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Ethical Situations in the “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Breathless” Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 7th, 2022


Bonnie and Clyde

The movie, Bonnie and Clyde can be considered as one of those films that changed the course that the American Cinemas had taken. It is a rare film that best gives a presentation of cruelty absence. As a result, this absence of cruelty causes an off balance to the people watching the film. The major characters of the film are Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (Barrow, Phillips & Weiser, 2005).

They are referred to as antiheroes in the movies whose main activity is robbing banks across Midwest and southern part of their country. They do this in conjunction with the brother to a character called Clyde whose name is Buck, his wife Blanch as well as C.W. Moss whose has been branded as a trustworthy driver. The movie maybe old but has the unique ability to depict both the meaning and suspense making use of camera movements, symbols as well as sound inherited from Arthur Penn.


The movie Breathless is a 50 years old movie and is regarded as unique, influential, and famous movie to ever come into existent. As such, to critics and filmmakers, it is a seminal movie. The main character in the film is an artist called Michel, who is a con, chain smoker and a lover of Patricia. His acts are demonic and barbaric as he escapes the police in a car that he had stolen after shooting down a policeman. Just like Bonnie and Clyde, the movie is shot using lightweight cameras and this shooting was mainly done on the available light. Moreover, the movie acts as a great influencer to many filmmakers.

Thesis Statement

The purpose of this paper is to compare the two movies, Bonnie and Clyde and Breathless in the way ethical situations of the main characters are handled.


In both movies, the stories involve couples who perform acts that go against the conventionalities as well as ethics of the society. The main characters in each movie became rebellious since they were not contended with the state they resided in. Again, in each movie, each character has great affinity for his or her partner. Even though each character in the movies had a great compassion to their partners, the love between the couples was inadequate in an effort to modify the shape of the prevailing situations.

Each character in both movies sought to rebel against social standards that were inflicted on them. The characters tend to drift away from what the society has endorsed as the societal values. The movie Breathless as compared to Bonnie and Clyde is not really concerned with rebellion associated with openness and sex of the 1960s and 1970s but rather it is about the common citizens who show an effort towards fitting themselves into the mold of those times.

The movies do not glorify the criminal deeds attributed to the characters and neither do they show much compassion for the culprits essentially the law and to those who are pursuing the errant characters (Schneider, 2010)

The main characters in both movies take it upon themselves in an effort to make their life experiences merry and more enthralling. They ensure this by breaking loose from the set societal shackles. For instance, in Bonnie and Clyde, Clyde has a desire to become a gangster and hence live in a life full of crime and also desire freedom from depression hardships.

Just like in Breathless, Clyde falls in love with Bonnie and together they began a spree of crimes extending from Oklahoma to Texas. Both Bonnie and Michael are disgusted by the prevailing norms guiding the social status of the society and this led to their alliance with their respective lovers in committing crimes.

Due to the crimes performed by the characters of either film, they are given the title of being celebrities, as they become known across the factious country of America. They do these criminal acts employing skills as well as unique techniques and thus become favorites to the audience if not to many of the minor characters in the film (Phillips, 2002).

In both movies, the characters perform unethical deeds and this necessitates the introduction of the policemen. Through this notion, the movies are appealing in the way they handle the ethical situations since they teach the audience that it is not right to do evil acts, as there are repercussions that follow thereafter.

As such, in both movies, on realizing that the law enforcers are in hot pursuit, their lives begin changing. First, they seem to be on the run but later on, their lives start changing for the best in an effort to revert their bad title.

In both movies, the barbaric actions of the main characters represent gangster film which represents a dark word in which, fear and doubt forms a great part of it. The events in the movies are the real pictures of the country’s mood as they portray what events do actually prevail. The movies are plotted in the shadow of gangster movies and as such, the fear and doubt incorporated gives the Great depression, a definition (Godard & Andrew, 2008).

The handling of these unethical behaviors became necessary as the movie studios as well as Hays office realized that it was necessary that lifestyles depicted in the films should change to avoid being inferred. Even though this was the case, the two movies are plotted such that, as the events unfold, the audience is left to wonder what will happen next to the main characters and hence forms the basis of appreciation by the audience.

Both movies introduce the youth jagged and the intuitive temperament in such a way that no one has introduced before. The movies expresses terror as well as mystery associated with a young person who has been isolated in a big city.

As such, a young person tends to do evil deeds as long as that person is idle and that, he engages himself with a company of individuals with evil motives (Phillips, 2002). Wary and sensuality, which is capped with desultory, are captured in both movies and it turns out that whatever one believes that he knows about another person, a deep insight shows that, in fact there is little known about that other person.

Both movies, though they represent immoral deeds by the characters, through a deep thought, it is easy to infer their deeper meaning. What the Characters do are a real picture of what happens in the real world resulted by lack of employment. An unsuspecting person may term the movies as immoral and unethical due to the practices of the characters.

However, a person with deep insight will tend to realize that, what is being expressed in the movies is actually what is happening in the world today. Lifestyle today is characterized by killings, bank robberies and other forms of violent evils as shown by the events in the movies. As a result, law enforcers pursue these lawbreakers and this impacts more violent acts in an effort to escape capture (Bordwell & Thompson, 2008).

Again, in both films, violation of standards or rules results to imposition of relevant charges, that, is, criminal charges. This action is widespread through out the movies. The individuals caught breaking the law, are subjected to remand and thereafter, they are punished but they remain surprised as they tend to wonder how their actions could necessitate a criminal punishments.

Further, those characters caught tend to think that they are not criminals even though they are thrown into the prison. This makes them justify their actions as they believe that the evidences produced are not adequate (Ebert & Corliss, 2005).

The most incomprehensible thing among the characters in both movies in regard to their attributes is the behavior and moral beliefs on moral disjunction. The audience can attest that any believe that something is wrong is not the way to prevent characters from doing that wrong.

The characters engage in acts, which the audience believes are bad. They include lying, cheating as well as stealing all of which are eminent in both movies. When characters come together, they tend to engage in an act, which is wrongful, at least once in a while.

Again, both movies employ criminology and as such, it is used to give an explanation as to why individuals commit acts that are unlawful. It is through the aspect of criminology that the main characters of these films lie, shoot, kill and rob that their reason behind these unethical incidences are brought to light.

For instance, Bonnie shoots the old man guided by hatred of the old people in general. The same case Michel Lies to Patricia in an effort to strengthen their relationship. These unethical acts are presented to show criminology which gives the audience an overview of the reason behind these motives (Phillips, 2002).

In the same context, the prevailing issues are portrayed as either dilemmas or issues. In both movies, what the characters do, depict ethical issues which pose as social questions, which are broad in scope and more often, concern the mechanisms of social control by the government as well as the effect on the individuals who are being governed.

For instance, the movies entail passed laws, the sentences attached to certain crimes by the characters, debates on whether to do away with the death penalties imposed on the crime culprits, and questions of whether to come up with prison facilities or utilize the correlation alternatives within the community.

The typical characters in both movies have little or no control in regard to these issues. The ethical issues prevailing with regard to criminal justice can be termed as difficult, serious and to a great extent, affect the other minor characters lives in fundamental ways (Gazetas, 2008).

Again, in both movies, what are presented as unethical situations by the characters are important in the notion that, if they were not incorporated, there would be no appeal to the viewers. The characters do these unethical practices and as a result, the movies get a sense of an appeal.

It would be a different case if, considering that both movies are classic movies, the lies and the robberies were not the subject or the major themes. As such, a movie without unethical characters is regarded as inferior and do not have a great number of a followings.

However, the two movies differ in the way the evil deeds are presented. In the movie Bonnie and Clyde, comedy is employed. Unethical practices in the movies are presented in a comical context. For instance, Bonnie, after robbing a bank, sees an elderly man watching him through a car’s window. It is funny that he shoots him after seeing the face of the old man. He is up beat of what seems a grudge with the old people.

It maybe that Bonnie develops a feeling of hatred when he remembers that, it is the elderly persons who deny them the chance to occupy the coveted jobs that the young people desire (Neupert, 2011). On the other hand, no comical scenes are employed in the movie Breathless. Unethical events are presented without prior comedy. As such, the characters perform their roles with an aspect of seriousness and strictness.

In Bonnie and Clyde, the unethical scenes are not explicitly presented as compared to Breathless. The crime scenes are covered up in an effort to curb the aftermath if inferred to the audience. For instance, in the event that Bonnie shoots an elderly man, the audience does not come to observe the shooting.

Rather, Bonnie points the gun to him and what follows are sounds of gunshots and the screen goes red, a sign to show there has been a killing that has taken place. In Breathless, for instance where Michael escapes in a stolen car, the police pursuing him is shot at point blank. Here, the audience sees the turn of events in details including the shooting (Neupert, 2011).

Again, most of the scenes in Bonnie and Clyde involve bank robberies and killings. The gang terrorizes the banks and in the course of their actions, they kill many people who come in their ways or pose as a stumbling block to their unethical practices. On the other hand, the movie Breathless involves lying and some small and mild scenes involving murder.

The most incidents where lies prevail are those moments which Michael spends with Patricia. Furthermore, crime scenes in Breathless does not always prevail. It is only those moments that the two lovers are together that the audience got to experience lies between the two. On the other hand, in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, the crime scenes are extensively portrayed and thus form most part of the movie.

Unlike the Characters from Breathless, it is unfortunate that there was no happiness that found the ways of Bonnie and Clyde as they got killed before they experienced the true happiness they desired. Maybe, after engaging in those acts, which are rebellious, everyone would set themselves into a freedom in regard to their situations coupled with discontent and hence seek happiness. The question is; has any character in the movies achieved the happiness? The characters in Breathless can be said to have achieved some as compared to the characters in Bonnie and Clyde.

Still, the characters in Bonnie and Clyde act in solidarity such that any criminal activity is done together. They are loyal to each other and where one is caught by the police, he does not confide to the police in regard to information on other members of the gang and their whereabouts.

That character endures pain and suffering in the hands of the law enforcers but amazingly, despite the hardships, nothing comes out of that character (Bill, 2004). On the other hand, in the movie Breathless, without regard of the status between the two characters, there is betrayal. Michel does lots of crimes but Patricia, without considering that they are lovebirds, goes ahead and betrays him.


From this analysis, it is evident that these movies to a greater extent depict similar unethical practices. These motion pictures gives an incredible support to the rebellious ways of the main characters of the films since, in the entire events, the acts done by the characters, which are done in a violent manner are disguised and camouflaged and hence transformed into justifiable acts and as such, this portrays the characters as doing the right thing.

The movie, Bonnie and Clyde can be considered as one of those films that changed the course that the American Cinemas had taken. It is a rare film that best gives a presentation of cruelty absence. As a result, this absence of cruelty causes an off balance to the people watching the film (Neupert, 2011).

The movie Breathless is a 50 years old movie and is regarded as unique, influential and famous movie to ever come into existent. As such, to critics and filmmakers, it is a seminal movie. The movies are a great influencer to the movie industry as they present the elite among the filmmakers. They are classic movies but their plots are appealing, not only to the audience, but also to the filmmakers (DiMare, 2011).


Barrow, B.C., Phillips, J.N., & Weiser, E.L. (2005). My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Oklahoma, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Bill, B. (2004) Bonnie and Clyde: A Love Story. Mason, OH: Thorndike Press.

Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. (2008). Film art: an introduction. Mason, OH. Cengage Learning

DiMare, P.C. (2011). Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO

Ebert, R., & Corliss, M. (2005). Great movies 2. New York, NY: Springer

Gazetas, A. (2008). An introduction to world cinema. Jefferson, CL: McFarland

Godard, J.L., & Andrew, D. (2008). Breathless, Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Neupert, R.J. (2011). A History of the French New Wave Cinema. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press

Phillips, J.N. (2002). Running with Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Oklahoma, OK: University of Oklahoma Press

Schneider, P. (2010). Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning,

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