8.0/10
19,834
67 user 55 critic

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Crime, Drama | 25 August 1988 (USA)
Trailer
2:40 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $4.99 on Prime Video

ON DISC
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

Director:

Errol Morris

Writer:

Errol Morris
12 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Documentary | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Lucille Billingsley, Zella Graham, Cal Harberts
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert McNamara.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A cinematic portrait of the life and career of the infamous American execution device designer and holocaust denier.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Fred A. Leuchter Jr., Robert Jan Van Pelt, David Irving
Documentary | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A documentary on the eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris
Tabloid (2010)
Documentary | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Joyce McKinney, Peter Tory, Troy Williams
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.

Director: Andrew Jarecki
Stars: Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, David Friedman
Documentary | Crime | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Megan Ambuhl Graner, Javal Davis, Ken Davis
Documentary | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people - and the state - kill.

Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Werner Herzog, Richard Lopez, Michael Perry
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Documentary | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Director: Steve James
Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Donald Rumsfeld, Errol Morris
Documentary | Biography | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend's ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.

Director: Kurt Kuenne
Stars: Kurt Kuenne, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Randall Adams Randall Adams ... Himself
David Ray Harris David Ray Harris ... Himself
Gus Rose Gus Rose ... Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson ... Herself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Marshall Touchton Marshall Touchton ... Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Dale Holt Dale Holt ... Himself (Internal Affairs Investigator in Dallas)
Sam Kittrell Sam Kittrell ... Himself (Police Detective in Vidor)
Hootie Nelson Hootie Nelson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Dennis Johnson Dennis Johnson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Floyd Jackson Floyd Jackson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Edith James Edith James ... Herself (Defense Attorney)
Dennis White Dennis White ... Himself (Defense Attorney)
Don Metcalfe Don Metcalfe ... Himself (The Judge)
Emily Miller Emily Miller ... Herself (Surprise Eyewitness)
R.L. Miller R.L. Miller ... Himself (Surprise Eyewitness)
Edit

Storyline

Errol Morris's unique documentary dramatically re-enacts the crime scene and investigation of a police officer's murder in Dallas, Texas. Briefly, a drifter (Randall Adams) ran out of gas and was picked up by a 16-year-old runaway (David Harris). Later that night, they drank some beer, smoked some marijuana, and went to the movies. Then, their stories diverged. Adams claimed that he left for his motel, where he was staying with his brother, and went to sleep. Harris, however, said that they were stopped by police late that night, and Adams suddenly shot the officer approaching their car. The film shows the audience the evidence gathered by the police, who were under extreme pressure to clear the case. It strongly makes a point that the circumstantial evidence was very flimsy. In fact, it becomes apparent that Harris was a much more likely suspect and was in the middle of a crime spree, eventually ending up on Death Row himself for the later commission of other crimes. Morris implies ... Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A softcore movie, Dr. Death, a chocolate milkshake, a nosey blonde and "The Carol Burnett Show." Solving this mystery is going to be murder.


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

På en skör tråd See more »

Filming Locations:

Dallas, Texas, USA

Edit

Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,209,846
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Errol Morris spent 2-1/2 years tracking down the various players in the Randall Adams case and convincing them to appear in the film. See more »

Quotes

Melvyn Carson Bruder: Prosecutors in Dallas have said for years - any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of my brother Noel Ian Morris (1942-1983) See more »

Connections

Features Dillinger (1945) See more »

Soundtracks

Metamorphosis
Written by Philip Glass
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Stunning depiction of a gross miscarriage of justice
17 August 2001 | by DeeNine-2See all my reviews

This is an extraordinary documentary in which film maker Errol Morris shows how an innocent man was convicted of murdering a policeman while the real murderer was let off scot free by the incompetent criminal justice system of Dallas, Texas. The amazing thing is that Morris demonstrates this gross miscarriage of justice in an utterly convincing manner simply by interviewing the participants. True, he reenacts the crime scene and flashes headlines from the newspaper stories to guide us, but it is simply the spoken words of the real murderer, especially in the cold-blooded, explosive audio tape that ends the film, that demonstrate not only his guilt but his psychopathic personality. And it is the spoken words of the defense attorneys, the rather substantial Edith James and the withdrawing Dennis White, and the wrongfully convicted Randall Adams that demonstrate the corrupt and incompetent methods used by the Dallas Country justice system to bring about this false conviction. Particularly chilling were the words of Judge Don Metcalfe, waxing teary-eyed, as he recalls listening to the prosecutor's summation about how society is made safe by that "thin blue line" of cops who give their lives to protect us from criminals. The chilling part is that while he is indulging his emotions he is allowing the cop killer to go free and helping to convict an innocent man. Almost as chilling in its revelation of just how perverted and corrupt the system has become, was the report of how a paid psychologist, as a means of justifying the death penalty, "interviewed" innocent Randall Adams for fifteen minutes and found him to be a danger to society, a blood-thirsty killer who would kill again.

This film will get your dander up. How the cops were so blind as to not see that 16-year-old David Harris was a dangerous, remorseless psychopath from the very beginning is beyond belief. He even took a delight in bragging about his crime. As Morris suggests, it was their desire to revenge the cop killing with the death penalty that blinded them to the obvious. They would rather fry an innocent man than convict the real murderer, who because of his age was not subject to the death penalty under Texas law. When an innocent man is wrongly convicted of a murder three things happen that are disastrous: One, an innocent man is in jail or even executed. Two, the real guilty party is free to kill again. And, three, the justice system is perverted. This last consequence is perhaps the worst. When people see their police, their courts, their judges condemning the innocent and letting the guilty walk free, they lose faith in the system and they begin to identify with those outside the system. They no longer trust the cops or the courts. The people become estranged from the system and the system becomes estranged from the people. This is the beginning of the breakdown of society. The Dallas cops and prosecutors and the stupid judge (David Metcalfe), who should have seen through the travesty, are to be blamed for the fact that David Harris, after he testified for the prosecution and was set free, did indeed kill again, as well as commit a number of other crimes of violence.

The beautiful thing about this film is, over and above the brilliance of its artistic construction, is that its message was so clear and so powerful that it led to the freeing of the innocent Randall Adams. Although the psychopathic David Harris, to my knowledge, was never tried for the crime he committed, he is in prison for other crimes and, it is hoped, will be there for the rest of his life. Errol Morris and the other people who made this fine film can pride in these facts and in knowing that they did a job that the Dallas criminal justice system was unable to do.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)


71 of 80 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 67 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed