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Death-Penalty Films

By Ranylt Richildis | Comment Diversions | January 6, 2011 |

By Ranylt Richildis | Comment Diversions | January 6, 2011 |

Readers who tolerate my Facebook musings are probably aware that I spend most days reflecting on how the death penalty is portrayed in fiction. I’m specifically looking at 18th-century novels and plays, but I believe in using “control” texts from before and after my period, and lately I’ve been wondering about death penalty films. I’m actually having a hard time coming up with movies that are PRO-death penalty, and it occurred to me that (with Dustin’s kind permission) I have an amazing resource under my nose: savvy Pajibans.

There’s no end of anti-death penalty movies (I see you there, Paths of Glory); in fact, I can’t think of a single film that doesn’t either denounce capital punishment, or show it being used for ill, or at the very least make the condemned person sympathetic while making us suspicious of the authority that kills him. Sure, there are propaganda movies that call for the extermination of enemies of the state, and there are vigilante movies like Death Wish, but I’m looking for films that feature people on death row, going through the system, facing the noose or the chair. But in, you know, a positive light—fuck Kafka and Dickens! Let’s hear it for social remedies and poetic justice!

It would be great to see what people’s favorite death penalty movies are, so please list away. But he or she who can name a PRO-death penalty film (or even novel) gets bragging rights and my cocked-eyebrow respect.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.