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Violence and its injury consequences in American movies: a public health perspective
  1. David McArthur1,
  2. Corinne Peek-Asa1,
  3. Theresa Webb2,
  4. Kevin Fisher2,
  5. Bernard Cook2,
  6. Nick Browne2,
  7. Jess Kraus1
  1. 1Southern California Injury Prevention Research Center, UCLA School of Public Health
  2. 2UCLA School of Film and Television
  1. Correspondence and reprint requests to:
 Dr D L McArthur, SCIPRC, CHS 76–078, UCLA School of Public Health, Box 951772, Los Angeles, CA 90095–1772, USA
 (e-mail: dmca{at}


Objectives—The purpose of this study was to evaluate the seriousness and frequency of violence and the degree of associated injury depicted in the 100 top grossing American films of 1994.

Methods—Each scene in each film was examined for the presentation of violent actions upon persons and coded by means of a systematic context sensitive analytic scheme. Specific degrees of violence and indices of injury severity were abstracted. Only actually depicted, not implied, actions were coded, although both explicit and implied consequences were examined.

Results—The median number of violent actions per film was 16, with a range from 1 to 110. Intentional violence outnumbered unintentional violence by a factor of 10. Almost 90% of violent actions showed no consequences to the recipient's body, although more than 80% of the violent actions were executed with lethal or moderate force. Fewer than 1% of violent actions were accompanied by injuries that were then medically attended.

Conclusions—Violent force in American films of 1994 was overwhelmingly intentional and in four of five cases was executed at levels likely to cause significant bodily injury. Not only action films but movies of all genres contained scenes in which the intensity of the action was not matched by correspondingly severe injury consequences. Many American films, regardless of genre, tend to minimize the consequences of violence to human beings.

  • violence
  • film
  • media

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