Bored on a Saturday night? I’ve got just the treat for you

To take a break from some of the more serious fare, here is a film review from one of the students in the International Law class – a class that recently viewed this very movie!


The 1961 film poster.

When college students try to decide on a movie to watch, a three hour black and white film from the 1960s probably is not very high on the list. However, Judgment at Nuremberg is the type of film that will make you reconsider. This film won Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture Director and Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama and numerous other awards.

Awards don’t mean everything, so what makes this film so great? Judgment at Nuremberg confronts one of the most challenging questions dealing with war crimes, humanitarian law and international law.  Who is to blame? At what point do people cross the line between following orders and committing war crimes and/or crimes against humanity? Should judges be held to a higher legal standard?

The central focus of the film is deciding if individuals should be held responsible. Throughout the film we see the main character, Judge Haywood, struggle between believing that the Nazi judges did what they thought was necessary to save Germany and the belief that they knew what they were doing was wrong in the eyes of the law. Ultimately, Judge Haywood comes to the conclusion that the judges must be accountable for their actions that resulted in the torture and death of thousands of people. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg came to the conclusion that “Crimes against International Law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of International Law be enforced.”

Deciding who is responsible is regarded as a gray area. There is no doubt that those who were tortured and murdered deserve justice, but Judgment at Nuremberg attempts to illustrate the difficult of deciding who was simply a pawn and who acted as a game maker. This movie forces you to reevaluate the line between love of country and love of power. It is a must see for anyone interested in international politics, philosophy, or bored on a Saturday night.

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