Publıc Internatıonal Law Movıes for Lecturers

Author: Ali Osman Karaoğlu

Many people who teach international law recommend films to prevent the lectures from becoming boring. In fact, when several lecturers shared their syllabuses on social media, it became clear that Hugh Thirlway, an international lawyer, was not the only one struggling to add fun to the courses. We have also such lists like Kristen E. Boon’s ‘International Law Movies’ or ICRC’s ‘Ten must-see films and series for IHL buffs’. Furthermore, I prepared this list of public international law movies that we could use in our lectures while explaining the most fundamental topics of international law. I wrote about which topics to be discussed next to each film. Movies might facilitate the understanding of international law. In this sense, instead of presenting long lists, I have prepared a concise list of films that focus on fundamental topics. I also excluded movies which I found relatively boring. Anyone might, of course, find this list controversial and offer alternatives. On the other hand, there are too many films that touch on international law. In this sense, those looking for a comprehensive study can read ‘Cinematic Perspectives on International Law (edited by Olivier Corten, Francois Dubuisson and Martyna Falkowska-Clarys)’.

In this list, I excluded documentaries, animations, cartoons and tv series. Because too many films can be associated with human rights, I avoided providing a complete list of movies about human rights. Those who are also interested in human rights movies can find a list of human rights movies on my twitter account (@LawyerKaraoglu). On the other hand, one needs to be careful not to perceive the events in the movies as reality. The real situations and legal consequences may be different from the movies. My objective is to use the movies to increase interest in international law and to open discussions. Here is the list:

  • Apocalypto & 1492 – Conquest of Paradise & Mabo: history of international law, colonisation, terra nullius doctrine, Vitoria, Inter-Caetera, rights of indigenous peoples.
  • Lord of The Flies & Rose Island: social contract theory, constitutive elements of states, concept of territory, effective control, sovereignty, self-determination and secession.
  • Shake Hands with Devil & Sometimes in April & Quo Vadis, Aida?: genocide, responsibility of UN peace-keeping missions, sovereignty as responsibility, international criminal law.
  • Eye in the Sky & Good Kill & American Sniper: international humanitarian law, principle of distinction, protection of civilians, legitimacy of military objectives, drones, rules of engagement, proportionality.
  • Dark Waters & Erin Brockovich: international environmental law, corporate social responsibility, international investment law
  • Judgment at Nuremberg & The Reader: genocide, international criminal law, jus cogens.
  • The Mauritanian: extraterritorial jurisdiction, habeas corpus, international terrorism.
  • The Wind that Shakes the Barley & The Battle of Algiers & Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom & Gandhi & Lion of the Desert: self-determination, national liberation movements, limits of disobedience, decolonisation.
  • Unthinkable & Five Fingers & Murder in the First: jus cogens, torture, ticking bomb scenario, terrorism, habeas corpus.
  • Exodus & Oslo: Israeli-Palestinian conflict, settlement of international disputes, peace process, good offices, mediation.
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai: Geneva Conventions, laws and customs of war, treatment of POWs.
  • Argo: immunity of diplomatic premises and personnel, responsibility of states, United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran Case (ICJ).
  • The Whistleblower & Backstabbing for Beginners & Official Secrets: responsibility of United Nations and UN personnel, transparency in international organisations.
  • Captain Philips: international law of the sea, piracy, hot pursuit, rescue missions.
  • Nanjing Nanjing & Casualties of War & The Killing Fields: jus in bello, protection of civilians, war crimes.
  • Amistad & Belle & I am Slave: prohibition of slavery, jus cogens.
  • United 93 & Hotel Mumbai & 22 July: international terrorism.
  • Beasts of No Nation: Child soldiers, law of armed conflict.
  • District 9: apartheid, treatment of aliens and refugees.
  • Raid on Entebbe & Operation Finale: rescue missions, cross-border intelligence operations, violation of territorial sovereignty.
Ali Osman Karaoğlu
He is an assistant professor of international law at Yalova University Law School (in Turkey). He received his Master’s (LLM) degree in international law from SOAS, University of London and completed his PhD in international law at Istanbul Şehir University. He has been a visiting researcher at IALS, University of London and at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. He works on public international law, international investment law, international human rights treaties and cultural relativism.
Leave a Comment