debate on how much, or how little, things have changed.

Erin Brockovich [2000]

An interesting take on corporate crime, an area of the justice system which tends to get much less attention than more personal, mainstream, concerns. Being based on a true story adds an added charge to this tale of stereotyping, inequality and the perils of faceless criminal activity.

The Green Mile [1999]

Adapted from a Stephen King novel, The Green Mile calls on supernatural forces to deliver suitable paybacks for corruption and brutality within a prison setting. Questions about prisoners’ rights to respect and equality, the pathology of power wearing a uniform encourages, vigilantism, the death penalty and racism in the system are all begging to be raised and debated.

Using movies in the study of criminal justice is a valuable way to encourage students to explore both the obvious and the influencing factors at play. The five films mentioned here cover issues concerning gender, race, class, equality, and the impact such forces have on the public, lawmakers, decision makers and victims of crime.