Hollywood Ethics: The Top 19 Movie And TV Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated 2/23/21]

Here are the iconic movie clips (and one TV clip) that I turn most frequently to when the circumstances demand. The list will grow over time.

1. To illustrate the folly of suspending or violating the rule of law, the Constitution, or due process for “the greater good” as it appears to some to be at the time.

From “A Man For All Seasons”:

2. To comment on a strikingly incompetent argument, theory or proposal:

From “Murder by Death”:

3. When I feel I should resist the impulse to attack an ethics miscreant with special vigor, but decide to go ahead anyway…

From “McClintock!”

4.  To explain the conduct of some individuals or organizations that cannot be justified by facts, principles of logic, or any other valid motivation:

From “Blazing Saddles”:

5.  To illustrate the impulse to respond to injustice and the abuse of power by resorting to symbolic acts of pure defiance, even when they are likely to fail…

From “Animal House”:

6. When a individual abandons integrity or other ethical values for a non-ethical consideration…

From “A Man For All Seasons”:

7. When an individual feigns indignation and disapproval of conduct that he or she has either participated in or enabled:

From : “Casablanca”:

8. Used to signal that a politician, journalist or scholar has intentionally or negligently used such impenetrable rhetoric as to be completely incomprehensible.

From “Blazing Saddles”:

9. When an incident or argument makes no sense whatsoever, or that drives me to the edge of insanity:

From: “The Bridge Over The River Kwai” :

10. When a politician, a pundit or someone else  uses a term or word incorrectly to support an unethical action or argument:

From “The Princess Bride” :

11. Warning that a likely event or revelation will contribute to an Ethics Train Wreck already in progress or about to get rolling:

From “Jurassic Park”:

12. Commenting on a particularly incompetent, irresponsible, or otherwise unethical decision with disastrous consequences:

From: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”:

13. To make the point that deciding who are the “good guys” is often hopelessly subjective.

From “The Professionals”:

14. To suggest, often in jest, that things are rapidly spinning out of control.

From “Poltergeist”:

15. When the news media or politicians shrug off, ignore, bury or minimize the importance of a development they find inconvenient to their agendas or interests.

From “The Naked Gun”:

16. When someone demonstrates the Dunning-Kruger effect or extreme life incompetence:

From “The Godfather, Part 2”:

17. To make the point that an emotional position, act or argument is futile or embarrassing…

From “Moonstruck”:

18. When an individual seems oddly unaware that anyone would find his or her words or conduct unethical…

From “Seinfeld” (TV):

19. Used when someone’s response to a challenge or a situation where character requires opposition, confrontation, or the good fight, is to give up or flee..

From “Monty Python and The Holy Grail”…

21 thoughts on “Hollywood Ethics: The Top 19 Movie And TV Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated 2/23/21]

  1. Casablanca is one of my favorite movies. At the end when the Gestapo officer gets shot and the Vichy police officer realizes something must be done, he shouts “Arrest the usual suspects!”

    • “ROUND UP the usual suspects.” When dealing with iconic quotes, absolute accuracy is mandatory. As Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty, or kill me”….That’s a game, by the way. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a crap.”

      • I caught that later after watching a YouTube clip. Anyway, the post was supposed to illustrate that the Vichy police officer faced after his friend Rick shot the Gestapo man right in front of him.

  2. How about ethical negotiations? Bruce Willis in “The Fifth Element”

    This clip opened the first session of a week-long exec ed negotiations course at Stanford Biz School nearly two decades ago. Still one of my favorites.

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