As lawyers, we’re suckers for a good courtroom scene. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite legal films of all time, including courtroom thrillers, goofy comedies, and fight-the-system classics. Take a look and add your own to our list. We love recommendations!
This dark legal film won top votes. Paul Newman stars as a washed up plaintiff’s lawyer who represents his client against a corrupt doctor, hospital, and even the judge. At the time of this writing, The Verdict is available for instant viewing via Netflix.
12 Angry Men
This 1957 film stars Henry Fonda and a talented ensemble cast as a jury deliberating over a difficult case. Their discussion of guilt and innocence reveals how prejudices and past experiences can cloud judgement and affect relationships.
Murder in the First
Christian Slater in a true story of the murder case that led to the closure of Alcatraz. He defends a guilty client against a system responsible for his guilt. The film includes great scenes of cross examination. It is available (as of 6/24/11) for instant viewing on Netflix.
Based on the John Grisham novel, The Firm was filmed mostly in Memphis, so it might win more for the Memphis scenes than for any other reason. Tom Cruise plays a young lawyer who uncovers a conspiracy at a prominent Memphis firm.
To Kill a Mockingbird
A must-see legal film. This movie based on the classic book stars Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar playing attorney Atticus Finch. Finch defends an innocent black man charged with rape, but in the process has to face down forces of hate and prejudice.
James Woods plays a burned-out hippie lawyer who gets his life back together to represent an innocent client accused of murder.
The Pelican Brief
Like The Firm, this film is based on a John Grisham novel. It stars Julia Roberts as a law student who accidentally gets involved in a conspiracy after writing a brief about two assassinations.
Jim Carrey stars in this off-the-wall comedy about a lawyer who, for one day, is unable to tell a single lie.
Based on a true story. Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, a divorced single mother who exposes a massive cover-up taking place in a small town.
Starring Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges, Jagged Edge is a courtroom thriller known for its climatic ending.
A Few Good Men
Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Jack Nicholson star in this military cover-up film that received numerous Oscar nominations and includes the classic line “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”
This hit romantic comedy (based on a novel by the same name) stars Reese Witherspoon as a Valley Girl who winds up at Harvard Law. It has inspired numerous spinoffs and sequels, including a Broadway musical and a reality show.