While the courtroom scenes in movies are much different from what takes place in reality, there’s no denying the fictional dynamic and drama is gripping to watch. It may not surprise you to know that courtroom dramas are popular within the law community regardless of their accuracy, and everyone has a favourite. With the Oscars coming up this weekend, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite (even funny) courtroom movies. Let us know what your favourite is?
Miracle on 34th Street (1948) – This story that puts Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas on trial won Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Writing, Original Story, Best Writing, Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Picture.
12 Angry Men (1957) – Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. 12 Angry Men tells the story of a jury hold-out who advocates for the defendant in an attempt to prevent a miscarriage of justice.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – Based on an Agatha Christie play, this film features a master barrister in ill health who takes on a new a client, despite the objections of health care professionals who warn him against taking on any criminal cases. Strong circumstantial evidence points to a killer, but the master barrister believes otherwise.
Inherit the Wind (1960) – Nominated for Best Actor, Best Writing, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, Inherit the Wind is a fictionalised account of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes’s conviction for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrary to a Tennessee state law.
Judgement at Nuremberg (1962) – Set in 1948, an American court takes place in occupied Germany to put four Nazi judges on trial for war crimes. This film won Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – The winner of 3 Oscars and nominated for 5 others, To Kill a Mockingbird features legendary and fictitious lawyer, Atticus Finch, as he defends a black man against an unwarranted rape charge in the depression era southern US. Along the way, he also educates his children against racial prejudice.
The Verdict (1982) – Nominated for five Oscars, The Verdict was directed by Sidney Lumet and written by David Mamet. Paul Newman plays a drunken lawyer who tries to get his life back on track with a medical malpractice case.
The War of the Roses (1989) – Danny DeVito narrates this black comedy, which follows the bitter divorce proceedings of a once happily married wealthy couple, played by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
My Cousin Vinny (1992) – Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, along side Joe Pesci. Pesci, and unorthodox lawyer, comes to the rescue of his nephew who has been wrongfully accused of murder.
Liar Liar (1997) – Jim Carrey stars in this legal comedy. He plays an ambitious lawyer that can’t lie for 24 hours as a result of his disappointed son’s birthday wish.
The Rainmaker (1997) – Based on John Grisham’s 1995 novel, Matt Damon plays a young lawyer who works with an ambulance chaser (Danny DeVito), to expose a corrupt insurance company that made millions by scamming their clients.
A Civil Action (1998) – Nominated for two Oscars, A Civil Action stars John Travolta and Robert Duvall and is based on Jonathan Harr’s true story about a class action environmental pollution case in Woburn, Massachusetts. A lawsuit was filed after multiple townspeople died from leukemia and cancer, which were caused as a result of pollution from two corporations, Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace.
Philadelphia (1993) – Starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, this movie was inspired by the story of Geoffrey Bowers. Tom Hanks plays a successful lawyer at a high-profile law firm who sued his firm for unfair dismissal after they discovered he was gay and had AIDS. The only lawyer willing to advocate for his case was a young attorney, played by Denzel Washington. This movie made waves, as it was the first mainstream Hollywood film to change the conversation about HIV and AIDS. Philadelphia went on to win two Oscars; Tom Hanks for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song.
Erin Brockovich (2000) – Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of the real-life Brockovich, a legal assistant who discovers a utility corporation’s attempts to cover-up the poisoning of a town’s water supply. The case would become one of the largest class action lawsuits in American history.