by Peggy Kerns
Want another top 10 movie list? Try this one: The Top Ten Best Ethics Films by Carla Miller and Don McClintock at CityEthics.org. Their favorites include familiar ones like A Man for All Seasons, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (this movie makes every list), 1984, Bulworth and one I hadn't heard of—The Ideal Husband.
To this top 10 list, I'm going to add two of my favorites. But first, what makes a movie an "ethics movie?"
Simply put, ethics is about doing the right thing. Doing the right thing can be based on laws or values. At NCSL's Center for Ethics in Government, we discuss both types. We track, research and publish information on the Web about ethics laws in all 50 states. In our training sessions, we present ethics as values—how people behave and the ethical conflicts they have, based on moral duties and values.
Dilemmas in these two categories play out differently. Public officials usually are not conflicted about law-based ethics, called right-versus-wrong dilemmas. They obey their state's ethics laws and, therefore, act in a legal way. Dilemmas based on values may be tougher to solve. Ethical dilemmas occur when the choice is between two ethical values, called right-versus-right dilemmas. Both choices may be ethically "right," but the person can pick only one way.
Movies that deal with the conflicts between competing ethical values are ethics films, and they are rich sources for training programs.Thomas O. Murton who is hired by then-Governor Winthrop Rockefeller to reform the state correctional system. He embarks on a crusade that uncovers awful conditions, corruption, extortion, and horrific prison torture.