Take me to the movies

As the fall semester progresses and the new 1Ls begin to browse our DVD cart, I’ve started to think about the “legal” feature film collection in the library—both its uses and its development. Why should law libraries develop feature film collections (aside from these collections being an entertaining way to relax)?

One reason might be to support a law and popular culture course or a law and film course.
Other reasons may include developing resources for legal writing, creating trial tactics classes or to otherwise enhance the lawyering process. Elyse Pepper’s 2008 article The Case for “Thinking Like a Filmmaker”: Using Lars von Trier’s Dogville as a Model for Writing a Statement of Facts, ( Legal Writing: J. Legal Writing Inst. 171) illustrates a novel approach for using a movie to teach legal writing. Of course, there are several documentary films that lend insight into a range of legal issues– documentaries about pollution, asylum cases, and endangered species come to mind. These might also be used in various topical classes. Finally, movies are a great way to help students think not only about legal issues, but about their experience in law school (think The Paper Chase). Are there any other reasons?

Of course, it can be difficult to keep track of all the movies being released, so journals and websites dedicated to the cinema can be great resources. The following is a short list of places where I have found useful, scholarly articles and reviews about movies:



Cineaste is a journal dedicated to “the art and politics of the cinema.” The most recent issue has an article analyzing recent documentaries about the financial crisis as well as an interview with the director of Crude (a documentary about a lawsuit against Chevron Oil). Cineaste posts a few of its articles online as well.


Cineaction is a scholarly journal that covers a range of topics. Half of the current issue is dedicated to documentaries (the other half is dedicated to superheroes).


JGCinema.org is a website created by the Jura Gentium Center for Philosophy of international law and global politics. It offers movie reviews that focus on international law and politics. The reviews are in several different languages–if you’d like to find reviews in English, make sure to use the language drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.


Jumpcut is an online journal focused on themes in movies and television. The latest issue has a few articles about documentaries on torture as well as an article discussing “the systemic critique of the social order” in the television series The Wire.


Senses of Cinema is an online journal that contains scholarly articles about movies as well as movie reviews, DVD reviews and film festival reviews.



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