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Trial by Fire (2018)

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The tragic and controversial story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for killing his three children after scientific evidence and expert testimony that bolstered his claims of innocence were suppressed.


Edward Zwick


Geoffrey Fletcher (screenplay by), David Grann (based on The New Yorker article by)
282 ( 364)



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Credited cast:
Laura Dern ... Elizabeth Gilbert
Jack O'Connell ... Cameron Todd Willingham
Emily Meade ... Stacy Willingham
Jade Pettyjohn ... Julie Gilbert
Jeff Perry ... Hurst
Darren Pettie ... Peter Horton
Chris Coy ... Daniels
Blair Bomar ... Sandy
Carlos Gómez ... Fire Inspector
Joshua Mikel
Jason Douglas ... John H. Jackson
Rhoda Griffis ... Darlene
Katie McClellan ... Margaret Hays
Wayne Pére ... George Gilbert
William Tokarsky ... Man in the Stetson Hat


The tragic and controversial story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for killing his three children after scientific evidence and expert testimony that bolstered his claims of innocence were suppressed.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Stand for What's Right, Fight for What's True.


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout, some violence, disturbing images, sexual material and brief nudity


Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

17 May 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Trial by Fire See more »

Filming Locations:

Atlanta, Georgia, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$78,712, 19 May 2019, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$124,680, 23 May 2019
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


Referenced in Talking Dead: Do Not Send Us Astray (2018) See more »

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User Reviews

Texas Prison Conditions
20 May 2019 | by visorman3See all my reviews

This is the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O'Connell) a Texas Man with a somewhat Checkered Past that is Found Guilty of Murdering his 3 Children for the Insurance Money via Arson and sent to Death Row. The Film begins with a Fire at the House that Kills the children but a grieving Todd barely escapes. Then he and his wife Stacy (Emily Meade) who was at work during the Fire are taken in by Police for questioning. After a bunch of accusations by Police the couple are released but then Todd is arrested and charged with Murder. There is an investigation then Todd is rapidly sent to Trial and even more rapidly found guilty and sentenced to Death. The Death Row of the Prison has horrific conditions and Todd is brutally handled by at First, by the MEAN Guards and ridiculed as a Baby Killer by other Prisoners. He is abandoned by his wife and has very little Family, so as Time passes, 12 years in fact, he with the help of a neighboring inmate get some Legal Books and his Trial Transcript and begin to find a way to Appeal. There are quite a few Court Room scenes and Lawyers filing motions thru out the Movie. After a chance meeting with a stranger who she helps, Elizabeth Gilbert Liz (Laura Dern) is asked to participate in a program to help out Prisoners on Death Row. She goes to the Prison and meets Todd and is immediately smitten with his plight. Once she begins to look into the Trial she is convinced that Todd is innocent and that his State appointed Attorney did a terrible Job and got help from a corrupt system. The countdown to his death begins and the rush to get a Stay of Execution ... Even the Mean Guards befriend him as they are NFL Cowboys Fans too. The relationship between Todd and Liz comes to a boiling point, but I felt it really drives the story. There are sub plots with Elizabeth's real Children, Girl Friends and dying ex husband and how they question her motivation to be involved in this at all. The performances by the Lead Actors are outstanding ! The Film kept me engaged throughout and I rooted for the characters which was enriching . It might be a frame or 2 long and I did not like how the Wife basically betrays him near the end, otherwise Good Movie !! The politics of the Death Penalty are addressed during credits. Laura Dern should get some Oscar attention for this role and maybe Director Edward Zwick as well

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