5. Monster’s Ball (2001)
Monster’s Ball is a prison drama, that has a lot more to offer than the capital punishment. It’s about the relationships of husband and wife, father and son and warden and inmate. Everything revolves around the impact that the death row and the capital punishment has, sprinkle some compassion, humanity and love and you got yourself a pretty interesting movie accompanied with some stellar cast: Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger and even Puff Daddy comes correct.
Hank is a warden and Leticia a widow after losing her husband on the electric chair. They meet after they execution and surprisingly fall in love with each other. Hank’s transition from a bitter racist to one who is comforted by the love of a black woman shows how tragedy can transform even our deepest convictions.
The film’s ending is also beautiful, because it leaves the audience choose how the story turns out. Monster’s Ball, oddly is a movie full of life and passion, it’s dark, grueling and unpredictable, just as life is sometimes.
4. The Green Mile (1999)
In this epic crime drama, the head guard at southern prison in 1935 comes to doubt the guilt of a child murderer who had just arrived to death row. What makes this movie so dark and one of a kind is surely the theme, most of this three-hour movie takes place in the death row section, with just a few cells and just as much inmates who are awaiting execution.
Director Frank Darabont tries to show the audience the human aspect of every inmate who is awaiting execution, he shares with us the agony of ennui felt by prisoners who only can mark time with schemes on how to escape or wait to die, just like all of us. The contrast of the people in that environment is so clear and vivid, going from a sadistic guard who likes to torture the inmates to sentimental scenes featuring a Cajun inmate and his pet mouse.
Filled with supernatural elements that gives the movie the little magic that it needs to distract us from the cruelty that is going on, Darabont delivers his message loud and clear: Capital punishment is not a solution, in a place filled with racism and ignorance, everybody suffers in the end, the inmates, the guards, their families, everybody.
3. Death By Hanging (1968)
This is an enchanting, skillfully directed film. Based on true events, this is the story about a young Korean man who is condemned for murdering two Japanese school girls. The film starts off directly by testing the audience’s point of view on capital punishment. “For those of you in favor of capital punishment, have you ever seen an execution?”.
At first, director Nagisa Oshima shows us how a execution chamber looks like and then he introduces us to the central Character “R” who is on the verge of being hanged. The procedure states that hanging victims are pronounced dead once their heart stops, and this can take up to 15 minutes. Though, in this ad situation R’s heart enigmatically continues to beat and he slowly comes back to functional consciousness.
The only thing is, that he can’t remember anything after he comes back to life. This odd and unseen-before case has left everybody with a big dilemma. Should he be hanged? Or is he not the same person anymore? The film becomes a bit comical after this incident because the people are not sure what to do anymore in this case.
Death By Hanging is a beautifully narrated movie and at the same time very though provoking, it sparks debates about the capital punishment and about what happens of things don’t go how they are supposed to.
2. A Short Film About Killing (1988)
“A Short Film About Killing” is a movie directed by one of the most acclaimed European directors of the post war generation, the great Krzysztof Kieslowski. The film tries to provoke the audience and face it with the most wicked aspects of life. For half of the film, the director follows three characters whose paths will eventually cross: A taxi driver, a young man named Jacek; a drifter who is sometimes aggressive for no evident reason; and a young man named Piotr, who wants to become a lawyer.
The movie really starts when Jacek commits a murder, shown in great detail by Kieslowski. And immediately we jump ahead to the end of Jacek’s trial. What makes this movie special is that there is no dialogue at all, only music and the sound of train. “A Short Film About Killing” brings to task the people who are for capital punishment. So, in the end, we are left with two killings, both in such a creepy detail, making it clear that the second murder (the capital punishment one) is no more defendable then the first.
1. Paths of Glory (1957)
Some say Kubrick’s first “Kubrickesque” film was Lolita, but they must have not seen Paths Of Glory. It is not just one of Kubrick’s best films, but hands down one of the greatest war films ever made. Adapted from Humphrey Cobb’s 1935 novel, it is based on the true story of three French soldiers who are chosen randomly to get executed for “cowardice” after their companies failed in an, impossible to begin with, suicidal mission to take an enemy stronghold.
Kirk Douglas is the regiment Colonel who tries with all his power to save them, knowing that this is just a big cover up from their superiors’ misguided attempt to take an impregnable fortress. It is all politics, human life in war has no value, it is the people that are supposed to command you and protect you who hold it in their hands. The execution scene is cruel, and so unjust that you just want to look away, you hope for some miracle to happen, but it is not a Disney movie.
The film caused for much controversy when it first came out and it was banned of being screened in France for many decades. That just shows how well done it is, not to forget, Kubrick blesses us with some war scenes so vivid and so beautiful that were never seen before. A must watch.