Ethics in “John Q” and “Dog Day Afternoon” Movies


Today, cinema is one of the most popular kinds of art which attracts millions of spectators all over the world. Its rapid rise is related to the spread of technologies and the creation of a new digitalized society. Therefore, like any art, it could be used by creators to touch upon the most topical problems peculiar to modern society and reveal issues people prefer to ignore (Althem & Bennett, 2011).

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That is why diverse ethical dilemmas are used as central themes of numerous movies that attract viewers attention. Some ongoing questions always remain topical. For instance, multiculturalism, tolerance, and relations of an individual with the society could be considered issues of this sort (Belton, 2012). The movies Dog Day Afternoon and John Q explore this motif to make viewers think about ethical dilemmas individuals might face in their everyday life.

Main Text

The movie Dog Day Afternoon revolves around the unsuccessful attempt to rob the First Brooklyn Savings Bank by Sonny Wortzik and Salvatore Naturale; however, they arrive too late, and there is only $1,100 in the bank (Bregman & Lumet, 1975). Having discovered this fact, the robbers start to act carelessly and attract the polices attention. The bank is surrounded, and the robbers have no choice but to take hostages.

The film ends with Salvatores death and Sonnys imprisonment at the airport where robbers wanted to take a plane. The plot is full of events and facts that help to understand central characters and their motifs. Additionally, it demonstrates a particular ethical dilemma Sonny faces. His intention to rob a bank is preconditioned by the desire to pay for his wife Leons sex reassignment surgery. This fact creates the basis for vigorous debates on tolerance, multiculturality, and other ethical issues.

The events of Dog Day Afternoon occurred in 1972 when the attitude to transgender people was different from the modern one (“Racism, multiculturalism, and everything cinema teaches us,” 2011). They were considered strange and even sick (Datesman, Crandall, & Kearny, 2014). For this reason, Sonnys relations with Leon and his attitude to this pre-operative transgender woman demonstrate his multiculturalism and tolerance.

He is deprived of a biased attitude to people who want to change their gender. Moreover, Sonny has strong feelings for Leon as he decides to rob a bank to earn money and help his wife to pay for the surgery. Correctly realizing the fact that it is the only way to find the needed sum, Sonny sacrifices his freedom and performs this action. He also understands that he could die if the police attack the bank.

That is why in his last will Sonny leaves money from his life insurance to Leon for her operation and to his ex-wife Angie who raises a son. These actions demonstrate that the main characters motifs are not to get a profit; however, he wants to assist people who are in need and who might suffer from an intolerant attitude.

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The movie John Q is organized similarly. The main character discovers that his son needs extremely expensive heart transplantation. However, Johns insurance does not cover the procedure because of the latest changes in the health insurance policy which mean that his son is doomed to die (Burg & Cassavetes, 2002). As a loving father. John cannot let it happen. He enters the hospital and takes hostages insisting on the surgery for his child.

However, there are no bullets in his gun. He does not want to harm people; his only intention is to save his son. John is ready to commit suicide to sacrifice his heart. In such a way, we see another example of a man who is driven by his moral obligations and who is not able to give up as the life of his closest person depends on him.

The two discussed movies are similar as they demonstrate men in despair. They do not have money to help people in need, and they use violence as the method to solve their problems. For this reason, their performance is deceptive. At first gaze, both John and Sonny might seem criminals whose actions are unacceptable. However, while watching the video, we get to know that their motifs are high-minded and are preconditioned by the ideas of tolerance and multiculturalism. Sonny wants to help his transgender wife, and John tries to find the heart for his son. These characters are in a tight corner and violence remains the only way to achieve their goals.


Altogether, the movies touch upon the critical issues of tolerance, multiculturalism, and choice. The main characters face ethical dilemmas as their close people suffer. However, the heroes moral values do not let them give up, and they break the law to attract communities attention. Dog Day Afternoon and John Q also delve into the peculiarities of a harsh choice and actions to protect a particular perspective on the world and preserve multiculturalism in their minds. Having watched these movies, a person might think about the motifs that made the main characters act in these ways and problems that remain topical.


Althem, G., & Bennett, J. (2011). American ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States of America. New York, NY: Intercultural Press.

Belton, J. (2012). American cinema / American culture. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Bregman, M. (Producer), & Lumet, S. (Director). (1975). Dog day afternoon [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.

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Burg, M. (Producer), & Cassavetes, N. (Director). (2002). John Q [Motion Picture]. United States: New Line Cinema.

Datesman, M., Crandall, J., & Kearny, E. (2014). American ways: An introduction to American culture. New York, NY: Pearson.

Racism, multiculturalism, and everything cinema teaches us. (2011). Web.

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