The following list was made several years ago and posted on another YouTube channel. I’m pretty sure it’s still a good list, which is to say there are likely other films about the law I’ve seen and enjoyed. But this list is still pretty awesome! 🙂
Hi, Debbi Mack here. And these are my top 10 favorite legal movies, in no particular order.
1. Anatomy of a Murder from 1959.
Considered by many to be the first truly realistic courtroom drama depicted in film, this is an Otto Preminger film that stars Jimmy Stewart and George C. Scott, both amazing actors. Lee Remick, Eve Arden. The list goes on. It is a wonderfully realistic movie about the law and the lawyer even gets stiffed in the end.
2. Legally Blonde from 2001.
Legally Blonde is a comedy and as such, of course it’s over the top, but it does depict how somebody who seems ditzy can actually have common sense and how that can actually serve you well in the courtroom. So, in essence, the message is, the law is about more than just reading books.
3.The Verdict from 1982.
Paul Newman is spectacular as the lawyer trying to redeem himself by winning a big case against the Catholic church, no less. His opponent is played by James Mason and he’s wonderful, of course. Charlotte Rampling and Lindsay Crouse have supporting roles in this movie. And the movie is just spectacular. Again, there’s a very realistic feel to it. And I really liked that.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird from 1962.
This is a classic movie featuring Gregory Peck as the Southern lawyer, defending a black man against bogus charges of murder, as well as defending his kids against local prejudice. Great movie.
5. Witness for the Prosecution, 1957.
A man accused of murder hires an aging barrister to represent him in court. This includes priceless performances from Marlena Dietrich, as well as Charles Laughton as the barrister. And it has a twist ending that you’ll never see coming.
6. Inherit the Wind from 1960.
This movie is based on the true story of the Scopes Trial. The case involving the science teacher who was brought to court and tried for teaching evolution. Spencer Tracy is fantastic as the Clarence Darrow character and the William Jennings Bryant character is played by Frederic March. Gene Kelly also has a small role in it as a journalist. The issues in the movie remain as relevant today as ever.
7. The Wrong Man, 1956.
This comes from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, and in it, Henry Fonda plays a man who is mistaken for a criminal and arrested and put on trial. It’s a scary scenario, and this is why we have due process. This is why lawyers are important and Hitchcock is really good at this kind of thing, too. The innocent man thrown into a situation where he doesn’t know how he got there. So, it’s a must-see.
8. 12 Angry Men from 1957.
Henry Fonda stands out as the lone juror who won’t vote to convict when everybody else thinks it’s a slam dunk. He’s up against people like E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman. But the one who really, really stands out is Lee J. Cobb, who plays a very angry man who absolutely refuses to budge. And it is a very interesting look at the psychology of juror deliberations.
9. A Few Good Men from 1992.
Tom Cruise is excellent, playing the part of a lawyer defending the Marines, who’ve been accused of murder when they claim they were ordered to do what they did. Demi Moore and Kevin Powell make good sidekicks for him. And there’s a kind of interesting relationship among the three of them. In addition, there’s the famous scene with Jack Nicholson. The movie has become a kind of modern classic. And I think it’s an excellent look at, not only military justice, but how the system works in general. Or doesn’t work.
10. Liar Liar from 1997.
Absence of Malice, Paul Newman and Sally Field.
PS: Here are a few facts you may not know about Perry Mason! 🙂
PPS: Here a couple I missed that should at least get an honorable mention!
A Civil Action, based on a true story and starring John Travolta.