The Thin Blue Line


Generally favorable reviews - based on 12 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 12
  2. Negative: 0 out of 12

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    More like a waking nightmare than a docudrama. A true story of murder and justice evidently miscarried, wrapped in the fictional haze of a surrealistic whodunit, it will leave you in a trance for days. [2 Sept 1988]
  2. Christian Science Monitor
    Reviewed by: David Sterritt
    A fact-filled study that's also a full-fledged work of cinema art. [2 Sept 1988]
  3. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The most provocative miscarried-justice movie ever. [26 Aug 1988]
  4. 100
    A mesmerizing reconstruction and investigation of a senseless murder. It employs strikingly original formal devices to pull together diverse interviews.
  5. The New York Times
    Reviewed by: Elvis Mitchell
    Morris has fashioned a brilliant work of pulp fiction around this crime. [26 Aug 1988, p.C6]
  6. 88
    Morris' visual style in The Thin Blue Line is unlike any conventional documentary approach. Although his interviews are shot straight on, head and shoulders, there is a way his camera has of framing his subjects so that we look at them very carefully, learning as much by what we see as by what we hear.
  7. San Francisco Chronicle
    Reviewed by: Judy Stone
    At first I was irritated by what I felt were the unnecessary repetitions, but the film's final effect - for all its laughs - is a shocking reminder, as Adams says with resignation, that the lady who holds the scales of justice is blindfolded. [21 Mar 1988]
  8. Actually a moody horror story disguised as a documentary, designed to make the viewer feel how arbitrary and fragile the world of law and society really is.
  9. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Kevin Thomas
    Morris pulls off a genuine shocker to cap his film, but his method exacts its price. It takes fully a third of the film's 109 minutes to become involved in it, thanks to Morris' deadpan tone and the initially jarring effect of his intercutting between straightforward talking heads and his B-movie reenactment of the crime. [2 Sept 1988]
  10. 60
    Other documentarians before Morris have smudged the distinction between fact and fiction. But here the smudging seems almost irresponsible, and you may feel yourself wanting to fight against the conclusions that Morris comes to, not because they're incorrect, but because there's the chance they were come to unfairly. [2 Sept 1988]
  11. The larger considerations and film noir overtones detract too much from the facts of the case, and what emerges are two effective half-films, each partially at odds with the other.
  12. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Dave Kehr
    It is an intriguing subject, though so far all that Morris has brought to it is a combination of the morbid and the cruel; he needs to develop some sympathy, too. [16 Sept 1988]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 1 out of 3
  1. KeilS.
    Dec 7, 2005
    This is investigative filmmaking at its finest. Errol Morris has crafted nothing less than an American classic. Forgive the hyperbole, but This is investigative filmmaking at its finest. Errol Morris has crafted nothing less than an American classic. Forgive the hyperbole, but it's honestly justified in this particular case. See this one as soon as possible. Full Review »