Cover image for Shots in the mirror : crime films and society
Shots in the mirror : crime films and society
Rafter, Nicole Hahn, 1939-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 201 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1470 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.G3 R34 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Movies play a central role in shaping our understanding of crime and the world generally, helping us define what is good and bad, desirable and unworthy, lawful and illicit, strong and weak. Crime films raise controversial issues about the distribution of social power and the meanings ofdeviance, and they provide a safe space for fantasies of rebellion, punishment, and the restoration of order. In this first comprehensive study of its kind, well-known criminologist Nicole Rafter examines the relationship between society and crime films from the perspectives of criminal justice, film history and technique, and sociology. Dealing with over 300 films ranging from gangster and cop to trialand prison movies, Shots in the Mirror concentrates on works in the Hollywood tradition but also identifies a darker strain of critical films that portray crime and punishment more bleakly.

Author Notes

Nicole Hahn Rafter is Professor in the Law, Policy, and Society Program at Northeastern University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The subject of crime and criminals has been a central part of the film industry since its inception. Today, after more than a century of cinema, scholars have begun to explore the complex relationship between crime and criminals and how those topics are portrayed on the screen. Rafter, a professor at Northeastern University Law School, has noted that no serious studies have been conducted of how on-screen crime influences our perception of real-world crime. It is an ambitious topic, and she handles it well in a very brief volume. First defining the broad category of films that focus on crime and its consequences, Rafter then compiles a thorough history of crime films and explores how the films and their heroes have changed over a century, much as society's conception of the causes of and solutions to crime have changed. She concludes with a very interesting exploration of future social problems and how they may be played out on screen. Although somewhat academic, this book provides food for thought on a very clever topic. --Ted Leventhal

Library Journal Review

In a lucid analysis that begins with "The History of Crime Films" by Drew Dodd, Rafter (law, policy, and society program, Northeastern Univ.) examines how crime films reflect and shape real life. She focuses on criminology in crime films, cop films, courtroom films, prison and execution films, crime film heroes, and the future. Predicting that demographic changes will dramatically modify content and style, she paints a rosy picture of how independent filmmakers and entrenched studio executives alike will create tighter, more meaningful crime films. The most significant crime movies are identified and/or discussed, with the exceptions of Point Blank (1967) and Impulse (1990). Some readers will argue that "cop" movies began not with Dirty Harry (1971) but rather with The Naked City (1948). Designating Crime a category, not a genre, and including such crossover films as The Wild Bunch, The Last Detail, and RoboCop, Rafter could also have investigated why criminality infests so many modern comedies. Useful notes are included. Recommended for film/performing arts collections in public and academic libraries.--Kim R. Holston, American Inst. for Charity Property Casualty Underwriters, Malvern, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Aiming at an audience of students and generalists, Rafter (a professor of law and a "criminologist," Northeastern Univ.) provides a brief survey that manages to range wider than other literature in the canon: Carlos Clarens's Crime Movies (CH, Oct'80), Jonathan Munby's Public Enemies, Public Heroes (CH, Nov'99), Jack Shadoian's Dreams and Dead Ends (CH, May'78), Eugene Rosow's Born to Lose (CH, Jul'79), and others. Although sometimes her net reaches so far that it hauls in oddments--for example, To Kill a Mockingbird and Sergeant Rutledge as crime films rather than, say, racial-message movies--her strategy works well to fill a gap in the literature of "criminological issues raised by movies." Necessarily, in view of the intended broad reach of the book, the social thesis sometimes rests on assertion and unfocused causation; in a single paragraph she (actually Drew Todd, a coauthor cited in the contents) lists more than a dozen Cold War era social tensions that crime movies spoke to. Occasionally, Rafter's striving for a broad audience makes for subjects who "play hardball"or indulge in "trash-talking." A useful bibliography, a filmography of works cited only, a serviceable index, but only six stills round out this book, which fulfills its author's intention to address the general reader and undergraduate audience. T. Cripps; formerly, Morgan State University

Table of Contents

1 J. Andrew Todd, Jr.: The History of Crime Films
2 Why They Went Bad: Criminology in Crime Films
3 Cop Films
4 Courtroom Films--with Charles Alexander Hahn
5 Prison and Execution Films
6 The Heroes of Crime Films
7 The Future of Crime Films
Appendix: Films Cited with Release Dates