Film Analysis Paper Instructions

Film Analysis Paper Instructions


Throughout this semester, we have explored many different explanations for why someone might commit crimes, but what does this explanation look like in practice? Each of the theories covered in this class has the potential to speak to our current world. To practice the application of criminological theories, you will analyze a character from a film or television show that is engaged in criminal activity, applying the criminological theory you believe best explains the character’s behavior. You will also evaluate that theory’s effectiveness in explaining your character’s behavior. This assignment will require further research and reading about your chosen theory.

This paper is not a film review. Instead, it is a test of your ability to apply and evaluate the tenets of a criminological theory, and each film is a vehicle for discussing the tenets and practicality of that theory. Be sure to define specific tenets of the theory and describe how examples from the film illustrate the tenet you are discussing. Additionally, your paper should assume the reader has no knowledge of the film or television show discussed, so that anyone reading your paper can follow your argument and its application.


For this paper, choose a character from a movie or television show that engages in criminal activities. Evaluate this character’s behavior applying the criminological theory you believe best explains their behavior. You should choose one of the criminological theories listed below. Examples of films and television shows are also listed below, but you may choose outside of this list.

Criminological Theories:

Differential Association Theory Social Control Theory Merton’s Strain Theory General Strain Theory

Social Disorganization Theory Labeling Theory
Critical Race Theory


Film or Television Show Examples:


The Sopranos
Breaking Bad
The Wire

Boyz n the Hood
The Godfather
Wolf of Wall Street


This paper should be a minimum of 3 full pages double-spaced (no maximum) plus references. Papers should be written in 12-point Times New Roman font. This paper should use relevant articles assigned in class and include two additional scholarly resources pertaining to your chosen theory. Please cite all references in APA formatting.

Below is a suggested format to use for your paper. You are not required to follow this format exactly, but you should be including the same information.

  1. Introduction (1 paragraph)
  2. Summary of the film (~1 page)
    1. Overview of the plot, the main character, and the crimes committed by the main character. This summary should assume I have no prior knowledge of this film.
  1. Application of criminological theory (~1pages)
    1. Identify a theory and provide a general overview of the theory.
    2. Explain the character’s behavior using this theory, providing specific examples from the film to support your explanation.
      1. What assumptions does this theory make, and as such, what assumptions are you making about your character?
      2. What concepts from this theory apply to your character? Use a minimum of three concepts.
  2. Evaluation of criminological theory (~1 pages)
    1. Make an argument for why this is the best theory to explain the character’s behavior.
      1. What are the strengths of using this theory to explain your character’s behavior? In general, what does this theory explain well?
      2. How have researchers evaluated similar behaviors from this theoretical perspective?
    2. Assess
      1. What is a known limitation of this theory? Is this a limitation in this analysis? (How so or how not?)
      2. What elements of the character’s behavior or situation cannot be explained by the theory?
      3. What concepts from the theory are irrelevant to this character’s behavior?
  1. Conclusion (1 paragraph)
  2. Reference page


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