8.0/10
21,304
73 user 56 critic

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

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

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Photos

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Cast

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

Trivia

As explained in the movie, the film title refers to the symbolic "thin blue line" of police officers which separate the public from anarchy, which is described as a state of complete lawlessness. See more »

Quotes

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.
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Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Features Boston Blackie (1951) See more »

Soundtracks

Metamorphosis
Written by Philip Glass
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User Reviews

 
Subject matter vs. presentation
7 September 2004 | by FilmOtakuSee 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.

--Shelly


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Thin Blue Line See more »

Filming Locations:

Dallas, Texas, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,814, 28 August 1988

Gross USA:

$1,209,846

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,209,846
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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 »

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