Being a fan of gripping drama and intense showdowns, courtroom movies can have you in for a treat. So, if you want to indulge in seeing high-stakes trials and complexities of the legal world, make sure the following movies make it to your watchlist. A few of them have a comedic touch as well to make the atmosphere light!
1. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
The Lincoln Lawyer is a legal thriller starring Matthew McConaughey in the lead role. The film follows the story of a charismatic and unorthodox defense attorney who conducts his business from the back of his Lincoln Town Car.
When he takes on a high-profile case defending a wealthy client (played by Ryan Phillippe) accused of assault, he soon finds himself entangled in a complex web of deceit and intrigue that challenges his moral and ethical boundaries.
2. Just Mercy (2019)
Just Mercy follows the story of a Harvard graduate, Bryan Steveson, who embarks on his journey of defending wrongly accused individuals in Alabama. Soon, he finds himself struggling to bring justice to his first client, who’s already sentenced to die for murdering an 18-year-old female.
What follows is a roller coaster ride where Stevenson goes through many legal and political troubles. Make sure to add this Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx film to your watchlist if you love courtroom drama.
3. A Few Good Men (1992)
Played by Tom Cruise, Daniel Kaffee (a lawyer) is the main character in A Few Good Men. He’s given a case to defend two U.S. Marines who were accused of killing another Marine at Cuba’s military base.
The plot follows an interesting development where Kaffee is forced to investigate the case deeply. All because his fellow lawyer JoAnne Galloway, played by Demi Moore, thinks there’s more to what meets the eye.
4. Dark Waters (2019)
The courtroom film Dark Waters has a simple plot yet intriguing enough to keep you hooked on the screen. It narrates the story of an attorney, played by Mark Ruffalo, who finally cracks the reason behind sudden, unexplained deaths in a huge corporation.
But uncovering this dark secret isn’t going to help him as he finds himself trapped in a web of betrayals. It’s going to be interesting to see how he saves himself and his family from becoming the next culprit.
5. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
My Cousin Vinny is all about how a lawyer in New York steps up to save his teenage cousin Billy and his friend from a murder accusation. Of course, what’s a good movie without an interesting plot twist?
So Vinny, enacted by Joe Pesci, is a failed attorney with no successful cases under his belt. Thus, it’d be hilarious to see how he deals with a scenario where his beloved family member, played by Ralph Macchio, is in hot water.
6. 12 Angry Men (1957)
The film 12 Angry Men, reflecting the cinema of the 1950s, narrates a tale of 12 jurors. The plot basically involves them questioning a teenager charged with murder, who they think to be a culprit based on a few doubts.
What follows is an interesting battle where they are questioned for their morals and values as conflicts reveal the true selves of each jury member. The movie stars Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, and more.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Starring Mary Badham, Philip Alford, and John Megna, To Kill a Mockingbird narrates the story of Scout Finch and her elder brother Jem, who lives in Maycomb. Side characters include their friend and a mysterious neighbor.
However, what puts the basis of the story is their father’s career as a lawyer. When Atticus, a respected attorney, defends Tom Robinson against fabricated physical assault charges, the lives of the kids take a dark turn.
8. Primal Fear (1996)
Based on a dark plot, Primal Fear stars Edward Norton, Richard Gere, and Laura Linney. The storyline follows the professional life of a defense lawyer, Martin. He is a money-minded individual and prefers wealth over goodness.
Soon, he finds himself caught in a trap as his new case involves defending an altar boy accused of murder. As the story moves, the revelation of a few dark secrets makes him realize the notorious nature of the case.
9. The Client (1994)
The client’s plot takes inspiration from John Grisham’s bestseller, revealing how an 11-year-old boy coming across a politician’s murder changes his life. The plot explores how he hires a lawyer to get protection against the Mob and the FBI after this incident.
But the guy’s life is in danger, and the lady attorney needs to step up to keep him safe by all means. The movie’s star cast includes Susan Sarandon, Brad Renfro, Tommy Lee Jones, David Speck, and more.
10. Anatomy of Murder (1959)
The film Anatomy of Murder outlines how a semi-retired lawyer, Paul, played by James Stewart, takes on the case of an Army Lt.. The accused, played by Ben Gazzara, apparently murdered a local, as his wife claimed that he physically assaulted her.
While Paul’s efforts to get his client out of jail are commendable, a dark secret shapes the thriller. It’s the victim’s mysterious business partner whose shady behavior has things take an unusual turn.
11. The Verdict (1982)
Frank Galvin, the protagonist of The Verdict, finally decides to give up on his drinking addiction to scale up his professional life as a lawyer. In an attempt to do so, he takes on a case where a doctor’s mistake led to serious consequences.
It’d be worth seeing how he struggles with his personal limitations to win the case. While his opponent’s lawyer, a powerful man named Edward Concannon, adds more to his troubles. The movie’s cast includes Paul Newman, Jack Warden, Charlotte Rampling, and more.
12. Runaway Jury (2003)
Set in the backdrop of New Orleans, Runaway Jury narrates the story of a trial against a company. The company owners are put under remand because their manufactured gun was used in a shootout.
The jury consultant Fitch (Gene Hackman) does something illegal, so the law favors the company. But there’s a twist: a young juror, Nicholas (John Cusack), enters the scene with his better half, Marlee (Rachel). The young couple claims they can mold the jury’s final decision according to their will. It’d be interesting to see how!
13. And Justice For All (1979)
And Justice For All must make it to your watchlist if you want to enjoy a courtroom drama that strikes a perfect balance between comedy, mystery, satire, and thriller. The plot explores a lawyer’s (Arthur Kirkland) struggles to stick to his morals as he finds himself trapped in a dishonest legal system.
Things take a dramatic turn when he has to defend a judge (Jack Warden) accused of a serious crime. It’d be worth seeing how the tension between two legal practitioners rises due to their conflicting ideals.
14. Murder in the First (1995)
Murder in the First narrates a gut-wrenching tale of Henry’s (Kevin Bacon) transformation from a small-time criminal to a madman. A lawyer (Christian Slater) steps into the story to save him from execution as he blames Alcatraz to be the culprit behind Henry’s condition.
It is revealed that Henry was put in complete darkness for years as a punishment for escaping the prison. It’d be interesting to see how Henry’s story unfolds as a murderer shaped by consequences.
15. From the Hip (1987)
The last courtroom film in this list, From the Hip, is about an attorney, Robin Weathers (Judd Nelson), who is known for his crazy antics. Once, he used his tricks to save an accused bank president, attaining a huge promotion to himself. But little does he know what the future holds for a non-serious lawyer like him.
He finds himself trapped with a client, Douglas Benoit (John Hurt) – who’s dangerous enough to snatch off Robin’s sleep. It’s interesting to see how his craziness, combined with the cold attitude of a guilty man, shapes the plot of the film.
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