Lawyers often get the short end of the stick in film, television and books. Attorneys are basically seen as little more than walking punchlines by most filmmakers, even though the expertise of these individuals is the only thing that allows Hollywood to stay afloat in the stormy waters of intellectual property.
These 5 movies may exaggerate things a bit to make the life of a lawyer seem more exciting than it really is, but they at least give these legal professionals a fair shake while throwing them into exciting adventures.
5. A Time to Kill
This brutal, no-holds-barred film captures southern racism at its worst and humanity at its best. Following an unspeakable crime, a father seeks revenge for his child and is defended in the courtroom amidst the hate and violence of a small town that seems not to have gotten the memo about Jim Crow.
While a bit extravagant at times, A Time to Kill is a challenging and relentless film that will stir emotions in even the most hardened viewers.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
The all time classic starring Gregory Peck as ‘Atticus Finch’, the semi-fictional lawyer inspired by author Harper Lee‘s father. Finch is perhaps the inspiration for many of today’s legal professionals to have gotten into the field.
The injustice presented in the courtroom in this film, contrasted with the basic decency of people like Finch, makes it a timeless classic and one of the most frighteningly honest films of its time.
3. The Pelican Brief
We could conceivably fill this entire list up with Grisham stories, so we’ll stop at two. The Pelican Brief helped to launch Julia Roberts‘ career as well as a whole film genre following lawyers who poke around and wind up on the wrong side of dangerous and powerful people.
A recurring theme in many of these books is corruption, casting lawyers in the role of white and dark knights, fighting for and against various forms of authority and justice. A lot of this started in The Pelican Brief.
2. The Lincoln Lawyer
Perhaps more noir than courtroom drama, The Lincoln Lawyer is a fast paced, hard boiled crime story that follows a young attorney who seems to escape the bad guys by the skin of his teeth time after time.
Bordering on an action film about lawyers, The Lincoln Lawyer is rarely realistic, but never boring.
1. Inherit the Wind
The impassioned speech contained within this film, spoken in the name of rational thought and science cements this film as legend and stands alone as a brilliant defense of progressive thinking.
Featuring a great performance from Spencer Tracy and another from Frederick March, this real-life courtroom drama remains controversial to this day.
Honorable Mention: 12 Angry Men
12 Angry Men may not feature any lawyers in the primary roles, but it stands as one of the greatest films ever to focus on a courtroom drama.
Looking at the heart of the judicial system and asking what’s really going on when 12 strangers convict a young man to die, the original 12 Angry Men is a fearless and powerful testament to the strength of decency and honesty in a world that is often too quick to swallow emotionally provocative lures.