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The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated  |   |  Documentary, Crime, Mystery  |  25 August 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 13,435 users   Metascore: 79/100
Reviews: 59 user | 51 critic | 12 from

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



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11 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

På en skör tråd  »

Box Office


$1,209,846 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


In 2008, "Variety" credited the film as "the most political work of cinema in the last 20 years". See more »


Sam Kittrell: In talking to David you don't ever feel hostile feelings coming from him. I have never seen David any way other than cordial, friendly to me as he could be, "Yes, sir," "No, sir," never disrespectful. So I've never seen the bad side. I've seen the results of it, and I've talked to him about it, and he's aware of the results of it - he remembers the bad side. But I've never seen him committing a crime or in a violent or volatile state.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


Features Dillinger (1945) See more »

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User Reviews

Subject matter vs. presentation
7 September 2004 | by (Milwaukee, WI) – See all my reviews

Having seen two other Errol Morris documentaries, I expected that there would be a Philip Glass soundtrack, some flashy camera work, and perhaps some reenactments during 'The Thin Blue Line'. I have long struggled with my opinions on Morris' work, mainly because I am more of a purist when it comes to documentaries. I want to see footage, photographs, interviews, etc. that are going to back up a strong story, not a lot of camera angles, stark white backgrounds, and a post-modernist score.

'The Thin Blue Line' had the latter presentation, so I immediately was slightly turned off – until the subject of the film was presented. The location is Dallas, and it is the 1970's. Late one night, a squad car pulls over a car that does not have its lights on, but as soon as the policeman reaches the driver's side door, he is shot several times and murdered. The car pulls away before the policeman's partner is able to ascertain the license plate number or even the exact make and model of the vehicle. What follows is a veritable witch hunt for the killer (or killers) that ends with one man in jail who is professing his innocence, and another man, a career criminal who gets away veritably scot-free. Through various interviews with the players involved; detectives, alleged eye-witnesses, the accused themselves, Morris seeks to find out the truth in a case that comes down to a 'he-said/he-said' situation.

'The Thin Blue Line' is expert film-making in the investigative sense. Morris does his job in presenting as many facts as possible. The case finally came to a head a couple of years after the film was finished, but it is documented as being instrumental in the reexamination of the facts. I still don't necessarily care for Morris' style, but it cannot be argued that 'The Thin Blue Line' is an excellent documentary, and that he definitely has an eye for picking very compelling subjects.


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I am livid and scared as hell anxs
Anti Death Penalty?? wrg6
Another documentary about racist cops whose case falls apart in court phantom_tollbooth
what i dont get nbafreak93
Did Adams sue Morris? donwithnoname
What became of the female officer? firemanbob
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