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The Zapruder Film

Zapruder Frame 183The Zapruder Film was taken by Abraham Zapruder. Zapruder was planning to watch the Presidential parade on Elm Street in Dealey Plaza when he was reminded to go get his new silent movie camera, a Model 414 PD Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Camera. It used color film and he had taken a few frames with it already. Zapruder and his secretary, climbed up on a concrete abutment on on the grassy knoll that slopes down to the street. He had the perfect vantage point to film the president and First Lady. Somehow Zapruder found the strength to continue to film even when shoots were fired. He filmed until the president's limousine went under the railroad bridge and out of sight. The Zapruder film is considered the best recorded evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy and is studied carefully by historians and researchers alike. Each frame was numbered during the time of the Warren Commission. The Zapruder frames used by the Warren Commission were published in black and white as Commission Exhibit 885 in volume XVIII of the Hearings and Exhibits.

A full frame, including the sprocket hole image, of frame 183.
(mouse over for larger view)


There has been much recent discussion and debate about the authenticity of the Zapruder film of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. To a large extent, the non-technical aspects of that discussion revolve around the questions of when and where any substitution or alteration of the true camera-original film could have taken place.

This paper attempts to document the whereabouts of the “camera original” film (and the three “first-day copies” which were created in Dallas on the evening of November 22, 1963) in the days immediately following the assassination. Anyone who embarks on a study like this has endless decisions to make about whose account to believe, and whose account not to believe. Such decisions that I had to make are therefore reflected in this paper, but always within the context of trying to ensure the accuracy of the chronology .- Chris Scally


Life page 1 Life page 1

The November 29, 1963 issue of Life published about 30 frames of the Zapruder film in black and white. Frames were also published in color in the December 6, 1963 special "John F. Kennedy Memorial Edition", and in issues dated October 2, 1964 (a special article on the film and the Warren Commission report), November 25, 1966, and November 24, 1967. The original film was damaged while in Life's care. Copies were made for the Secret Service before the damage occured.


perchWell, as the car came in line almost--I believe it was almost in line. I was standing up here and I was shooting through a telephoto lens, which is a zoom lens and as it reached about--I imagine it was around here--I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this (holding his left chest area).

In other words, he was sitting like this and waving and then after the shot he just went like that.

Leaning--leaning toward the side of Jacqueline. For a moment I thought it was, you know, like you say, "Oh, he got me," when you hear a shot--you've heard these expressions and then I saw---I don't believe the President is going to make jokes like this, but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started--I can hardly talk about it [ the witness crying].

I thought I heard two, it could be three, because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second--I really don't know. The whole thing that has been transpiring--it was very upsetting and as you see I got a little better all the time and this came up again and it to me looked like the second shot, but I don't know. I never even heard a third shot.

step downI heard the second--after the first shot--I saw him leaning over and after the second shot--it's possible after what I saw, you know, then I started yelling, "They killed him, they killed him," and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass--I don't even know how I did it.

And then, I didn't even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward--back toward my office and screaming, "They killed him, they killed him," and the people that I met on the way didn't even know what happened and they kept yelling, "What happened, what happened, what happened?" It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn't know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, "They killed him, they killed him, they killed him," and finally got to my office and my secretary--I told her to call the police or the Secret Service--I don't know what she was doing, and that's about all. I was very much upset. Naturally, I couldn't imagine such a thing being done. I just went to my desk and stopped there until the police came and then we were required to get a place to develop the films. I knew I had something, I figured it might be of some help--I didn't know what.


Film and audio:

3abulbl 11-22-63 WFAA-TV Interview with Mr. Zapruder (©1999 by WFAA-TV Co.) just after the assassination.
3abulbl The first time the Zapruder film was shown to the public was in 1975 on the "Good Night America" show hosted by Geraldo Rivera.


3abulbl The Abraham Zapruder film is acknowledged to be the definitive view of the death of President Kennedy, for it is the only known movie showing the entire assassination sequence. Experts still debate over exactly what it does show and what is not clearly revealed. The film reel begins with family scenes of Zapruder’s grandchildren (not seen here), then shows his office assistant, Lillian Rogers, at her desk the morning of the assassination. After filming two of his coworkers in Dealey Plaza, Zapruder filmed the approaching motorcade from a pedestal above and to the right of the parade route. A U.S. Congressional committee confiscated the original film from the Zapruder family in 1997; after being compensated by the U.S. government, the family donated copies of the film and color transparencies of each frame, as well as the film’s copyright, to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in 1999. (Note: two extremely short pre-assassination scenes, one in Zapruder’s office and one in Dealey Plaza, are not included here until film restoration work has been completed.)

3abulbl The Zapruder Film at The Sixth Floor Museum
The Museum advises visitors to this page that the Abraham Zapruder film depicts the graphic assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The film includes the fatal shot to the President's head and is shown in its entirety. Caution is strongly advised for young children and sensitive viewers. Researchers are invited to make an appointment to see the Museum's Zapruder film copies or individual frames.

3cbulgr The Original Camera


Just after noon on November 22, 1963, Mr. Abraham Zapruder, a woman's clothing manufacturer, climbed onto a small concrete pedestal in Dealey Plaza with his 8mm movie camera. After President Kennedy's motorcade came into view and passed, Mr. Zapruder's 26 second film record of the assassination became the most significant amateur recording of a news event in history. The Bell & Howell 414PD 8mm camera was, in 1963, a top of the line, high quality 8mm amateur movie camera.


Research Materials:


Resources you can purchase:

3abulbl JFK Lancer's Dallas Conference 1998-7/8/9

  • The Zapruder Film Panel; Zavada Report Discussion:
  • Non-Alteration Position: Hal Verb, Josiah Thompson
  • Alteration Position: Jack White, David Lifton, David Mantik
  • Commentators: James Tague, Beverly Oliver, Jim Fetzer, Michael Parks
  • Art & Margaret Snyder, A Study of the Jet Effect

Image of an Assassination
(Note: Some frames are out of order or missing on the digital copies on the DVD.

There are many copies of the Zapruder film online, however, it is recommended that researchers use the DVD "Image of An Assassination, A New Look At The Zapruder Film" for study.

This first commercially available video version of the legendary 26-second "Zapruder Film"--the 8mm record of John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination. This unprecedented release has been digitally mastered with the approval of the Zapruder family. An accompanying documentary, which explores the mastering process in detail, features a short portrait of Zapruder and a fascinating history of the film's official and unofficial showings up to the present. The tape also includes a frame-by-frame analysis of the film, a chronology of events, and additional historical video. This short film is still too gruesome and upsetting for many to watch, but Abraham Zapruder's famous home movie remains to this day one of the most controversial pieces of filmed history.
--Sean Axmaker


National Nightmare on Six Feet of Film: Mr. Zapruder's Home Movie And the Murder of President Kennedy ~ Richard B. Trask 


National Archives JFK Exhibit.

Experience the American Journey through our country's visual heritage in this historical recording provided by the National Archives of the United States. A reconstruction of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. From the U.S. Secret Service. [SILENT, UNEDITED] This historical recording from the National Archives may contain variations in audio and video quality based on the limitations of the original source material.


The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History

takes a comprehensive examination into the theories behind the assassination itself. It also explains the tragedy within the context of the existing U.S. political and cultural climate, and the global context of the Cold War. The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History includes: The first digital rendering of the Zapruder film, mastered from the original. The only known color footage of Lee Harvey Oswald. Cuban source material on the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. First-time use of audio material from Robert F. Kennedy¹s oral history. Interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, John Frankenheimer, Jack Anderson and Sam Halpern. A link between the film Psycho and the FBI’s report on Oswald. Newly discovered footage from local television archives and foreign news sources, including Lyndon B. Johnson’s thoughts concerning a conspiracy.


The Zapruder Film: Reframing JFK's Assassinationamazon"
by David R. Wrone
David Wrone, one of our nation's foremost authorities on the assassination, re-examines Zapruder's film with a fresh eye and a deep knowledge of the forensic evidence. He traces the film's forty-year history from its creation on the 'grassy knoll' by Dallas dressmaker Zapruder through its initial sale to Life magazine, analysis by the Warren Commission and countless assassination researchers, licensing by the Zapruder family, legal battles over bootleg copies, and sale to the federal government for sixteen million dollars.

Wrone's major contribution, however, is to demonstrate how the film itself necessarily refutes the Warren Commission's lone-gunman and single-bullet theories. The film, he notes, provides a scientifically precise timeline of events, as well as crucial clues regarding the timing, number, origins, and impact of the shots fired that day. Analyzing it frame-by-frame in relation to other evidence, including two key photos by Phil Willis and Ike Altgens, he builds a convincing case against the official findings.

News Stories


Dallas Morning News - Zapruders donate JFK film, rights. Gift may secure future of Sixth Floor Museum


CBCNEWS Washington ordered to pay $16 million for JFK assassination film


CNN Transcript - Burden of Proof: How Much is the Zapruder Film Worth? - August 3, 1999

MSNBC: Zapruder film value at $16 million

Yahoo! Full Coverage:Zapruder Family Awarded $16M for Kennedy Assassination Film

CNN - Putting a price on 26 seconds of history - August 3, 1999

CNN - Film of JFK killing valued at $16 million - August 3, 1999

(all links may not be active after news event)