Injustice revelations, corrupt systems, politicians, and plot twists can make you rewind the entire film to a certain point because you missed one tiny dialogue. Courtroom movies are like that. But they are not a new trend and have been here for ages, not just in movies but in books as well, from classics like ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird‘ and ‘The Wrong Man’ to modern emotional movies like ‘The Judge.’ There are different reasons to watch such movies; maybe you love the intense drama that revolves around courtroom debates, or you want to learn more about the historical significance of an event. Some of these movies prove to be educational for aspiring lawyers, and some of them hold political and historical significance that can add value to anyone’s general knowledge.
16. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (2019)
A sensational retelling of an already sensational case – that of serial killer Ted Bundy – from the point of view of his long-time romantic partner. His girlfriend, who refused to believe the truth about her serial killer boyfriend for a long time, opens her eyes to the monster that he is in this compelling and thrilling film that stars Zac Efron as the charismatic, magnetic, compulsively watchable Ted Bundy. The reason we’ve put this film so low on this list is that it feels more like an emotional/romantic drama than a lawyer movie or a courtroom drama (even though it is). The film spends too much time focusing on Bundy’s love life than on his damaged psyche. You can watch the movie here.
15. Shepherds and Butchers (2016)
When a prison guard is accused of an inmate’s murder and stands trial in court, a jaded lawyer takes up his case and argues that the prison guard was not in his right mind but traumatized from the executions he has previously taken part in. The grim film seeks to expose the horrors and evils of capital punishment, painstakingly setting up collateral damage as well. The script is well-written, and the performances are solid if only lacking a little in their depth. Not the best courtroom drama out there, but this Oliver Schmitz directorial is worth a watch. You may watch the film here.
14. Yara (2021)
An exhilarating courtroom drama, ‘Yara,’ directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, follows the aftermath of the murder of 13-year-old Yara Gambirasio. The shocking murder ends up dividing the town of Brembate di Sopra into two as people clamor for the murderer to be brought to justice. In such a tumultuous setting, prosecutor Letizia Ruggeri has no leads other than a trace DNA to convict the perpetrator. Thus, the scene is set for a brilliant courtroom drama as the prosecutor tries to detect and convict the criminal based on the power of arguments. Feel free to check out the movie here.
13. In Defense of a Married Man (1990)
This one is an oldie but goodie. The premise is so interesting – a man having an extra-marital affair becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend and has to lawyer up. Who’s the lawyer? The very wife he was cheating on. ‘In Defense of a Married Man’ is a satisfyingly soapy, made-for-TV movie that features some brilliant acting and a script that draws you in. The viewers can feel the lawyer’s pain when she has to defend in court the very man who has wronged her with his philandering ways. But she chooses to do justice to her profession rather than being vindictive. You can check out the film here.
12. The Laundromat (2019)
This star-studded film about the real-life scandal of the Panama Papers and a money manipulation scam is headed by Meryl Streep. But even the legendary Streep’s presence is not enough to elevate a dry script and make this appear as an entry much higher on this list. The story, direction, and acting jobs are all very well done, but the narrative of the film loses its footing at times and becomes way too boring when it goes into unnecessary details of money laundering, possibly in an ill-advised bid to keep away from sensationalizing the whole scandal. Just watch it for its stellar star cast (Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman star as the corrupt lawyers helping rich individuals with their tax evasion and whatnot). You can watch ‘The Laundromat’ here.
11. A Fall From Grace (2020)
When a woman is jailed for the murder of her husband, a rookie lawyer believes that things just don’t add up and starts an investigation of her own. When the woman denies killing her husband, the lawyer knows she has to find out the truth at all costs. Clearly, the truth is something entirely different, and her client is being framed, especially since the dead body was never found. She might be a novice in court, but the attorney gives her all to make sure she does not mess it up for her client. The story is gripping, though predictable, and the performances are convincing. There’s a twist towards the end that may come as a surprise to most viewers. Overall, a compelling courtroom drama/ murder mystery movie. You may watch it here.
10. Seeing Allred (2018)
‘Seeing Allred’ is an interesting documentary that follows women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and documents her firebrand court performances as she fights famous people charged with sexual misconduct and assault. The attorney, who is considered a stalwart in her field, undertook various controversial cases and has fought for women’s rights against popular figures, including senators and Hollywood personalities. The film aims to be a tribute to her incredible work and offers an authentic insight into her life through photographs, archival footage, and interviews. You may watch ‘Seeing Allred’ here.
9. Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)
Based on the 2018 namesake novel by Delia Owens, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ tells the story of Catherine “Kya” Clark. At the start of the film, she is accused of murder. The narrative then shifts back as Kya begins telling her story. After being abandoned by her family, she grows up all alone in the marshes of North Carolina, shunned by the townsfolk. It is eventually revealed that the person Kya supposedly killed is none other than her boyfriend and local quarterback Chase Andrews, whom she broke up with after discovering that he is already engaged to another young woman. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, a considerable portion of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ takes place inside a courtroom. You can stream the film here.
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8. Monster (2021)
‘Monster’ revolves around Steve Harmon, a typical seventeen-year-old honors student who does brilliantly at school. A film student at an elite Harlem school, he feels content in his everyday life and even looks forward to the future. However, in a sudden twist of fate, his world comes crashing down when he is shockingly charged with felony murder. Steve unexpectedly loses the luxury he had taken for granted as he is forced to confront a criminal justice system to prove his innocence and integrity. With the justice system already holding a preconceived notion, convincing them otherwise seems like a mountainous task, which the movie wonderfully documents through incredible courtroom scenes. You can stream ‘Monster’ here.
7. Damini (1993)
Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, ‘Damini’ is an Indian Hindi-language film that tells the story of the eponymous character (Meenakshi Seshadri), who marries Shekhar Gupta (Rishi Kapoor), a wealthy businessman and the son of an affluent family. During the celebration of Holi, a horrified Damini discovers Shekhar’s younger brother, Rakesh (Ashwin Kaushal), and his friends raping Urmi (Prajakta), the young woman who works for the family. She tells Shekhar, who is too late to stop it. As the Gupta family tries to hide Rakesh’s crime, Damini goes to the police and is vilified by her in-laws and their lawyer in court. Damini is institutionalized for two weeks, but she escapes and eventually finds Govind (Sunny Deol), an alcoholic lawyer with nothing to lose. With Govind’s help, Damini takes on her in-laws as well as the Indian judicial system. You can stream ‘Damini’ here.
6. Jana Gana Mana (2022)
Directed by Dijo Jose Antony, ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is an Indian Malayalam-language film that takes place in the aftermath of the murder of a college professor. While a protest by the students of the college is suppressed, public outrage at large makes the state government appoint Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Sajjan Kumar (Suraj Venjaramoodu) to look into the case. Unfortunately, the action he takes against the culprits lands him in court and a prosecution represented by Advocate Aravind Swaminathan (Prithviraj Sukumaran). What follows is the revelation of multiple truths concerning both Kumar and Swaminathan, which are rooted deep within the government itself. It is a gripping story that holds onto your attention and doesn’t let it go for a second. You can watch the movie here.
5. Worth (2021)
Another biographical drama, ‘Worth’ takes place in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that shook the entire world. However, the movie gives us a different view of the cost of life, and one can even say that it is a rather literal one. Renowned attorney Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) is appointed to lead the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which was formed to allocate financial resources to the families of the victims. But can there really be a way to calculate how much a life is ‘worth’? Directed by Sara Colangelo, this one is a must-watch. You may watch the film here.
4. Marshall (2017)
A king takes on the role of the supreme judge in Reginald Hudlin’s ‘Marshall.’ In other words, Chadwick Boseman is Thurgood Marshall, who would go on to become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. But his journey wasn’t easy, to say the least. At a time when racial prejudice was rampant, and we are talking about the 1940s here, Marshall traveled the country defending black people who were accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Boseman shines as the titular character in this biographical drama that provides an authentic portrayal of law during those times. Feel free to check it out here.
3. The Mauritanian (2021)
Adapted from the New York Times best-selling memoir “Guantánamo Diary” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, ‘The Mauritanian’ tells the story of Slahi himself, who was imprisoned for being a suspect in the 9/11 attacks without proper charges at Guantanamo Bay military prison camp, the costliest prison on Earth, located in Cuba. Defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) take up his case and fight the American government, uncovering evidence that throws light on shocking, if not horrifying, truths about the camp and the politics involved. ‘The Mauritanian’ is bound to have a lasting impact on you, and you will most probably end up looking up Guantanamo Bay on the internet. You can check out the film here.
2. The Firm (1993)
A legal thriller drama featuring Tom Cruise is a rarity, but it does exist in the form of ‘The Firm,’ directed by Sydney Pollack. Harvard law grad Mitch McDeere (Cruise) says yes to the offer made by a small but growing firm that promises a lot of money. But when two lawyers are killed in an explosion, McDeere’s suspicion starts to grow until he is approached by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, who tell him that the firm he works for has ties with the underworld. Already facing persecution, McDeere has two options: either help the officials get their hands on intel about the firm or die at the hands of the firm’s security, who know he has been approached by the FBI. McDeree’s choice lands him in the middle of a game of life and death. What more can you want from a legal drama that has Tom Cruise on the run? You can watch ‘The Firm’ here.
1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
A fascinating historical legal drama film, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7‘ is directed by Aaron Sorkin. It chronicles the trial of several anti-Vietnam War protestors who crossed state lines intending to incite a riot at Chicago’s 1968 Democratic National Convention. Charged with trying to start a riot, the group faces trial by jury in front of a legal system that is heavily against them. From the very beginning, the judge shows extreme amounts of prejudice towards the prosecution, making it quite challenging for the defense attorneys to prove their points. Moreover, the abuse of violent punishment threatens to jeopardize the trial. Chock full of nail-biting drama and heartwrenching emotions, this incredible legal drama is a must-watch for courtroom movie lovers. You may watch it here.
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