The Campaign For DA


Let's Begin: I'll Revise The List As We Go. Then Rank.

The 10 Best Legal Movies.

So far, these come to mind:

Edit: Now with current rankings.
  •  (1) 12 Angry Men (I listed it first by chance, but it may be the best.)
  •  (2) To Kill A Mockingbird (But, man, the prosecutor was horrible.)
  •  (5) A Time To Kill (The only Grisham film worthy)
  •  (3) My Cousin Vinny (more realistic than you think)
  •  (4) The Paper Chase (great law school movie)
  •  (6A) Jagged Edge (underrated)
  •  (10) Witness for the Prosecution (oldie but a goodie)
  •  Anatomy of a Murder (ditto)(And, I admit, it's been a long time since I've seen it and might under value it.)
  • (7) The People vs. Larry Flynt (Has the greatest line ever when the defense lawyer is simply fed up with him but Flynt replies with: "You don't want to quit me, I'm your dream client: I'm the most fun, I'm rich, and I'm always in trouble."
  •  A Few Good Men (overrated)
  •  (9) Philadelphia (better when you watch it now)
  •  (10) Devil's Advocate (Pacino's performance alone makes it worthy of the list)
  • (6) Presumed Innocent (Still confusing to me but very realistic if you want to know how a DA's office works, the pressure of being a defense lawyer and, more importantly, the pressure of being accused.)
  • (9) The Verdict (A great movie on legal ethics.)
  • Edit: Cape Fear. (This was nominated by a reader and I wanted to dismiss it because it wasn't a "legal" movie. But the more I think about it, it is exactly that. )
  • Edit: Fracture (Something about it just bugged me. I can't put my finger on it, though)
  • Edit: (8A) Primal Fear (I'm thinking it might go higher)
  • Edit: Suspect
  • Edit: Murder in the First
  • Edit: Sleepers
  • Edit: JFK
  • Edit: Kramer vs. Kramer
Edit: Nominated by readers but which I have not seen:
  • Justice For All
  • Body Heat
  • Lincoln Lawyer (my bad for not seeing this)
  • Absence of Malice
  • Inherit The Wind (how have not seen this?)
  • Judgment at Nuremberg 
  • Class Action
  • Ghosts of Mississppi
  • Life of David Gale
Disqualified as not being worthy:
  • Legal Eagles
  • Legally Blonde
  • The Firm
  • The Juror
  • The Rainmaker
  • The Pelican Brief
  • Runaway Jury (as you can tell, I don't think much of John Grisham movies because I don't think he ever spent time in the courtroom.)
  • Liar, Liar


Anonymous said...

Absence of Malice

Harry Hamid said...

The legal movie that was always mentioned when I was in law school was one called "Body Heat," with William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

I've never seen it, but every time it is brought up, it's brought up with the proviso that "every lawyer should see it."

Anonymous said...

oh my gawd berry this is so juvenile.

Anonymous said...

Barry, you missed the most obvious and best (with The Verdict being a close second)........And Justice For All!!! Al Pacino at his best!!

KILLER said...

Lincoln Lawyer

Anonymous said...

Love Absence of Malice. Maybe Newman's greatest role. Also, how about the 1996 film, Primal Fear. Good study in how a lawyer can be played by their client. Glad you included the oldies (Witness & Anatomy). Loved Charles Laughton & Jimmy Stewart in those classics. Good job, Barry.

DF Leonard Maltin

PS - I know it was a British TV series, but somehow it seems that Rumpole of the Bailey should be given an honorary mention. At least to remind folks of She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bu...

Your math isn't improving. The top 10 list has 14 movies listed.

Anonymous said...

And Justice for All: "I'm out of order, you're out of order, this whole courts out of order".

Anonymous said...

This appears to be the list of a smart racist. A true non-racist/non-homophobe liberal would have listed Philadelphia and The People vs OJ Simpson!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I know it's far afield, but toss in Sergeant Rutledge. Pretty good Western Drama that examined the early day race issue of black soldiers and institutional bias in a frontier court-martial.

DF Thurgood Marshall

Chan said...

The Insider

Sam Brows said...

Missing from the list: Inherit the Wind (spencer Tracey is awesome); Cape Fear; and Miracle on 34th Street.

Anonymous said...


Philadelphia (better when you watch it now)

11th entry on the list.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I know I was primarily television, but no love for me, Della, Hamilton, Tragg, and Paul?

DF Perry Mason

Anonymous said...

"You can't handle the truth!"

DF Ex-husband

whisky O said...

Judgement at Nuremberg
Great cast, nazis and shot in
black and white. Like judgement
should be.

Anonymous said...

The courtroom scene in John Adams is great when he defends the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre trial.

Anonymous said...

Have you not seen Fracture? With Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins? It's quite, quite good.

Baylor Too said...

If Anatomy of a Murder doesn't make top ten, then that is absurd.

"I'm just a humble country lawyer trying to do the best I can against this brilliant prosecutor from the big city of Lansing."

Anonymous said...

Humble lawyer? LMFAO

Anonymous said...

Why do I now have Judge Fostel in my head saying "Yutes? What's a yute?"
Thanks, Barry.

DF Judge Chamberlain Haller

Anonymous said...

"There never Aaron...counselor". Primal Fear with Richard Gere and Edward Norton, who faked a split personality to get out of being convicted for murder. Pretty good stuff, worthy of being considered for top 20, maybe not top ten.

Anonymous said...

The Juror, with Demi Moore and a Baldwin, was pretty darn good but maybe it's more in the mob movie class than lawyer class.

Anonymous said...

Class Action with Gene Hackman, True Believer with James Woods (also Ghosts of Mississippi).

You need to watch Inherit the Wind. One of my all time favorites - Henry Morgan is great as the judge, and it has great courtroom drama and a great biblical slant.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant Harry Morgan.

6:42 PM

Anonymous said...

God, not The Paper Chase. I thought it was awesome when I was a kid planning to go to law school. Watched it again recently as a long-practicing lawyer, and it is absolutely awful. If you also haven't seen it in 30 years, I suggest you take another look before thinking it's a top anything.

Anonymous said...

I didn't come here just to get jerked off

DF Ben Dover

Anonymous said...

Class Action


Anonymous said...

> Jackie Brown (horrible movie) but realistic as to a bail bondsman's life. Best line by the bondsman at the end of the movie he gets a bond call. He ask the caller "is the father in the home".

jon spencer said...

How about a top ten legal / attorney movies where the movie is actually showing and following legal procedure?

Anonymous said...

Michael Clayton is very underrated. "I'm not the guy you kill, I'm the guy you buy!"

Anonymous said...

murder in the first -
sleepers -
ghosts of mississippi

Anonymous said...


Mr. Mike Honcho said...

I have to agree with "12 Angry Men" at number 1. We watched it in High School and it still stops me down every time I see it.

I will also suggest a nomination for the "Not-On-This-List-But-Is-Sort-Of-A-Trial-Movie"; The OxBow Incident. Henry Fonda in one of his classic roles. Anthony Quinn also, Dana Andrews too. Harry Morgan... Classic Movie, Black and White, great cast, some cheesy characters and lines, but a really, really great movie.

DF Gil Carter

Anonymous said...

RE: The List

I think its funny you have 2 9's not a 9 and a 9A, but you do have an 8A, but no 8.

Double Fake Auditing Flashback

Goober said...

I'm not a lawyer, so all you lawyers can beat me up, but one conspicuously missing crime/law movie is "In Cold Blood". Or does it not count?

Anonymous said...

I'm not seeing The Caine Mutiny on there. WTF???
Why do you hate strawberries?

DF Capt. Queeg

Anonymous said...

Nobody has mentioned Kramer vs. Kramer.

Anonymous said...

Life of David Gale? Kevin Spacey. Kate Winslet. Set in Texas. Anti-death penalty. Surprised you aren't all over this one.

Anonymous said...

The accused