Top 20 Best Legal Movies of All Time

Thu Bui 27 0 Error

It'd be interesting to look at some of the best and most award-winning legal films. While other lists may disagree, we believe these are the top legal films of ... read more...

  1. Atticus Finch, Harper Lee's famed small-town attorney, is played by Gregory Peck, who brings his legendary dignity to the part. Horton Foote's screenplay was an immediate classic, with lawyer Finch rising above the blatant bigotry of Depression-era Alabama to defend a handicapped black man (Brock Peters) wrongfully accused of rape by a lonely, young white lady.

    Scout (Mary Badham), Finch's 6-year-old daughter, sees his quiet courage and is embraced by an emerging generation of lawyers as the ideal of both moral clarity and unwavering belief in the rule of law.


    When the accuser's drunken, unbelieving father glares at him and says, “What kind of man are you?” The underlying answer is simple: both the confident lawyer and the honorable human being we all aspire to be.


    Trivia: Three Oscar wins. Finch was Lee’s mother’s maiden name.

    Director: Robert Mulligan | Stars: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy

    Photo: hollywoodreporter
    Photo: hollywoodreporter
    Video: Movieclips Classic Trailers's youtube channel

  2. This film, which came out the same year as My Cousin Vinny, gives viewers an inside peek at JAG court-martial processes. At Guantanamo Bay, two officers are suspected of killing another Marine, and Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are dispatched to find out where the orders that resulted in the death came from.


    The film has Rob Reiner as director and Aaron Sorkin's classic words, “You can’t handle the truth!” shouted by Jack Nicholson, in addition to a cast of the top actors of the day. Nicholson's terrifying Colonel Nathan Jessup was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor. It was also nominated for Golden Globes in five key categories. The film is based on Aaron Sorkin's play.


    Trivia: The American Film Association named the film’s famous line “You can’t handle the truth!” as one of the top movie quotes of all time (it ranks #29 on the list).

    Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon

    Photo: theaceblackblog
    Photo: theaceblackblog
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel
  3. This faithful adaptation of Reginald Rose's critically acclaimed stage play chronicles the acrimonious deliberations of a jury in a death penalty case, and Henry Fonda produced and performed in it. A lone juror (Fonda) voices his skepticism about what appears to be a clear-cut case at first.

    What follows is a harrowing analysis of the prejudices, prejudgments, and personal psychological baggage that these gathered citizens have brought to a life-or-death argument over the destiny of the young Puerto Rican defendant.

    The play was based on Rose's actual experience as a jury in a manslaughter trial, and Sidney Lumet adapted it for television before directing the film adaptation, which was his debut feature picture.

    Trivia:
    Lost all three Oscar nominations to The Bridge on the River Kwai.

    Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler

    Photo: vnreview
    Photo: vnreview
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel
  4. The Verdict features Frank Galvin, played by Paul Newman, a once-promising attorney who is now out of work after being accused of jury tampering at a Boston law firm. Galvin chooses to take on a medical malpractice case as a favor to his friend Mickey (played by Jack Warden) at the start of the film, directed by Sidney Lumet.

    Galvin initially intended to settle the matter, but he rejects the hospital's offer and instead decides to go to trial, much to the surprise of the court and the victim's relatives.


    Trivia: Two of the film’s cast members, Jack Warden and Edward Binns, starred in 12 Angry Men, which Lumet also directed.

    Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason

    Photo: talkfilmsociety
    Photo: talkfilmsociety
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel
  5. This harrowing depiction of the Nazi war crimes trials, set in 1948, was directed by Stanley Kramer. The Abby Mann script centers on charges leveled against four German judges for allegedly allowing their courts to become complicit in Nazi atrocities.

    Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), an American judge, is perplexed as to how these once-respected colleagues allowed themselves to be used. He receives little or no assistance from ordinary Germans, who are attempting to distance themselves from Germany's Nazi past.

    When one of the judges, Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), deviates from the others and confesses, it becomes evident that these judges have prioritized political commitments over their own instincts of good and wrong, whatever their original intentions may have been.


    Trivia: Won two Oscars. Marlene Dietrich, who personally experienced the Nazi regime, was allowed to write many of her own lines.

    Director: Stanley Kramer | Stars: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich

    Photo: yts.mx
    Photo: yts.mx
    Video: Movieclips Classic Trailers's youtube channel
  6. Julia Roberts stars as a true-life paralegal and spunky single mom whose tenacious inquiry into a dubious real estate case uncovers a practice of illegal dumping of highly hazardous hexavalent chromium and one of the country's largest class action lawsuits. Ed Masry, her supervisor, is played by Albert Finney.

    “Do they teach lawyers to apologize?" she asks him in the movie's lawyer line."Cause you suck at it.”


    Trivia: The real Brockovich and the real Masry make cameo appearances in a restaurant.

    Director: Steven Soderbergh | Stars: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick

    Photo: hollywoodsuite
    Photo: hollywoodsuite
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel
  7. Philadelphia is a masterful acting performance as well as a truly emotional story about right and wrong, and standing up for what is right, regardless of one's personal or political beliefs. The story follows outstanding lawyer Andrew Beckett's career, AIDS fight, and firing from a big Philadelphia law firm, as well as Beckett's lawsuit against his previous firm. With Jonathan Demme, fresh off a Best Director Oscar in 1991 for The Silence of the Lambs, directing, Denzel Washington, who had already won an Oscar in 1989 for Glory, portraying Beckett's lawyer grappling with his personal feelings about Beckett's sexual orientation, and Tom Hanks, who won the first of his back-to-back Best Actor Oscars, playing Beckett, the film brought together the best of acting and directing.


    The film received five Academy Award nominations and three Golden Globe nominations, with Tom Hanks winning Best Actor in both categories for his original song "Streets of Philadelphia."

    Trivia: Initially, Demme planned to cast a comedic actor in the role of Joe Miller, but he changed his mind after Washington showed an interest in the part.

    Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell, Buzz Kilman

    Photo: rogerebert
    Photo: rogerebert
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel
  8. This realistic depiction of an Army lieutenant accused of murdering a bartender who reportedly raped his coquettish wife is directed by Otto Preminger. James Stewart as the defense attorney, George C. Scott as the prosecutor, Ben Gazzara as the defendant, and Lee Remick as his wife lead an A-list cast.

    The real-life lawyer Joseph Welch, who defended the Army in the McCarthy hearings, gives a magnificent performance in the part of the judge. The plot deftly navigates a maze of ethical difficulties that come with representing a murder defendant.

    It was based on a true story and was adapted from a novel by a Michigan Supreme Court justice. Duke Ellington, who also appears in the film, composed the original score.


    Trivia: Nominated for seven Oscars. Lost for Best Picture to Ben-Hur.

    Director: Otto Preminger | Stars: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell

    Photo: thefilmexperience
    Photo: thefilmexperience
    Video: HD Retro Trailers's youtube channel
  9. Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment) directs from a script by Agatha Christie, the famed mystery novelist. But it's the renowned Charles Laughton who steals the show as a pretentious barrister who, despite being meant to be retired after recuperating from an illness, can't resist taking on a bizarre murder case.

    Wife in real life His sharp-tongued nurse is Elsa Lanchester, and the two sparkle as they spar verbally. Tyrone Power is the playboy defendant, and Marlene Dietrich is his wife and, somewhat unexpectedly, the key witness. As befitting a Dame Agatha narrative, it's not the only one. Keep an eye out for yourself.


    Trivia: Nominated for six Oscars. Dietrich was crushed not to be among those nominated.

    Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester

    Photo: capa
    Photo: capa
    Video: HD Retro Trailers's youtube channel
  10. Vincent "Vinny" Gambini (Joe Pesci) is a cocky Brooklyn lawyer who passed the bar exam on his sixth attempt very recently. He's representing his cousin and a friend, two California-bound college students accused for capital murder following a brief stop at a convenience station in rural Alabama. Nonetheless, in Judge Chamberlain Haller's courtroom, the rule of law reigns supreme (Fred Gwynne).

    The film has cinema's shortest opening argument ("Everything that person just said is nonsense."), the best-ever introduction to the laws of criminal procedure, and a case that rests on expert testimony about tire marks left by a 1964 Skylark and the optimal grits boiling time.


    Trivia: Marisa Tomei won the Oscar for best supporting actress.

    Director: Jonathan Lynn | Stars: Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, Mitchell Whitfield

    Photo: facts.net
    Photo: facts.net
    Video: WorleyClarence's youtube channel
  11. The Lincoln Lawyer, directed by Brad Furman, stars Matthew McConaughey as Mick Haller, a defense attorney who works out of a Lincoln Continental. Mick's clients are mostly petty offenders, but he's unexpectedly offered the chance to represent a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy named Louis Ross Roulet, played by Ryan Phillippe, who's been charged with attempted murder.

    Mick first believes that the case will be simple and straightforward. But he soon discovers that there's more to it than meets the eye, and that it's linked to one of his prior cases.


    Trivia: After starring in the film, McConaughey went on to become a spokesman for the Lincoln brand in 2014.

    Director: Brad Furman | Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy

    Photo: pluggedin
    Photo: pluggedin
    Video: Lionsgate Movies's youtube channel
  12. On the surface, this appears to be a David vs. Goliath situation: Small-firm Boston plaintiffs lawyers are up against two corporations whose tannery, they've determined, is to blame for the deaths of eight children due to leukemia. However, at its foundation, this is a mature thriller about the deadly practical repercussions of demanding moral outcomes from a legal action more suited to risk-and-reward scenarios.

    Jan Schlichtmann, the business's senior partner, is played by John Travolta with sincerity, and his fury propels the firm into a war of attrition against a better-funded rival. Robert Duvall is excellent as the oddball Jerome Facher, a corporate lawyer who foresees Schlichtmann's every blunder.


    Facher gets the best lawyer line: “Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses and a hanging judge all put together. There is absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.”


    Trivia: Nominated for two Oscars. Schlichtmann still practices law in Beverly, Mass.

    Director: Steven Zaillian | Stars: John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Kathleen Quinlan, Tony Shalhoub

    Photo: imcdb
    Photo: imcdb
    Video: 2663KinkyCyborg's youtube channel
  13. In the historic 1925 Scopes "monkey trial" in backwoods Dayton, Tennessee, two grand old lions of the screen, Spencer Tracy and Frederic March, play two grand old lions of the law, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.

    The film is a dramatized story based on a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The characters' names have been changed, however slightly (Tracy's Darrow is Henry Drummond, and March's Bryan is Matthew Harrison Brady).

    However, much of the testimony in the courtroom was taken directly from the trial transcript. Americans haven't progressed much either; a federal judge in Pennsylvania was forced to rule on "intelligent design" 80 years later.


    Trivia: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” Proverbs 11:29

    Director: Stanley Kramer | Stars: Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Dick York

    Photo: britannica
    Photo: britannica
    Video: Movieclips Classic Trailers's youtube channel
  14. Enough said about Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. This film delves into the ugliness of divorce and the effects it has on children. As the impact of a contentious custody struggle hits hard, thrilling court hearing sequences will make you cringe and cry. Hoffman and Streep both received their first Academy Awards for the film, Hoffman for Best Actor and Streep for Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, making it one of only a few films to win all three major awards. The film won four Golden Globes before the Academy Awards.


    Trivia: Won five Oscars. For some of the most complex scenes, Hoffman leaned on his own recent experience with divorce.

    Director: Robert Benton | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, Justin Henry

    Photo: tuanlalarme
    Photo: tuanlalarme
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel
  15. The sequel to Michael Mann's epic Heat was a legal thriller based on a Vanity Fair piece based on a 60 Minutes segment about intense corporate espionage. That's a strong pedigree, and the film works as a legal thriller because to the central legal topic, which involves an attempt to circumvent attorney-client privilege by using a deposition. This was, at its core, a Big Tobacco film, made during a period in the 1990s when it appeared that enormous civic activities and daring whistleblowers acting in tandem with semi-righteous media would actually be able to solve some of our social issues. The Insider offers precisely the proper balance of legal knowledge and skepticism to avoid feeling stale. It turns out that corporate schemes are timeless.


    Director: Michael Mann | Stars: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora
    Photo: crimereads
    Photo: crimereads
    Video: Face Off's youtube channel
  16. Giuseppe and Gerry Conlon, a real-life father and son wrongfully accused of engaging in two separate IRA bombing sprees outside London, are played by Pete Postlethwaite and Daniel Day-Lewis. Their attempt to persuade British judges of their innocence is chronicled in the film.

    After 15 years, human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson) is able to prove that police officers tampered with interrogation records, leading the younger Conlon and his three accused co-conspirators to be released by a British court. After serving their sentences, six others were exonerated. Giuseppe Conlon, the seventh, died in prison.


    Trivia: Nominated for seven Oscars.

    Director: Jim Sheridan | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Alison Crosbie, Philip King

    Photo: blu-ray
    Photo: blu-ray
    Video: Movieclips Classic Trailers's youtube channel
  17. This "fixer" masterpiece, written and directed by Tony Gilroy, shined light on the underbelly of big business and BigLaw, whether fictional or not. The titular character, played by George Clooney, is a lawyer at a famous New York legal firm entrusted with cleaning up the firm's and its clients' problems. Denzel Washington declined the part and later expressed regret over his decision. With twists and turns and hired hitmen, the story revolves around possession of a classified document linking billion-dollar agricultural company U-North to known production of carcinogenic weed killer. The film explicitly mirrors the world of New York BigLaw by being insular, restrictive, and fast-paced. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including most of the major acting categories. For her creepily corporate portrayal as U-General North's Counsel, Tilda Swinton took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.


    Director: Tony Gilroy | Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Michael O'Keefe

    Photo: filmfreedonia
    Photo: filmfreedonia
    Video: Movieclips Classic Trailers's youtube channel
  18. Finally, a film about depositions that is structured around them. Also covered: the rise of social media, the new business titans of the century, the technological period, America, the world, and humanity's fate. However, the majority of my work consists of depositions. In his 2010 magnum opus, directed by David Fincher, scored by Trent Reznor, and best remembered for any of a dozen lines delivered by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and even Justin Timberlake, Aaron Sorkin's favorite dramatic legal device is put to great dramatic use. A deposition is a strange thing—a it's protracted session in which attorneys test out different methods for trapping a party in an inconvenient or even disastrous version of events. There are periods of tedium, furious verbal duels, and more tedium in the deposits. Under duress, even the most gifted minds can crumble. They can be really revealing occasions. In Sorkin's version, Zuckerberg is unable to conceal his contempt for the majority of humanity. Despite the fact that The Social Network does not take place in a courtroom, it is a legal thriller of the highest kind.


    Director: Tony Gilroy | Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Michael O'Keefe

    Photo: timeout
    Photo: timeout
    Video: Sony Pictures Entertainment's youtube channel
  19. The Meryl Streep train keeps rolling on this list, with this Australian trial drama marking Meryl's second entry. Streep's co-star this time was Sam Neill, who would go on to prominence in the United States as pastor Michael Chamberlain in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. Chamberlain's wife, Lindy, is on trial after their kid goes missing during a trip to the Australian Outback. The film demonstrates how public image and opinion can influence criminal procedures. It also contains one of the most famous movie lines, with Lindy declaring, “the dingo took my baby.” Streep was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress and won the same award at Cannes.


    In Australia and New Zealand, the film was titled Evil Angels, but in other countries, it was renamed.


    Director: Fred Schepisi | Stars: Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, Dale Reeves, David Hoflin

    Photo: goldderby
    Photo: goldderby
    Video: HD Retro Trailers's youtube channel
  20. In Sydney Pollack's film The Company, based on John Grisham's legal thriller of the same name, a young lawyer named Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) joins the ranks of a tiny and prestigious firm. Initially honored to be a member of the firm, McDeere quickly discovers, with the help of a receptionist portrayed by Holly Hunter, that there's more to the firm than meets the eye, and that it's involved in money laundering for the mob.

    When the FBI contacts McDeere to obtain information concerning his colleagues' behavior, he finds himself in a pickle. As a result, he must choose between doing what is right in the eyes of the law and making the best decision for his survival.


    Trivia: Holly Hunter’s performance lasts five minutes and 59 seconds, making it one of the shortest Oscar-nominated performances of all time.

    Director: Sydney Pollack | Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook

    Photo: idrawonmywall
    Photo: idrawonmywall
    Video: Movieclips's youtube channel



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