Your Lawyer’s Top 5 Lawyer Movies

In honor of the holiday weekend, I’m providing one of my favorite kinds of legal advice: what are the best lawyer movies?

5. The Verdict

Critics love this film and so do I. It’s amazing how many different types of roles Paul Newman was great in. Butch Cassidy, Slapshot, Cool Hand Luke… add this one to the list.

Here, he stars as Frank Galvin, an alcoholic lawyer determined to restore his own self-respect by trying and winning a medical malpractice case that is crawling with corruption from almost everyone involved. The movie is half sympathetic character study, half nail-biting courtroom drama.

4. Presumed Innocent

This one is adapted from Scott Turow’s masterpiece of a book and like that book, the movie is intricately plotted and stuffed with important details.

It follows a big-name prosecutor (Harrison Ford) who takes a turn sitting in the defendant’s chair when he is charged with the murder of one of his colleagues. As he teams up with a former courtroom rival (Raul Julia) to represent him, twists and turns ensue.

3. Reversal of Fortune

Another academy award-magnet. This one is adapted from the book by Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, about a real-life murder trial in which he represented the defendant.

Jeremy Irons plays Claus von Bülow, a dislike-able rich guy who may or may not have tried to kill his wife (Glenn Close), putting her in a permanent coma. This movie won’t give you a clear answer on who killed whom, but it will give you remarkable performances by the main cast and some important insights on everybody’s right to a fair trial.

2. My Cousin Vinny

On a lighter note, this movie is not only full of comedic gold, but surprisingly accurate in its portrayal of the legal process. It follows Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci), an audacious, rookie New York lawyer, as he tries his first case in the middle of small-town Alabama… but the stakes are high because the defendants are his cousin and friend and the charge is murder.

Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster!) as the judge is priceless and Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for her role as Vinny’s girlfriend and muse.

Seriously, go and watch it.

1. Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind is a classic and my all-time favorite lawyer story. It was this portrayal of the famous attorney, Clarence Darrow (along with my inability to hit a curveball) that inspired me to become a lawyer.

A fictionalized version of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, it depicts a science teacher who is prosecuted for teaching evolution in the 1920s, leading two of the country’s top lawyers to go head-to-head over his case: Henry Drummond (played by Spencer Tracey and based on Clarence Darrow) and Matthew Harrison Brady, a populist politician, fresh off a presidential run, who denies accepted science (played by Frederic March, based on William Jennings Bryan).

A timeless take on a timeless debate.

Honorable Mentions

  • …And Justice for All
  • The Rainmaker
  • The Firm



About Author

Chicago Accident Lawyer Steven A. Sigmond

Chicago attorney Steven A. Sigmond, a trial lawyer with 35 years experience representing injury victims, blogs about legal news and topics of interest from a trial lawyer's perspective.

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