- Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Withholding vital evidence results in wrongful convictions.
- Anvilicious: The death penalty is wrong. You could argue that it's a case of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, but they ruined it.
- Critical Dissonance: The film was brutalized by critics and has a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers however enjoyed it, as it has an 81% audience score on RT, as well as a 7.6/10 on IMDb.
- Don't Shoot the Message: Regarded as one of the most egregious examples of this trope in the history of film.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Kevin Spacey portrays a man who is publicly disgraced and fired from his job as a college professor after a False Rape Accusation. He is later arrested and put on death row for allegedly raping and murdering a female friend who turns out to have orchestrated the entire thing with him as an anti-death penalty statement. After Spacey's own sexual misconduct scandals game to light, the film (which featured an extremely Anvilicious political message as is) is even more uncomfortable to watch.
- Idiot Plot: The lengths that the characters go to in order to show that an innocent man might indeed be wrongfully executed only shows how unlikely it is to happen especially if you need both the innocent man in question and your victim to actually be in on the plot to make it work. Bear in mind that in Real Life there are indeed cases of innocent people being wrongfully executed — few serious advocates of the death penalty would argue that this never, ever happens; they are just prepared to take the risk so long as there are adequate safeguards in place (including the reasonable assumption that an innocent person will fight a wrongful conviction for as long as they can — which Gale of course does not in order to "prove" his point). Essentially this is a Senseless Sacrifice — if it comes out that Gale was in on it, then the point is rendered moot: if it doesn't but it is shown that he was "framed", then it only makes the victim and her accomplice look like terrible people going to ridiculous, fanatical lengths to make their case; and if none of this came out, then Gale is just another murderer sent to death row. Either way, realistically, they are unlikely to have actually achieved anything at all, and the scheme comes off as just an elaborate suicide pact between two very depressed individuals — a woman who is already dying and a man whose family life and career have been utterly ruined.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The film's central messages, that it's still terrifyingly easy for innocent people to end up on death row and its overall criticism of capital punishment, are definitely important. The issue lies in the execution as noted above.
- Strawman Has a Point: Roger Ebert's review of the film, which is a different type of this trope wherein the movie's central characters go so ridiculously far to show that their position is right, you can't help but be disgusted with them.Ebert: I am sure the filmmakers believe their film is against the death penalty. I believe it supports it and hopes to discredit the opponents of the penalty as unprincipled fraudsters.
YMMV / The Life of David Gale