International Law Movies

International Law Movies

After attending a great panel at ESIL in 2014 on International Law and Film, I’ve been thinking about how to integrate film into my public international law class. I’ve compiled a list of international law films (with help from colleagues and fellow bloggers) that make for excellent viewing.  In a subsequent post, I’ll offer some thoughts about teaching international law through film.


Zero Dark Thirty (Bin Laden)

Team America (Terrorism, North Korea and WMDs) (not on the serious side of international law movies!)

The Interpreter (filmed in the UN)

Argo (Iran Hostage Crisis)

The Reader (War Crimes Trial in Germany)

Battle of Algiers (Algerian War of Independence)

Hotel Rwanda (Genocide in Rwanda)

Woman in Gold (Nazi Art Theft, FSIA)

The Whistleblower (Post-War Bosnia)

Captain Phillips (Piracy)

Blood Diamond (Conflict Diamonds)

Lord of War (Arms Dealing)

War Witch (Child Soldiers)

Star Wars (Trade Dispute prompts Armed Conflict in Outer Space) J

Bridge of Spies (Cold War)

The Constant Gardener (Diplomacy, Pharmaceuticals, British High Commission in Kenya)

Judgment at Nuremberg (Nuremberg Trials)


The Reckoning (The ICC)

Last Station before Hell (UN peacekeeping)

Sons of the Clouds:  The Lost Colony (Western Sahara)

The Gatekeepers (Shin Bet)

Taxi to the Darkside (Torture, Afghanistan)

All Rise (Jessup Competition)


An alternate list of international law films compiled by Lyonette Louis-Jacques at the University of Chicago Law Library with more foreign / older content available is here.

Do you have additional movie ideas?  Please add other titles using the comments box below.

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Patrick Wall

Hannah Arendt (Adolf Eichmann trial)

Alexandra Hofer

Always a fun idea to integrate international law and movies ! Though it is mainly in French, the Université de Bruxelles has compiled a list of analysis here:

I find that ‘the Hunger Games 3’ is a good illustration of crimes against humanity/ war crimes

Prateek Rath
Prateek Rath

Hi, I don’t think Judgment at Nuremberg should be classified as a Documentary.

Toni Boeva
Toni Boeva

“Darwin’s Nightmare” – Under the general theme of the Nile perch in Lake Victoria (and its negative effects on local fauna, trade and life), this documentary also explores also dwells at length on the dichotomy between European aid which is being funneled into Africa on the one hand, and the unending flow of munitions and weapons from European arms dealers on the other. Arms and munitions are often flown in on the same planes which transport the Nile perch fillets to European consumers, feeding the very conflicts which the aid was sent to remedy. (parts taken from Wikipedia) – (Documentary, SALW, African Great Lakes)

Elvira Domínguez-Redondo

ResponWhat a great idea/list. My contribution:

‘The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior’ (1993): Nuclear testing/international responsibility of states/settlement of disputes

‘Black Hawk down’ (peace keeping operations)se…

Damon Barrett
Damon Barrett

Drug control:

‘The House I Live In’ by Eugene Jarecki
Mary Full of Grace
Traffic (Steven Soderberg)
Return to Paradise (extradition, drug control, death penalty)

So many about drugs it’s tough to list them!


Fail Safe (threat or use of nuclear weapons)

Beasts of No Nation (child soldiers)

‘Soft Vengeance’ (Albie Sachs, apartheid)

Lilya Forever (human trafficking)

The Yes Men (WTO)

‘Merchants of Doubt’ (Climate Change, FCTC)

‘Thank you for smoking’ (FCTC)

Contagion (WHO declarations of pubic heath emergency)

The Corporation (Business and human rights)

Not without my daughter (inter-country adoption, kidnapping by a parent, discrimination against women)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Worst forms of child labour. And murder, hearts being removed, satanic rituals….)

El roam
El roam

Thanks for the post, you could certainly, add the amazing documentary serial of the international geographic group, on the first and second world war .

Those are amazing authentic movies, gone under or went through a very intense re- elaboration (technically) and added colors and sharpness.

You simply reside or plunged into ( in and within ) the horror of battle fields , unbelievably qualified and authentic.


Craig Warkentin
Craig Warkentin

Storm (2009), starring Kerry Fox, distributed by Film Movement. Story of an ICTY prosecutor working a Serbian war crimes case. Nice coverage of the investigatory process and attendant politics with some good courtroom footage.

Adil Ahmad Haque

Great list. Two upcoming films are Eye in the Sky and A War.

A few that spring to mind:

The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Death and the Maiden
War Don Don
Fambul Tok
The Act of Killing
The Fog of War

PBS Documentaries:
Rules of Engagement (Haditha)
I Came to Testify
Ghosts of Rwanda
My Lai
The Law In These Parts

I’m sure that I’ll think of more.


Prateek, you are right! I’ve corrected this. Thanks everyone for the terrific suggestions. Keep them coming!

David Benger

“Labyrinth of Lies” about the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials is incredible

Howard Gilbert
Howard Gilbert

The Terminal (2004) by Steven Spielberg – A movie length hypothetical about the curious legal fiction that the international area of a port or airport is not legally regarded as US soil and the subsequent question of what exactly that means.

Mel O'Brien
Mel O'Brien

The International Association of Genocide Scholars has an excellent list on their website of films. For Rwanda, I suggest Shake Hands With the Devil. There is both a dramatized film version and a documentary, the former dealing with the time that Dallaire was in Rwanda; the latter when he returned some years later. Joshua Oppenheimer’s two documentaries on Indonesian violence in the 1960s are a tough watch: The Act of Killing and the Look of Silence. We have reviews of both in the current issue of Genocide Studies and Prevention Other docos: The Invisible War (sexual assault in the US military) Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial There is also a dramatisation of Francois Bizot’s book, The Gate (called the Gate in English and Les Temps des Aveux in original French). Note that this film version does NOT accurately portray the facts as relayed by Bizot in his book. (If anyone wants more info on these discrepancies, please contact me for a full review.) There are many Vietnam War movies, but an under-used one is Good Morning Vietnam. I think because it is a comedy it is seen as not… Read more »

Dan Joyner

“Thirteen Days” with Kevin Costner. It’s about the Cuban missile crisis. There’s stuff about norms of war as they’re considering a pre-emptive attack on Cuba, and some great scenes at the U.N. as the U.S. rep Adlai Stevenson confronts the Soviet Rep. And Costner actually pulls of a Massachusetts accent decently well.

Eric L.
Eric L.

A bit off topic, but how about video games? One for starters (unfortunately not available in English yet): Ao no Kiseki. Treaty negotiations, cross-border police chases, (magical) weapons of mass destruction, and the legality of a unilateral declaration of independence by a condominium all play major roles.

And of course there’s this old post from the International Committee of the Red Cross about video games and the law of armed conflict:

Mark Gibney
Mark Gibney

Response…Let me put in a plug for my book Watching Human Rights: The 101 Best Film and the website I maintain with Gearoid O Cuinn

The book is divided into feature films and documentaries. The top 5 of the former are: Schindler’s List; The Lives of Others; Missing; The Official Story and The Killing Fields. The top 2 documentaries are: Darwin’s Nightmare and Nero’s Guests.


2014 “Unbroken” directed by Angelina Julie should definitely be in this list.

Alexa Magee
Alexa Magee

Thanks so much for the post!

I’m a student intern for the American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) division, and we’ve recently created an Acvitiy Guide for students or teachers/professors who would like to host an IHL movie event.

The Activity Guide has many of the same movie suggestions as the post, along with sample questions to help participants discuss relevant IHL rules and principles. “IHL and the Movies” can be downloaded under the Activity Guides tab here:

I will look out for the follow-up post. In my experience, students get a lot out of film discussions.

Kirsten A.

Great post and discussion. For anyone writing on the subject, check out the call for papers for a workshop on ‘ICL on/ and Film’ at LSE in Sept 2016 Deadline for paper proposals is 15th March 2016.


“War Don Don” critical documentary on the Special Court for Sierra Leone (

“The Court” (


Mugabe and the White African. Expropriation, racism, torture, jurisdiction of regional tribunals. About the SADC Tribunal Campbell case.