January 10, 2010
We received a flood of responses, so just for fun we put together a list to highlight your top picks.
(Note: We decided to link each movie title below to its corresponding page on Netflix only because Netflix has succinct descriptions of the movies at the top of the page, along with links to play trailers.)
A Few Good Men (1992)
“You can’t handle the truth!” In this military courtroom thriller, Jack Nicholson plays his scariest role since “The Shining.” The all-star cast also features Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kiefer Sutherland, and the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon.
Breaker Morant (1980)
Jack Thompson plays an inexperienced defense attorney with the difficult task of defending three Australian soldiers who were court-martialed for murder during the Boer War, circa 1900. “It’s just a fascinating film, very well acted and well worth a rental.” – West author John G. Browning
From the Hip (1987)
Attention, “Breakfast Club” fans: Judd Nelson stars in this entertaining flick about an aspiring associate who faces ethical dilemmas as he climbs the big-law ladder.
Gideon’s Trumpet (1980)
Henry Fonda performs in this retelling of the Clarence Earl Gideon story, which culminates with the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainright to guarantee the right to legal counsel “in all criminal prosecutions.”
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Looking for a classic courtroom drama? This film features Spencer Tracy and Fredric March as opposing attorneys in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, the “Trial of the Century” that centered on a teacher who violated Tennessee law by teaching Darwinism in the classroom.
Michael Clayton (2007)
This surprisingly suspenseful and well-acted legal thriller features perpetual heartthrob George Clooney as a burned-out corporate attorney who reaches the end of his rope when he’s brought in to “fix” a situation involving a dirty chemical company embroiled in a high-stakes class action suit.
My Cousin Vinnie (1992)
Joe Pesci stars as an inexperienced lawyer who ventures out of the big city to defend his cousins in a Southern town. “A perennial favorite, because it’s incredibly funny and very well done. Justice Scalia is actually a fan of the movie as well – I think he has a bit of a crush on Marisa Tomei.” – West author John G. Browning
The Paper Chase (1973)
“You teach yourselves the law. I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush, and if you survive, you’ll leave thinking like a lawyer.” In this classic film based on the novel by John Jay Osborn Jr. , a first-year Harvard Law student (Timothy Bottoms) falls in love with the daughter of his toughest professor (John Houseman, who won an Oscar for his role).
Primal Fear (1996)
A classic courtroom murder-mystery with plenty of thrilling plot twists, this nearly flawless flick stars Richard Gere as an arrogant attorney called to defend a Catholic altar boy accused of murdering a bishop. Also stars Ed Norton, Laura Linney and Frances McDormand.
The Rainmaker (1997)
No law movie list would be complete without a John Grisham title, and this is one of his finest. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this courtroom drama features a young Matt Damon as a high-minded attorney, along with Danny DeVito as his scrappy paralegal and the legendary John Voight as the big-law baddie.
Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)
This beautifully shot film is set in the 1950s Pacific Northwest, where the smoldering World War II tensions between whites and Japanese-Americans plays out in the aftermath of a suspicious drowning and the subsequent investigation and trial. Ethan Hawke stars as Ishmael Chambers, the local reporter who sways public opinion with his editorials.
12 Angry Men (1957)
In this courtroom classic, Henry Fonda plays a thoughtful juror who must convince his fellow jurors that the capital case before them – involving an 18-year-old accused of killing his father – isn’t as open-and-shut as they’d like to think. Jack Warden, Jack Klugman, and Ed Begley also star in this thoughtful film that features intense arguments about prejudice, impatience, and irrational thinking. A must-see for anyone in the legal field.