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The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line

1988
Documentary
Crime
1h 41m
Documentary investigating the 1976 murder of policeman Robert Wood in Dallas, Texas. Randall Adams was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death, after 16-year old David Harris blamed him for the crime. But filmmaker Errol Morris pursues the question of who was in fact responsible for the crime.
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The Thin Blue Line

1988
Documentary
Crime
1h 41m
Your probable score
Avg Percentile 74.4% from 1467 total ratings

Ratings & Reviews

(1467)
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Rated 22 Jul 2010
8
94th
This is not a documentary, it's a horror story disguised as a documentary. It's a terrifying look at a gross miscarriage of justice, and a chilling reminder of how -- without warning -- our lives can be completely ruined by forces beyond our control. The last scene -- Harris' final interview -- is one of the most frightening things you'll ever hear. "Probably been thousands of innocent people convicted and probably be thousands more. Why? Who knows."
Rated 09 Nov 2008
9
90th
Vastly engrossing and overpowering, "The Thin Blue Line" is a fantastic documentary. It's hard for me to label one as a masterpiece (which I rate >90), but it's by far one of the best ones I've seen, mostly thanks to the haunting subject and Glass's enthralling score. The use of re-enactments was a great idea, that part has really stayed with me.
Rated 02 Nov 2008
100
99th
It's a terrifying and absorbing montage of interviews, still pictures, re-enactments, and a haunting score. One of the best documentaries ever. On the subject of re-enactments: this was the first time they didn't make me cringe (they're great, in fact). If there's any fault with Thin Blue Line, it's that it probably helped popularize re-enactments in documentaries, which has led to the swaths of shitty ones we have to endure now.
Rated 09 Nov 2008
95
87th
Vastly absorbing documentary about how the justice system is so screwed up. Morris puts a lot of hard work into this, recreating the incident, articles and newspaper headlines. Transcends into being more than just a Documentary, but a horrifying, true and exposing Thriller. Reccomended.
Rated 16 Jul 2008
92
95th
Superb documentary that really illustrates how the justice system can be manipulated and bent to the will of others. Morris creates a compelling story without narration and lets the story unfold through impressively filmed reenactments and strikingly candid interviews. By allowing the viewer to simply see and hear what the people involved say he makes the end result, Adams' wrongful conviction, all the more powerful and disgusting. Excellent score as well.
Rated 26 Feb 2007
95
97th
A really strong documentary, the score is excellent. I really liked how we are introduced to two men, and during the course of the film we understand (and even like) the characters before we learn what they did.
Rated 25 Jul 2018
80
88th
A dropped milkshake has never been more dramatic, except for one time when I dropped one. Dammit all I wanted to drink that milkshake.
Rated 24 Mar 2011
91
95th
Murder, lies, and interracial couples round out a plethora of moral repugnancy that Errol Morris astoundingly and expertly explores in what should be considered one of the, if not the, greatest documentaries of all time. Just rewatched it for the first time since I was in high school and was blown away by its brilliance and the perfect score by Phillip Glass. And still, the most convincing message of the film is that women should not be allowed to be police officers.
Rated 07 Aug 2007
88
87th
Goes beyond its questioning of the justice system to become an epistemological mindfuck. The quintessential Errol Morris.
Rated 19 Dec 2006
87
89th
A really horrifying story of the failure of our justice system. The re-enactments and Philip Glass score help make this an engaging film.
Rated 07 Jul 2008
10
98th
Great documentary or greatest documentary?
Rated 27 Aug 2010
100
98th
A completely absorbing documentary;chilling stuff.
Rated 14 Aug 2007
90
72nd
Completely engrossing -- this transcends being a documentary, and these people become the players in a film that you root for, that disgust you, that you feel sympathy for. And that final interview, with the camera on nothing but a tape recorder is one of the most haunting scenes in cinema.
Rated 06 Jun 2015
90
85th
Pretty gripping indictment of lazy or desperate policing and irresponsible prosecution. Cinematically, it's nothing special but the straightforward interviews slowly piece everything together to form a really interesting whole.
Rated 09 Sep 2017
7
67th
I'm hesitant to express admiration for a murderous psychopath, but David Harris is truly captivating. There's an incidental profundity to some of the things he says, as if he's a character in a Coen bros movie. The Philip Glass score is similarly spellbinding.
Rated 10 Sep 2014
80
75th
The content is great but it's a little dry. Oddly found myself liking David more than Randall. D:
Rated 04 Jan 2014
7
92nd
fantastic documentary that delves deep into an unsatisfactory justice system. it reveals the possibility of converging testimonies despite diverging realities. it even goes beyond that into some almost metaphysical question of why people end up where they do. this note is most clearly heard in the truly chilling final interview. also philip glass doesn't hurt when you want to feel all philosophical and mysterious.
Rated 21 Aug 2011
76
50th
My rating is a bit off here because frankly I was a bit bored during the film. Nothing particularly shocked me because I read about these kinds of stories all the time. However, I would not hesitate to recommend this film to anyone. Everybody should see this movie, especially if you've always held an idealized view of the justice system. A piece of history and an important film. I hope they screen this to Criminal Justice students. It should be required.
Rated 24 May 2016
80
92nd
The blonde ladies left eye is just as lazy as the conviction in this case.
Rated 31 Jul 2008
87
83rd
Really fascinating, shocking (sort of), and downright scary that the justice system could be so messed up. Morris's use of varying reenactments and the way he let the story tell itself made for a really gripping documentary. Looking forward to seeing more of his work.
Rated 05 Aug 2008
80
62nd
My first exposure to Morris' work, and I'm excited to see more. I don't know how he gets these people to be so revealing and intense, but hats off to him. A very interesting film about the malleability of truth that constantly twists the audience's perception of what is fact and what is a lie. In a word...absorbing.
Rated 16 Jan 2010
7
67th
How can anyone support the death penalty after watching this?
Rated 25 Sep 2010
86
87th
Simply an amazing documentary. The re-enactments, paired with the great Phillip Glass score really made this film great. Knowing that this movie actually got the innocent man out of jail made me appreciate it even more.
Rated 29 Oct 2018
4
55th
not a postmodernist rejection of the goals of verité so much as an ironic rebuttal to its methodology, it asserted that to find the truth about a species which exists, individually and culturally, inside a maze of self-serving fictions, cinema should dive headlong into artifice itself. thirty years later this no longer seems very radical nor among the most comprehensive examples of its argument, but that's a testament to its formative influence, which i'm very grateful for.
Rated 19 Nov 2011
85
78th
Very well-made documentary about a pretty common subject/theme, but the camerawork and score set this one apart.
Rated 01 Aug 2019
75
66th
This wasn't as funny as I expected. I'm not even sure who Rowan Atkinson played but he definitely nailed the accent
Rated 11 Dec 2012
80
77th
The story, the reconstrucion of it and of course the context of succesfully freeing an innocent man solely because of solid research is all pure class. And worthy of a watch. The reconstruction scene of the shooting was shown probably 100 times though, which I found quite annoying. Also, some passages are so "undertold", that some viewers will lose attention, unable to follow the development. Third, it's not very artistically potent, with static and sorry pictures. Those were the ups and downs.
Rated 22 Jan 2008
80
86th
This excellent documentary setting a new standard for reconstruction visuals tells a fascinating true story while problematizing the notion of truth. Actually managed to free a wrongfully incarcerated man, if I remember correctly.
Rated 29 Jan 2013
37
28th
Maybe I shouldn't be ranking this, but I've watched it twice now and both times I was left without any recollection of the experience, even while the end credits were still rolling. Just a 1h41m gap of missing time. I really don't know what I need to do to successfully see this movie. Is it haunted? Am I being abducted by aliens? *I don't even know if it's boring*
Rated 22 Mar 2012
90
95th
One of the most fascinating and engrossing documentaries I've seen. Wonderful film making from the master, Errol Morris.
Rated 31 Aug 2012
90
96th
A great document, but also a great piece of entertainment.
Rated 08 Jun 2015
60
43rd
It seems to be quite critically acclaimed, but I didn't think much of this documentary. I mean, I'm sure it was impressive at the time, and I understand that it yielded results for the case, but I still didn't think it was a great film on its own. The case wasn't anything too extraordinary, and it wasn't presented in a particularly interesting way. I'm sure it influenced documentaries that came after it, but for me, it was lacking.
Rated 14 Aug 2018
85
73rd
Morris' patient and meticulous storytelling--his dramatic use of print, his breathing interviews, his multi-angled crime scene recreations--is something to behold in and of itself, even if the actual story has since been lapped in terms of sheer shock value by newer true crime sagas.
Rated 13 Nov 2010
90
94th
Morris did something special here. Not only did he manage to set an innocent man free, and get a guilty man locked up, he also created arguably the greatest documentary ever. It's hard NOT to watch this twice. Extra points going out to Philip Glass's amazing score.
Rated 06 Nov 2011
86
96th
Directly saved a life, and for that it may be the single most important film in American history.
Rated 09 Mar 2014
86
82nd
Truly a documentary of a whole different caliber.
Rated 20 Dec 2018
60
47th
Good documentary, but not very memorable.
Rated 21 Dec 2013
89
93rd
On the justice system, and our lust for comeuppance.
Rated 28 Dec 2010
95
98th
Wow. Brilliant documentary. Shocking story, good score - a genuinely important film (certainly was for Adams). Agree with willofgala's review that Harris' last interview on the tape recorder was absolutely chilling.
Rated 05 Jan 2009
90
94th
A frightening yet somehow unsurprising documentary about a wrongfully convicted man. Incredibly engrossing filmmaking.
Rated 27 Oct 2007
92
99th
The best documentary from the best documentarian. The dramatizations and the use of Phillip Glass's music are just perfect.
Rated 15 Feb 2015
80
37th
Viewed February 12, 2015. A huge accomplishment in the sense that it saved a life, which I think is more or less the goal of all documentarians. But the filmmaking techniques don't always work for me. As much as I love the way the reenactments shift over time, they are also incredibly cheesy, taking away from the story's dramatic weight.
Rated 22 Nov 2011
93
98th
A good look at southern justice gone wrong.
Rated 07 Oct 2015
70
69th
The story of Randall Adams is a rather captivating one, as is the way it's presented in Errol Morris's doc. It's a film that works quite well overall: it has the effect of a fine mystery film; at the same time, it being a doc makes it feel a little more special too.
Rated 02 Mar 2008
75
60th
# 510
Rated 02 Dec 2013
95
97th
This documentary was absolutely intriguing due to the wonderful reenactments and exposing interview techniques. It really shows the raw power of what a videocamera (and some editing) can do. At times it put me into a fit of rage. How can these people be this blinded? How can it be so corrupt and callous? It all just seemed so surreal that I had to keep reminding myself that this poor guy actually did twenty years on death row for watching the Carol Burnett show.
Rated 21 Aug 2015
80
85th
Wow. Such obstinacy from the authorities. I immediately searched for the aftermath and was relieved by what I found.
Rated 15 Nov 2011
90
97th
That one witness lady watched too many detective noirs, to be sure; but too many westerns seems to have honed Texas' collective axe of vengeance a tad too sharply. The Thin Blue Line could just as easily refer to their apparent need to just periodically execute someone; a drifter, a black, a retard...anyone. A world without capital punishment? Good lord, the anarchy that would ensue!
Rated 18 Dec 2016
50
30th
[MMWTM3K#18] The fact that it was used to make wrongly convicted man free is actually more interesting than the film itself. Two guys hang out, one murders a policeman and the wrong one gets framed into murder due to law enforcement laziness and negligence. Well sucks for him, but there's no great story in here, so in the end it isn't much of a cinematic experience. But keep in mind that I'm not interested in crime docs in the first place.
Rated 16 Apr 2013
90
97th
One of the most amazing endings of any film I've seen. And it's true!
Rated 08 Mar 2023
95
84th
Somehow I missed this documentary years ago. It's so well done, that it actually resulted in a wrongly convicted man being released from prison. Now that's truly impactful filmmaking.
Rated 12 Jul 2015
4
87th
Solid.
Rated 02 Oct 2011
90
85th
Riveting. That's pretty impressive considering that it's a film about a local crime that occurred years before I was born. In another country, no less. Morris is good. He made me care.
Rated 13 Nov 2019
80
80th
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."
Rated 25 May 2014
85
83rd
This is a documentary that displays the highlights of a court case, letting the audience play judge. Yea, the choice in what is offered to make that judgement has been slanted, but you do get a general sense of misjustice from what is presented & what occurred following the court case in question. Any documentary that has a real world effect outside of the theater deserves the high praise this has received. Also, Grigson is a dick.
Rated 15 Apr 2017
95
96th
The Thin Blue Line, rightfully regarded as one of the most important documentaries ever made, also boasts a visually striking undercurrent that only helps to push its crucial message.
Rated 19 Dec 2008
62
24th
755
Rated 14 Aug 2007
82
93rd
Very stylish and well-done documentary, highly influential, and it made a real difference.
Rated 03 Apr 2009
86
51st
Well done documentary that was responsible for overturning a prior conviction.
Rated 21 Feb 2014
86
62nd
Regarded as one of the best documentaries of all time not so much because of its subject matter and subsequent consequences, but because of the brilliant construction made by Morris. The film zips by so fast, the momentum avalanches from every facet of the case being revealed until by the end, despite nothing being concretely stated, it'll leave most audiences angry.
Rated 26 Apr 2014
93
93rd
Super good at creating mood and tone, and the interviews are fitted perfectly with the minimal score and somewhat abstract reconstructions. Also a highly interesting film just for the implications it had in real life - especially considering how chilling the last scene/interview in the film is.
Rated 26 Mar 2007
60
47th
Not bad but somehow I'm not thrilled
Rated 07 Jul 2011
70
62nd
A very stylised and elegant true crime documentary. For its outcomes beyond the cinema this should get your attention.
Rated 27 Apr 2014
85
65th
A true crime story told so well it set the groundwork for every other true crime story put to film afterwards. The saturation of the film's techniques in other places kind of numbs the intended effect, but this is still very careful, very clever documentary filmmaking.
Rated 09 Mar 2014
88
90th
The re-enactments are easily the thing that make this documentary memorable. It is, however, excellent all round. Thought provoking and absorbing.
Rated 17 Mar 2017
75
77th
Great documentary that set the standard for what has become one of the best documentary niches. A good documentary is only as good as the real life tale underneath and, here, the tale is great.
Rated 04 Jul 2011
83
47th
Highly important in real life and pretty cinematic considering how much of it is just 'talking heads'. Documentaries are better when they don't have a direct message, IMO, though. Though I love Bowling for Columbine so what do I know...
Rated 17 Jun 2017
81
89th
It looked a bit dated because it was clearly a source of inspiration for a lot of documentaries done in the last 20+ years. Still great and it aged quite well.
Rated 06 Jun 2014
85
50th
Interesting but I guess none of Morris' films will match The Fog of War for me. It is a nicely rendered tale of miscarried justice with some pretty fascinating subjects (especially Harris). Maybe I'm obscenely cynical or culture has changed since 1988 but nothing here strikes me as profoundly unique or shocking.
Rated 30 Jan 2014
50
36th
Exactly what snallygaster said.
Rated 23 Sep 2008
98
99th
One of the best films ever. The Rashomon for documentary film.
Rated 06 Sep 2012
81
81st
Fuck. That was amazing.
Rated 12 Apr 2014
60
69th
A good if maybe a bit too limited documentary about the farcical US justice system. Stalin used total isolation to enable his law enforcement to commit atrocities. It turns out just having a culture of treating criminals as inherently evil will do the trick.
Rated 06 Apr 2017
4
70th
Beyond its thorough accounting of an horrifying miscarriage of justice, The Thin Blue Line is a testament to the ability of documentary to be every bit as cinematic, as gripping as fiction. Morris shows that he's capable of far more than simply filming talking heads.
Rated 05 Aug 2016
80
81st
watched: 2016, 2017
Rated 11 Jul 2016
95
96th
Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line is rightfully regarded as one of the most important documentaries ever made.
Rated 28 May 2011
80
66th
An interesting film, and the results of its release make it even more so.
Rated 27 Nov 2016
9
71st
Patience, research, listening - these are the skills Morris uses to free an innocent man and methodically craft a work that shows there is a definitive truth waiting to be known, as long as one works hard enough to find it. The Glass score turns this into a elegiac meditation on justice and fairness. Incredible that even without the Interrotron, this work is as powerful and personal as his later work. An inspiring piece of documentary film, to say the least.
Rated 26 Jun 2015
63
67th
A fine real-crime documentary, but I guess I was expecting something exceptional from the documentary that usually appears on Top 10 Documentaries ever lists. Somehow I didn't find it suspenseful at all.
Rated 19 Jul 2010
94
98th
Perfect documentary which is more suspensful than a scripted thriller. The justice system is so screwed up
Rated 01 May 2016
100
94th
Phenomenal. Morris does such an excellent job at framing his material and drawing character out of his interviewees. A foundation in the documentary genre.
Rated 26 Dec 2015
70
47th
Honestly, the most refined and expertly made documentary I've ever seen. I wasn't completely taken by the story but its easy to see how important this film still is.
Rated 21 Jul 2008
70
82nd
Very good.
Rated 06 May 2020
88
96th
Really skilful and engaging filmmaking with minimal action. The interviews work with the imageries, and works together to build an impressive piece of film journalism.
Rated 21 May 2009
20
44th
One of the built-in limitations of this type of tabloid cinema is that it fully hopes to turn its "story" into "news," and thereby to shorten its own shelf life. Beyond its fleeting newsworthiness, beyond even its potential service to society (_I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang_ may deserve some of the credit for abolishing chain gangs, but who can enjoy watching it today?), does it hold its own as a movie? (Will anyone want to watch it in another fifty years?) Well, it certainly does try.
Rated 17 Jan 2016
70
53rd
beynim bu olay (cinayet) kime yarar diye dusunecek kadar evrimlestiginden (sanirim) katil: yonetmen. peki ama polisin hic mi sucu yok
Rated 03 Feb 2011
85
95th
The Thin Blue Line exposes a criminal justice system that is rotten inside and out and from the top down. Society, witnesses, police investigators, prosecution, Dallas County DA's office, criminal psychiatrists, judge and jury, the system itself, everyone and everything is either prejudiced, corrupt or dysfunctional enough to allow a very obvious miscarriage of justice to pass at every stage. A remarkable and depressing documentary. The Philip Glass soundtrack gets a little overbearing at times.
Rated 14 Jul 2014
78
51st
Interviews with the woman so obsessed with being a detective she thinks gossip and speculation matches police work, or the salesman who claims to have perfect memory but constantly remembers things with "Was it like that? No, maybe like this?" are downright chilling! Thankfully justice ended up finally being served shortly after the movie's release. Not the most well-made documentary, but no arguing with the importance of the subject matter.
Rated 09 Jul 2013
60
71st
A decent doc looking into yet another miscarriage of justice in the USA, I'm certain I would've enjoyed this more had I not seen similar, more recent and in-depth efforts (The Staircase, Paradise Lost, etc.) beforehand. Quite a straightforward story to be honest, which makes Adam's post-release quote - "The fact that it took 12 and a half years and a movie to prove my innocence should scare the hell out of everyone" - all the more pertinent.
Rated 15 Jan 2010
62
24th
756
Rated 06 Jan 2013
75
30th
An excellent cause: getting an innocent man off of death row. Not an excellent film. Play those gunshots again and again, whydoncha?
Rated 07 May 2012
60
57th
I wonder if I saw the same documentary as everyone else here. It was good, but not brilliant.
Rated 01 Jun 2009
88
88th
A story that would still be emotionally involving if it were fiction is what keeps anyone watching this film from start to end. The way it presents its case is exhaustive and engaging. Everything else is very well done, but is secondary.
Rated 03 Jul 2022
73
49th
No doubt well done and covers extremely important subject matter, but due to the reputation I was expecting a bit more. Don't get me wrong; it's good, and scarier than many horror films in showing just how easy it is for an innocent person to end up on death row due to a bit of bad luck and lazy police. I guess the more aware you are that these kinds of things happen the less groundbreaking this might be for you, though. Makes you feel bad for all the innocents who didn't have an Errol Morris.
Rated 24 Mar 2007
89
96th
The gripping story is incredible and really sheds light on the flaws in our legal system.
Rated 11 Dec 2009
71
50th
Morris's collage approach (utilizing interviews, newspaper articles, documents, photographs and reenactments of the crime) effectively conveys the nightmarish quality of an innocent man condemned. Adams was finally released -- several years after this film raised a public outcry.
Rated 29 Jan 2009
71
65th
A good effort, but I really don't get why it's being praised so much. My teeny-weeny gripe - Morris didn't identify the characters on screen as they were interviewed (like normal documentaries would), but instead, decided to do that in the end credits, which turned out to be difficult to correlate as to who was who.
Rated 02 Dec 2011
64
28th
#724
Rated 15 Jun 2014
85
71st
Like, Paradise Lost after it, The Thin Blue Line was instrumental in the freeing of an innocent man. For this sole reason, regardless of it's cinematic virtues, the film is important, great even. However, as a work of cinema, it doesn't interest me, formally.
Rated 24 Dec 2014
95
92nd
Virtually no other film of its time was as important in smearing the edges between what's realistically dramatized and truly real and in showing the singular wallop a movie can have. It makes Rashomon look like a Chaplin film, and leaves you with a belly-churning undercurrent of disquiet.

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