Killing as punishment in the USA, whether ordained by lynch mob or the courts, reflects a paradox of the American nation: liberal, pluralistic, yet prone to lethal violence. This book examines the encounter between the legal history of the death penalty in America and its cinematic representations, through a comprehensive narrative and historical view of films dealing with this genre, from the silent era to the present. It addresses central issues of, for example, racial prejudice and attitudes towards the execution of women, and discusses how cinema has chosen to deal with them. It explores how such films as Michael Curtiz's 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, Errol Morris' documentary The Thin Blue Line, John Singleton's Rosewood and Frank Darabont's death-row movie The Green Mile, have helped to shape real historical developments and public perceptions by bringing into sharper relief the legal, social, and cultural tensions associated with capital punishment. In the process, it illuminates the complexities of the death penalty through US history.