(561) 609-8035 [Media Inquiries]

Lights, Camera, Execution!

Cinematic Portrayals of Capital Punishment


Helen J. Knowles, Bruce E. Altschuler, and Jaclyn Schildkraut
Imprint: Lexington Books
Release Date: October 31, 2019


Lights, Camera, Execution!: Cinematic Portrayals of Capital Punishment fills a prominent void in the existing film studies and death penalty literature. Each chapter focuses on a particular cinematic portrayal of the death penalty in the United States. Some of the analyzed films are well-known Hollywood blockbusters, such as Dead Man Walking (1995); others are more obscure, such as the made-for-television movie Murder in Coweta County (1983). By contrasting different portrayals where appropriate and identifying themes common to many of the studied films – such as the concept of dignity and the role of race (and racial discrimination) – the volume strengthens the reader’s ability to engage in comparative analysis of topics, stories, and cinematic techniques.Written by three professors with extensive experience teaching, and writing about the death penalty, film studies, and criminal justice, Lights, Camera, Execution! is deliberately designed for both classroom use and general readership.


Where To Get Your Copy
Amazon (Hardcover and Kindle versions available)
Publisher’s Website


What Others Are Saying

“In this compelling examination of the death penalty on film the authors show that the success of those films depends on their capacity to draw their audiences into individual stories rather than their taking a pro or anti-capital punishment stance. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the culture life of state killing.” (Austin Sarat, Amherst College)

“Lights, Camera, Execution! fills an important void in our knowledge about how cinema engages with the important issue of the death penalty, and does so via fascinating, yet thorough, analyses of several films, including many that will be new to most readers. Everyone from new undergraduates to seasoned film buffs will find something of value in this groundbreaking work. Highly recommended.” (Justin Vaughn, co-editor of Poli Sci Fi: An Introduction to Political Science through Science Fiction)

“And the award goes to… Lights, Camera, Execution! – an excellent book that dispels the myths and untruths associated with creative, profit-driven filmmaking about the death penalty while at the same time explaining how filmmakers and audiences grapple with the social and moral issues necessarily associated with this controversial topic. This book is not only ideal for courses on politics and film but would be a nice addition to classes centered around race and class, public policy, and popular culture. I can’t wait for the sequel!” (Artemus Ward, Northern Illinois University)

“Death penalty movies are windows into the way Americans think about some of our most profound concepts—justice, responsibility, violence. Lights, Camera, Execution! offers a thoughtful survey of the most important death penalty movies of the past forty years, from lesser known television movies like Murder in Coweta County, to blockbuster big screen hits like The Green Mile. Helen J. Knowles, Bruce E. Altschuler, and Jaclyn Schildkraut thoughtfully and effectively use nine films to illustrate the complexities of the political, legal, and cultural world of American capital punishment.” (Daniel LaChance, Emory University)