Best Courtroom Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best courtroom movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘The Rainmaker’ (1997) – Francis Ford Coppola

Matt Damon starred as a rising lawyer taking on Jon Voight’s veteran attorney in an insurance scandal over a denied claim based on the John Grisham novel.

29. ‘The Firm’ (1993) – Sydney Pollack

Also based on a John Grisham novel, Tom Cruise’s law grad is hired by Gene Hackman’s corrupt law firm, which is busy laundering money in the Cayman Islands.

28. ‘Primal Fear’ (1996) – Gregory Hoblit

Edward Norton won a Golden Globe as an altar boy accused of murdering a priest, pitting Richard Gere vs. Laura Linney in court.

27. ‘Just Mercy’ (2020) – Destin Daniel Cretton

Michael B. Jordan shines as an ACLU lawyer helping Jamie Foxx get off death row with shocking statistics of wrongful incarceration.

26. ‘The Accused’ (1988) – Jonathan Kalpan

Jodie Foster won the first of her two Oscars as a rape victim who teams up with a woman prosecutor to bring the perpetrators to justice.

25. ‘My Cousin Vinny’ (1992) – Jonathan Lynn

“What’s a yute?” Marisa Tomei won an Oscar as the fiancée of Joe Pesci’s loudmouthed lawyer in this courtroom comedy classic.

24. ‘Legally Blonde’ (2001) – Robert Luketic

Reese Witherspoon gave her most famous performance as sorority queen Elle Woods, who goes to law school and wins the case.

23. ‘Disorder in the Court’ (1936) – Jack White

The Three Stooges were never better than when Larry, Moe and Curly stand witness at their friend’s murder trial.

22. ‘A Man for All Seasons’ (1966) – Fred Zinnemann

This Best Picture winner saw Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) battle King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) over an attempt to divorce in the Catholic Church.

21. ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ (2018) – Barry Jenkins

Regina King won an Oscar as a mother trying to free her pregnant daughter’s boyfriend from rape charges as Barry Jenkins adapts James Baldwin’s novel.

20. ‘A Time to Kill’ (1996) – Joel Schumacher

Samuel L. Jackson is accused of murdering two white men who raped his daughter in this adaptation of John Grisham’s novel.

19. ‘Loving’ (2016) – Jeff Nichols 

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga challenge a law banning interracial marriage in this touching account of Loving v. Virginia.

18. ‘Inherit the Wind’ (1960) – Stanley Kramer

Spencer Tracy and Frederic March recreate the real-life 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” surrounding whether schools should teach evolution.

17. ‘And Justice for All’ (1979) – Norman Jewison

Al Pacino exposed corruption in the justice system by turning on his own client to say, “This whole courtroom is out of order!”

16. ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947) – George Seaton

A man named Kris Kringle goes on trial to prove whether or not he is Santa Claus, as Natalie Wood tugs on his beard for proof.

15. ‘JFK’ (1991) – Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone addressed JFK assassination conspiracies when Kevin Costner’s character exposed multiple bullet theories on the Grassy Knoll.

14. ‘Erin Brockovich’ (2000) – Steven Soderbergh

Julia Roberts finally won her Oscar as a single mom who brings down a power company polluting the city’s water supply.

13. ‘A Cry in the Dark’ (1988) – Fred Schepisi 

Based on a real-life case in Australia, Meryl Streep entered a phrase into the pop culture when she insisted a dingo stole her baby.

12. ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ (1959) – Otto Preminger

James Stewart battles George C. Scott in the case of a man accused of murdering the man who raped his wife (Lee Remick).

11. ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ (1961) – Stanley Kramer

Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift recreate the 1946 Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war crimes.

10. ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ (1957) – Billy Wilder

Defense attorney Charles Laughton blinds his witnesses with a monocle, while Marlene Dietrich steals the show with testimony.

9. ‘Adam’s Rib’ (1949) – George Cukor

Husband-and-wife lawyers battle over a woman (Judy Holliday) who shot her husband in the best of all Hepburn-Tracy pictures.

8. ‘Rashomon’ (1950) – Akira Kurosawa

A heinous crime is recalled from four different points of view, as viewers try to crack the case over who’s telling the truth.

7. ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979) – Robert Benton

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep both won Oscars as a divorced husband and wife battling for custody of their son.

6. ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957) – Stanley Kubrick

World War I officer Kirk Douglas defends French soldiers accused of cowardice in a life-or-death court-martial case.

5. ‘A Few Good Men’ (1992) – Rob Reiner

Aaron Sorkin adapted his own play about Guantanamo Bay in which Jack Nicholson famously shouted at Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!”

4. ‘The Verdict’ (1982) – Sidney Lumet

A once sketchy lawyer finds his own morality while prosecuting a case of medical malpractice in this David Mamet script.

3. ‘Philadelphia’ (1993) – Jonathan Demme

Denzel Washington defended Tom Hanks’ AIDS victim in this pivotal LGBT victory set to Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-winning song.

2. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962) – Robert Mulligan

Gregory Peck made Atticus Finch the AFI’s top hero, defending a black man accused of rape in Harper Lee’s seminal civil rights tale.

 

1. ’12 Angry Men’ (1957) – Sidney Lumet

Set entirely in the sweaty deliberation room, Henry Fonda’s Juror No. 8 is the sole juror defending a man’s innocence.

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