Ethical Issues in Films


Ethics is a commonly spoken issue across all sectors ranging from the business world, societal, religious, as well as political settings. Ethics are considered the morally accepted ways, approaches, in a society, or a community that is generally accepted. Ethics aims to strike a balance between human morality and conduct by clearly outlining good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong. Ethics in simple terms means the moral, rational principles that govern an individual or an organization or business in the process of conducting an activity. It is a kind of rational decision making. Ethics determine how individuals and corporate organizations interrelate with the community. Ethically aware societies usually feel the need to give back to communities around them in the most beneficial manner. In reality, ethics sets the bar on what to be done, how it should be done and even the motives behind it. Movies represent the societies we live, and therefore all aspects of ethics and morals can be seen in the movies. A comparison of Twilight Zone-Death Heads Revisited (Season 3), Mississippi Burning, 4 Little Girls, Schindler’s List, American History X, The Greatest Showman, Crucible and Rosewood shows that movies similar and sometimes different perspectives of ethical issues.

American History X

The ethical issues evident in this movie are similar to those in Mississippi Missing in the sense that they revolve about ethical racism. It is also identical to those in the other film in the sense that murder cases are being involved.  The movies talks of a story of how a white man is sentenced for the murder of two black men for trespassing his property. While watching the first part of the movie, one might be of the idea that what the white man was morally right.

Nonetheless, as the movie progress, it is evident that black people are represented as being dangerous. Thus, killing black people is an illustration of the view by white men that the world would be better without black people. Critically it can be argued that by murdering the two black people, the white man is doing it in the best his best interest, that of his family and the white American community.

The Greatest Showman

This movie takes a different perspective on ethics. The prevailing ethical issue, which is missing from the other movies, is the issues of exploitation of marginalized groups. The “freaks”- morbidly obese man, the Bearded Lady, the dog boy, and general Tom Thumb are marginalized individuals. The use of such people to rise in power or cultural legal is considered a form of exploitation. The protagonist to rise into fame has exploited these people in the movie. Poking fun to marginalized individuals is considers as a moral wrong. It makes them feel inferior and makes the one poking fan feel superior. In the movie, the protagonist exploits their suffering for cash to use them as a ladder to rise into fame. Were it not for them he could not have been able to become successful as he is. Critically, this aspect can be analyzed through the lens of motive. If a good motive results in good action, people should not have cause for concern. In this case, because the motive is to make people entertained, they do not have the concern of the marginalized individuals.

Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List is a true depiction of lack of respect for human dignity that was prevalent in societies. The movie can be considered as a powerful tool that modern societies can use to teach about horrors of the Holocaust and the nature of genocide.  The focus of this film is not on the factors that necessitated the Holocaust, but instead on how the genocide was conducted. Very many Jews suffered violent abuse and death on account of minor mistakes. The soldiers who executed the killings were responding to orders from their seniors. Failure to perform the orders would result in the soldiers getting themselves murdered. This brings an issue of an ethical dilemma. Although many people would not want to see others suffer, they lack means to save them from the suffering since saving them would mean severe consequences for their side. Another interesting ethical issue from this film is the view that if Schindler could have saved ten more people if he was willing to let go of the golden Nazi Party lapel pin.

Twilight Zone-Death Heads Revisited (Season 3)

Like the Schindler’s List, this movie brings into la light ethical issue related to murders. It provides a case of former Captain Gunther Lutze who killed Jewish prisoners. The two movies are alike in the sense that the killings addressed in the two movies involve Jews. Lutze calls the action torturing and the eventual murdering of innocent men, women, and children small mistakes. As it is the case with the violations of ethics, Lutze faces consequences of his action. The spirits of the innocent souls he executed haunt him. This movie critically reveals to the viewers that for every action, there must be consequences attached. It is unethical to take ones life and therefore just like depicted in the Schindler’s List; people should value human life.

Mississippi Burning

This movie, unlike Twilight Zone-Death Heads Revisited (Season 3) and like American History X, brings to light the ethical issues relating to racism. The movie focuses on the relationship between two races- white Americans and African Americans in the United States in the early 1960s. During this period, the black people were treated as being a step below the normal white people. Ethically, it is wrong to discriminate people against color, gender, or race. In another dimension, like the other two movies, the Mississippi Missing has some aspect of murder, which is a violation of human rights. The movie wants to show the viewers how some section of the society can go to the extreme of denying others their basic human right. Every human being has the inherent right to life, and it should be violated whatsoever. Those people this basic human right to face dire consequences. In this case, the murderer receives a prison sentence.


The ethical issue in the Crucible revolves around deception. In Salem, people no longer upholds the virtue of telling the truth. The people who are entrusted with representing righteousness and justice uses the power bestowed on them on for their benefit. Religion and faith have been manipulated to be forces of imprisonment. The few in power and authority do not regard the rights of the majority. In this society, upholding honesty is a vice rather than a virtue. Being honest in such a community results in awful realities. The movie shows critical thinking by using a small part to represent a more significant part. Salem is used to representing a government that does not regard justice and which is not responsible to the people. In most case, people find themselves in situations that make them not to tell the truth. It is, therefore, right to say that lying is a selfish act.


The movie, the others, bring into light the issue of racism. It outlines a massacre that happened in Sumner, Florida. The killings involved a white woman who was beaten up by a black assailant. The massacre that followed was fueled by the fact that the white accused of the blacks of killing the white. This is just a mere racial stereotype, which makes people generalize one race through the action of an individual or a group from that race. The movie employs critical thinking to illustrate to the viewers how brutal the white individuals were at the time.  It also illustrates to the viewers the extent of racism in the United States in 19920. The violent scenes influence the viewers’ emotions and help them to relate to the occurrences of the events of the massacre.

4 Little Girls

Like most of the other movies, the 4 little girls movies depicts racism. African American for the longest time has been considered the inferior race. The blacks living in the American soil received harsh treatment from their white counterparts. Ethics dictate that one should not do unto others what he or she would not want to be done unto him. The bombing of the African American church which resulted in the loss of lives is a violation of ethics. It is both morally and legally wrong to take one’s life. The movie uses critical thinking to illustrate to the viewer how American society was like during the Civil War Movement. Thus, the viewers can relate to the occurrence of the movie and apply them in their contemporary society.


Ethics and morals play an essential role in people’s lives. Movies represent the society in which people live and the way of life of people. The characters in the moves represent individuals in the community. The films discussed above shows how ethics and morality have been used to appeal to the emotions of the viewers. It is evident that the most prevent the ethical issue in the movies is racism and murder. Other notable issues include exploitation, corruption, and deception. These issues are not only evident in the movies but are also applicable in reality.