10 Best Courtroom Movies of All Time

Justice is one of the foremost fundamental rights of human beings. While different civilizations left their footprints on the face of earth, it was the law of the land that made or broke them. Along its way, the law took various forms and many turns to become strong and rigid. But it were those stories or incidents that made the law to be equipped to help the helpless from the clutches of the evil. At times it were a couple fighting for their love. Sometimes it was a man fighting for his fundamental rights. And at times, it came down to the humanity to fight against a tyrant.

All these made some great cases. And from those cases, came out some great movies. We, at The Cinemaholic, present the list of top courtroom drama movies of all time. Some of them can also be classified as legal thriller movies. You can also stream some of these best courtroom drama movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

10. Michael Clayton (2007)

A lawyer, tired from the ongoing problem in his life, stops the car on a deserted place. He walks out of the car to admire a group of horses grazing when he suddenly his car bursts to flame. And thus starts Michael Clayton’s tryst with a system ridden with lies, guilt, corruption and that one thing that goes missing in everybody involved but him – ethics. George Clooney plays the titular character with such elan that he stands apart between giants such as Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson and Sydney Pollack. Playing a fixer in a law firm , who gets into trouble for standing his ground, Clooney keeps it right on the edge.

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9. Philadelphia (1994)

A disease which cannot be named. A disease that made people shun the patient. Such was the infamy of AIDS. ‘Philadelphia’ brought out the harassment and the ostracism that people diagnosed with it, faced. A man employed at a corporate legal firm is sacked in the guise of him being unfit for the job, while in the reality, it’s the disease that made the top honchos take the decision. As several lawyers refuse to represent him as he challenges the decision in the court of law, he takes it on himself to clean his name. His fight for survival makes even the staunchest of homophobic listen to him. Tom Hanks won his first academy award for best actor for his portrayal of the man wronged by the system.

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8. A Few Good Men (1992)

A soldier remains at his post at the border, brandishing his weapon and ready to lay down his life, for the country. But does his bravery, give him the leeway to restrict the civil right of a fellow soldier? Adapted for the big screen from the stage play of same name, ‘A Few Good Men’ is about a few good men trying to fight for the meek and the oppressed. A soldier dies at GITMO and the blame goes to couple of fellow soldiers for their negligence. While the soldiers plead that they were under order to punish the soldiers, it comes to one of the most laziest of military lawyers to take up their case. What unfurls next on screen is the coming-of-age performance of Tom Cruise and the sheer brilliance of that man- Jack Nicholson. And as the curtain comes down, it keeps reverberating in your ears.

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7. Kramer vs Kramer (1979)

People fall in love, get married and then all of a sudden, fall out of love. While the immediate next step is to separate, it’s the children who bear the brunt of the separation. But can the court of law decide which parent can love the child most? ‘Kramer Vs Kramer’ tells a poignant story of a couple and their bitter fight of the custody of their son. The characters probably mirror our own selves. While we see them fighting out an ugly mudslinging legal fight, it’s our own dark selves that we see on screen. Starring Dustin Hoffman and the marvellous Meryl Streep, this movie won five academy awards including best film, best director, best actor and best supporting actor.

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6. A Man For All Seasons (1966)

In 16th century London, there were two power positions. Vatican and the Royals. When the king Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage, it was obvious that the Vatican will oppose it. So the king wanted himself to be declared as the supreme leader of the church. When the king asks, everybody obey. Well, not everybody was Sir Thomas More. History portrays him as a man of conscience who stood firmly on his beliefs and was beheaded for treason as he refused to bow down to the king’s whims. The movie depicts his final days in the court of law where he’s tried for treason. The movie was a huge success and won six academy awards including best picture, best director and best actor for Paul Scofield for his brilliant act as More.

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5. In The Name Of The Father (1993)

Entangled in between the age old feud of the English and the IRA, this is the true story of Gerry Conlon and his father Giuseppe and their struggle of fifteen years of the injustice meted to them. At the heights of IRA insurgency, Gerry is arrested as a suspected bomber and soon his father follows suit. Over years, the father and son with different perspectives of their own mend their relationship and as the father dies, the son continues the legal fight to prove their innocence. Nominated for seven academy awards and winning none, this movie remains as one of the most finest works of Daniel Day Lewis as the protagonist.

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4. Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)

A lawyer gets a call from a woman, who claims her husband, a lieutenant killed a man because he violated her modesty. As the legal proceedings begin, more facts tumble-down about the questionable character of the woman. Thus it becomes a case where the public prosecutor argues about the murder being a cold-blooded one where as the defence lies its faith on ‘irresistible impulse’ which questions the sanity of the murderer at the time of killing. Playing the lawyers at loggerheads, James Stewart and George C Scott gave electrifying performances as it turns out to be a game of wits over allegations. A cinematic masterpiece, ‘Anatomy Of A Murder’ was nominated for seven academy awards.

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3. Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)

The atrocities against the Jews will probably go down in the history as one of the most cruel decisions of one mad German. For modern-day historians, it’s probably the most heinous crime ever to have occurred, during WWII. It took shape as the final solution of the so-called Jew Problem and resulted in deaths of innocents. But how did the Germans reach to the consensus so ghastly in nature? ‘Judgement at Nuremberg’ explores this question as four German judges stand trial for having sentenced innocents to death during the Nazi regime. Based on the actual trials, this movie brings out the reasons behind the cruelty that men exude in the guise of accountability. True to its tag line, it’s an extraordinary motion picture that explodes into greatness.

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2. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

In a racially divided country, when an African-American man got accused of rape, of that of a white woman, there’s no point of guessing how the people would have reacted. At the peak of racial injustices, when a court full of white people were baying for his blood, it came down to one man to fight the case. One white man, named Atticus Finch. He fought valiantly to put forward the fact that all men are created equals in the court of law, be it coloured or not. His efforts go futile, as the court pronounces the man guilty. But what stays back with the viewer is the lesson that Atticus Finch inculcates into his children. That is, ‘you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’. Based on Harper Lee’s bestseller of the same name and starring Gregory Peck as the protagonist, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is one of the greatest movies of all time.

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1. 12 Angry Men (1957)

A 18 year old boy is accused of stabbing his father and the jury of twelve men deliberate on their decision to vote him guilty. All jurors vote guilty but one. And thus starts the epic tale of ’12 Angry Men’. One of the rarest movies that does not boast of exquisite visuals or melodrama but simply relies on its content. In a claustrophobic room, the 12 jurors contemplate their views about the guilt of the accused. As time progresses and facts start to materialise from their angry discussions, it becomes evident that with a reasonable doubt about the crime and the way it was committed, it is very difficult to pronounce a man guilty. One of the greatest movies of all time, this movie has inspired movie makers as well as law makers world-wide.

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