10 courtroom dramas that will make you seize

1. Twelve angry men (1957)

Classics never get old and this movie is a perfect example.

Some law students, lawyers and jury consultants would study it to better understand the psychology of jurors. Among other things, this film is a great cinematic exploration of human psychology.

In the story, a young boy is on trial for the alleged murder of his father. The jury quickly reaches its conclusion, until the juror 8, a man of principle, demands a thorough deliberation.

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

Originally released in 1954 as a television play, written by Reginald Rose, it was adapted for a film, directed by Sidney Lumet, in 1957.

Evidence that a movie doesn’t need large sets to get you hooked.

2. Kill a mockingbird (1962)

One of the best audience dramas ever made. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by the 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner Harper Lee.

Defense attorney Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) represents Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman. In this famous scene, he asks the jury members to return a verdict based on the evidence presented, not on prejudice against black people in 1930s America.

Lawyer Finch’s cutting-edge and inspiring speech undoubtedly encouraged many to go to law school, and countless others to reject racism and discrimination.

3. A few good men (1992)

The legal drama over the court martial of two US Marines charged with the murder of a colleague and the tribulations of their lawyers as they confront the military establishment.

One cross-examination scene in particular is ace, as are Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.

“Don’t call me son, I’m a lawyer and an officer in the United States Navy and you’re under arrest, son of a bitch. The witness is excused.” What a scene!

Tom Cruise in "A few good men."
Tom Cruise stars in “A Few Good Men” alongside Jack Nicholson.

4. my cousin vinny (1992)

Two brothers are on trial for a murder they did not commit, but they cannot afford a lawyer. They therefore hire their inexperienced cousin, Vinny, who has just passed his bar exam.

A courtroom comedy drama, this film is packed with fun moments in part thanks to its cast; Joe Pesci is excellent in the role of Vinny, as is Marisa Tomei in an Oscar-winning supporting role as Vinny’s girlfriend.

Watch out for Tomei who is facing an overconfident lawyer.

5. Primary fear (1996)

A psychological thriller in which a troubled altar boy (Edward Norton) with a personality disorder convinces Chicago defense attorney (Richard Gere) to defend him in a murder case.

This cross-examination of Laura Linney is powerful, but not necessarily realistic; saying “I would stab him 78 times” in front of a judge would likely raise an objection to inappropriate language.

But if it was realistic, it wouldn’t be so dramatic.

6. The revenge of a blonde (2001)

The revenge of a blonde
Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde

Fashionable and naive Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), is dumped by her boyfriend but decides to follow him to law school. There, she regains her self-confidence and proves that women can be in touch with their feminine side and also be smart and be successful in their careers.

In this scene, Elle looks unconfident, but once she finds the right line of questioning, she gets an unexpected result, better than she expected.

7. Jury on the run (2003)

Underrated legal thriller based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham.

A widow decides to sue a gun manufacturer on the grounds that the company’s gross negligence resulted in the death of her husband. During the trial, a juror inside and a woman outside will attempt to manipulate the outcome.

One particular scene in which a potential juror claims to want to apologize sets the tone for what’s to come.

8. How to get away with a murder (2014-2020)

A group of law students and their tough criminal defense professor are involved in a shocking murder plot.

Viola Davis stars as Annalize Keating, the heart and soul of the series and a candid defense attorney with a no-frills approach to the law.

If in Twelve angry men, Juror 8 shows a gentle, calm and questioning manner, Keating’s tactics are quite the opposite.

This is Annalize Keating, in a superb cross-examination.

9. the good woman (2009-2016)

CBS’s acclaimed legal and political drama series about Alicia Florrick, a good wife who resumes her career as a defense lawyer when her politician husband lands in jail over a corruption scandal.

The Seven Seasons TV Show has a lot of good times given that there are over 150 episodes. When Alicia is in court, she usually nails it down and captures all of the public’s attention.

ten. The good fight (2017)

The spin-off and sequel to The good wife. The series follows the ever-fabulous Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, a champion of women’s causes who loses her job and money to a financial scam that also destroys her goddaughter and fellow lawyer Maia Rindell. They then join Lucca Quinn in a large company in Chicago.

The show offers cutting edge social commentary on issues such as #MeToo, disinformation, internet trolls, and the Trump administration.

The courtroom scenes are crisp and will hold you firmly to your seat.

About Victoria Rothstein

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