There’s one major reason that there have been a-million-and-one courtroom drama movies across the years – people just love them. Between the inherent suspense and the inevitable outburst, viewers just can’t get enough. That said, in an effort to draw a line between the masses and masters, we at Keyser Law Firm compiled a definitive list below of The Best Law & Lawyer Movies of All Time. Enjoy!
1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
When you film a movie that’s based on a classic novel, although the bar might be set extremely high, you at least have all the tools required to create something truly special. In this case, the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, based off of Harper Lee’s best-seller from 1960, stars Gregory Peck (as Atticus Finch) and easily tops our list of lawyer movies.
2. And Justice for All (1979)
When an ethical lawyer is strong-armed into defending a judge he believes to be guilty in a rape trial, or else, it makes for high-adrenaline courtroom drama at its finest. Most famous for Al Pacino’s defiant rant “You’re out of order … You’re out of order … The whole trial is out of order!” the 1979 film And Justice for All is an obvious all time great.
3. 12 Angry Men (1957)
Based on a classic play written by Reginald Rose in 1954, 12 Angry Men is a dialogue-heavy film about a lone juror that slowly persuades his counterparts that the murder trial in which they’re observing is not all that the lawyers have made it out to be. Starring Henry Fonda and Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb, this is an intense look at the behind-the-scenes of the judicial system.
4. The Verdict (1982)
Based on the dramatic courtroom novel by Barry Reed from 1980, The Verdict was adapted to film in 1982 and told a story about an alcoholic lawyer that takes on a medical malpractice case to improve his own situation. In the end, the film was nominated for many Academy Awards including Best Actor for Paul Newman and Best Picture – an easy way to make our list here.
5. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
While the other films from this list represent only the serious side of the legal system, you cannot make a list of law movies without the mention of the most famous crime-comedy ever made – My Cousin Vinny. Featuring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Ralph Macchio, this film about New York City toughs, on trial for murder in rural Alabama, is a welcomed breath of fresh air when it comes to court scenes.
6. A Time to Kill (1996)
John Grisham is widely known for his intense legal thrillers so, when Hollywood decided to adapt his 1989 novel into a 1996 blockbuster, A Time To Kill was an instant success. Centered on the atrocities of the KKK in a racially charged region and era, Samuel L. Jackson glorifies his role and gives one of the most bone-chilling testimonies in all of court film history.
7. A Few Good Men (1992)
When prodded by a Tom Cruise seeking “the truth,” there might not be a more recognizable courtroom retort than, “You can’t handle the truth!” Although A Few Good Men is more of a look at the military legal workings, Jack Nicholson’s courtroom outburst alone makes it an absolute lock in law-films lore.
8. Philadelphia (1993)
One of the more quietly gripping movies on this list, Tom Hanks stars as a former lawyer that is wrongfully dismissed from his conservative law firm after contracting the HIV virus – ironically, the only person that will defend him and his case is a homophobic lawyer (Denzel Washington). Not only was this movie a timely and stand-out success in 1993 but it also makes our list as an all-time classic.
9. Anatomy of Murder (1959)
Rounding out some of the more vintage entries on this list of Lawyer Film Greats is a fan favorite from 1959, Anatomy of Murder. Starring James Stewart and the then-hottie Lee Remick, this film is full of hefty courtroom scenes that trudge on the gray areas of temporary insanity.
10. Liar Liar (1997)
Okay, one more lighthearted entrant on this list of all-time law and lawyer movies: Starring one of the best comedians of our generation, or any other, Liar Liar from 1997 features Jim Carrey in his prime and provides pure comedy by showing exactly how successful a lawyer can be when allowed only to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.