How many of these criminal justice movies have you seen?

What Role Does Criminal Justice Play In Film?


Criminal justice has always played a large role in Hollywood.

There are portrayals of criminals, police, private detectives and psychopaths in some of our favorite silver screen classics. You don’t have to have a degree to enjoy these movies.

Criminal Justice Movies Through the Years

The Public Enemy (1931) Jimmy Cagney plays a young hood who rises up the ranks of the Chicago underworld. His portrayal is sexually magnetic, cocky—and completely amoral.

Scarface (1932) An ambitious and insanely violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall. Remade with Al Pacino in 1983.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) With Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, private eye. A film noir classic.

Notorious (1946) One of Hitchcock’s best. Secret FBI agent Cary Grant gets Ingrid Bergman to go undercover to catch a group of Nazis before they can realize their nuclear plot.

Take The Money and Run (1969) Woody Allen’s spoof on cop films. Allen plays an inept criminal obsessed with bank robberies.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Hedonistic, sadistic sociopath Alex is jailed for murder and is reformed using a new controversial technique.

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) Matt Dillon plays a young junkie who goes around breaking into pharmacies and stealing prescription drugs. Kelly Lynch is great as his wife.

Silence of the Lambs (1991) The story of two psychopaths and the young female cop who pursues them. The incarceration scenes are chilling. With Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

Shawshank Redemption (1994) Two imprisoned men bond in jail, finding redemption through acts of common decency. One of the best prison escape capers you’ll ever see.

Pulp Fiction (1994) Mobsters, hitmen and a briefcase are critical to the film’s three intersecting storylines. Plus, catch the famous dance scene between Uma Thurman and John Travolta.

The Green Mile (1999) A story of the daily lives of death row guards leading up to the execution of a black man falsely accused of murder, and who has a mystical power to heal.

More Top Criminal Justice Movie Picks:

  • The Godfather, Parts I & II (1972, 1974)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Goodfellas (1990)
  • L.A. Confidential (1997)
  • The Departed (2006)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • American Hustle (2013)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
  • The Nice Guys (2016)


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