Sunday Feature-Week 15: The Staircase (2004)

Title: The Staircase

Tone: Hyper-suspenseful, murder mystery, courtroom drama, documentary


Director- Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

Cast- Michael Peterson

When: 2004

What: Writer and politician Micheal Peterson is accused of murdering his wife Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home. The question is raised, was it murder or a tragic fall down the stairs?


  • The Staircase is by and far the most suspenseful film/documentary I’ve ever seen. It blows away any fictional suspense film, courtroom drama, or murder mystery out there. Each chapter presents a new twist, unearths new evidence, and leaves you torn over Peterson’s innocence.
  • The Staircase is a marvelous profile of the criminal justice system. The documentary follows the defense and prosecution gathering evidence to make their cases, how the media affects the ways high-profile cases are managed, and follows every step of Michael Peterson’s trial without missing a beat.
  • One of the more unique aspects of The Staircase is the perspective it gives you on how a murder trial affects a family. Throughout the entire saga you get to know Peterson’s family, how the case has affected them, what their views are on the matter and so on. You’re also given informal glimpses of the family sitting around the dinner table, drinking wine, laughing and telling stories, trying to distract themselves from the severity of the impending trial.
  • Overall, The Staircase is one of the most enthralling, tense, and well constructed documentaries out there and I simply can’t recommend it enough. I do recommend not looking up any info about the trial before watching it however, as that would spoil a lot of the tension. Below is a short teaser for the film. Enjoy!
  • Note: After several attempts to upload a clip from the film to no avail I settled on the teaser, which is good but doesn’t give you a very good sense of the film as a whole.


~ by cinematte on April 11, 2010.

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