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The Thin Blue Line

4.0 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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(Mar 24, 2015)
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Criterion Collection ed.
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(Jul 26, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Academy AwardÂ(r)-winner* Errol Morris broke new ground with the "riveting" (LA Weekly) film that dramatically reenacts the crime scene and investigation of a police officer's murder in Dallas. So powerful and convincing that it helped free an innocent man from prison, The Thin Blue Line is "one of the finest documentary features ever made" (Boxoffice). On November 28, 1976, when drifter Randall Dale Adams was picked up by teenage runaway David Harris, his fate was sealed. That night, a police officer was shot in cold blood. And though all the facts pointed to Harris, a sociopath with a lengthy rap sheet, Adams was convicted of capital murder. Was Adamsguilty? And if not, can Morris unlock the secrets of this baffling case? *2003: Documentary Feature, The Fog of War (with Michael Williams)

Special Features

  • Includes Mr. Personality "First Person" TV Episode

Product Details

  • Actors: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson, Marshall Touchton
  • Directors: Errol Morris
  • Writers: Errol Morris
  • Producers: Brad Fuller, David Hohmann, Gary McDonald, Lindsay Law, Mark Lipson
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00094AS72
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,965 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Thin Blue Line" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAME on August 17, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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Format: DVD
You can probably think of a handful of movies that seemed to affect your consciousness. Like the way some people say Catcher in the Rye changed their lives. But whether they actually changed you in a real, permanent way remains to be seen.

The Thin Blue Line is a different matter. This movie fundamentally affected at least one person's life in an irreversible way. Without giving away the plot, Randall Dale Adams will certainly never be the same.

The movie deals with the killing of a Texas Trooper and whether or not Texas justice got it right. Morris reveals the facts of the case using strange and haunting reenactments to cover multiple stories and exploring what people said vs. what the physical evidence suggested. He does not push a viewpoint but carefully crafts it, allowing you to accept or reject the various positions. Soon, you are drawn into the central issue of guilt or innocence and the many areas of gray in between.

It's a documentary that plays like a murder mystery, but it is frighteningly true. It's burned as much into my mind because of the number of high-profile cases in Texas where people were either in prison on death row despite being innocent; CBS news magazine 60 Minutes profiles many of them.

But you do not have to have an attitude toward the death penalty to be drawn to The Thin Blue Line. It is entertaining in and of itself. Errol Morris fans will enjoy experiencing one of his earlier works. It also features what I think is one of the better Philip Glass scores.

If you're looking for violence, sex, car chases, or explosions - stay away, you'll hate this. But if you can handle a movie that is more seductive than explosive, this is for you.
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Format: VHS Tape
Spoiler Alert.

Going into this film, I had no prior knowledge as to the most recent developments. I went into it expecting a manipulative, anti-cop documentary utilizing fancy storytelling and cinematography. The first half seemed to prove me right. Then we got to the three supposed witnesses. The bleached-blonde woman had mannerisms and expressions to the face that were undoubtedly that of a psychologically abnormal person. I've dealt with several individuals exactly like her and immediately knew she could not be trusted. Then we find out the circumstances surrounding her "testimony", which totally verified this. The African American man, who was in the other car, kept covering his face, while his eyes watered and he looked frightened. Any polygraph expert on the planet would have seen through this behavior even without his equipment. These two also had the telling habit of saying "I like helping the police; I have extra-ordinary memory." If this wasn't enough already, "Doctor Death" gives the accused an under 20 minute pseudoscientific personality evaluation, which is used to conclude he'd kill again. At the same time that was occurring, the very person who originally pointed the finger at him is out conducting armed robbery, attempted rape, and finally homicide, which hilariously he blames on the dead man for defending himself -- a common response from apathetic criminal minds. Morris caps all this off with the perfect ending: ... The fact that this director could so easily fool me early on, then gently change my mind shows just how talented he is. The film stands as damning evidence against Texas and southern "justice".
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