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386 voters

The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made

Updated April 30, 2021 2.6k votes 386 voters 31.2k views46 items

List RulesMust deal with courtroom drama

A good courtroom drama can be suspenseful, heartbreaking, hopeful, smart, and even action packed if done well. The American legal system is so compelling that scores of drama movies have been made about it. From the David vs. Goliath lawsuit movies to those about defense attorneys defending an innocent man, the modern legal drama is often a testament to good acting and great filmmaking. Here are the best of the courtroom movie genre as selected by you, the user. Just vote up the movies you love or, even better, add your own list with commentary and video.

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  • 1

    12 Angry Men

    Jack Lemmon, James Gandolfini
    109
    24

    Released1997

    Directed byWilliam Friedkin

    12 Angry Men is a 1997 television film directed by William Friedkin, adapted from the Reginald Rose teleplay of the same title. It is a remake of the film of 1957....  more
  • 2

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck
    90
    21

    Released1962

    Directed byRobert Mulligan

    To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 American drama film directed by Robert Mulligan. The screenplay by Horton Foote was based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee. It...  more
  • 3

    A Few Good Men

    Tom Cruise, Demi Moore
    84
    35

    Released1992

    Directed byRob Reiner

    A Few Good Men is a 1992 American legal drama film directed by Rob Reiner, based on the play by Aaron Sorkin. Military lawyer Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) defends Marines accused of murder,...  more
  • 4

    My Cousin Vinny

    Marisa Tomei, Joe Pesci
    77
    30

    Released1992

    Directed byJonathan Lynn

    My Cousin Vinny is a 1992 American comedy film written by Dale Launer and directed by Jonathan Lynn. The film stars Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei, Mitchell Whitfield, Lane Smith, Bruce...  more
  • 5

    The Verdict

    Bruce Willis, Paul Newman
    64
    24

    Released1982

    Directed bySidney Lumet

    The Verdict is a 1982 courtroom drama film that tells the story of a down-on-his-luck alcoholic lawyer who takes a medical malpractice case to improve his own situation, but discovers along the way...  more
  • 6

    Primal Fear

    Edward Norton, Richard Gere
    59
    31

    Released1996

    Directed byGregory Hoblit

    Primal Fear is a 1996 American neo-noir thriller film, based on William Diehl's 1993 novel of the same name and directed by Gregory Hoblit. The film tells the story of Chicago defense attorney who...  more
  • 7

    Erin Brockovich

    Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger
    66
    42

    Released2000

    Directed bySteven Soderbergh

    Erin Brockovich is a 2000 biographical film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts,...  more
  • 8

    Anatomy of a Murder

    James Stewart, George C. Scott
    49
    17

    Released1959

    Directed byOtto Preminger

    This film is a 1959 American courtroom drama film. It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court...  more
  • 9
    wiabux added

    A Time to Kill

    Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey
    48
    17

    Released1996

    Directed byJoel Schumacher

    This film is a 1996 drama film adaptation of John Grisham's 1989 novel of the same name, directed by Joel Schumacher. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey star,...  more
  • 10
    willyboymcoy added

    Judgment at Nuremberg

    Judy Garland, William Shatner
    51
    14

    Released1961

    Directed byStanley Kramer

    Judgment at Nuremberg is a 1961 American drama film dealing with the Holocaust and with the post-WWII geo-political complexity of the Nuremberg Trials. The picture was written by Abby Mann and...  more
  • 11

    Runaway Jury

    Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman
    47
    29

    Released2003

    Directed byGary Fleder

    Runaway Jury is a 2003 American thriller film directed by Gary Fleder and starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Rachel Weisz. It is an adaptation of John Grisham's novel The Runaway...  more
  • 12

    Philadelphia

    Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington
    61
    39

    Released1993

    Directed byJonathan Demme

    Philadelphia is a 1993 American drama film and one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. It was written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan...  more
  • 13

    The Firm

    Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman
    47
    24

    Released1993

    Directed bySydney Pollack

    The Firm is a 1993 American legal thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, and David Strathairn. The...  more
  • 14

    The Client

    Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones
    37
    19

    Released1994

    Directed byJoel Schumacher

    The Client is a 1994 American legal thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, based on the novel by John Grisham. A young boy who witnessed the suicide of a mafia lawyer hires an attorney (Susan...  more
  • 15
    wiabux added

    In the Name of the Father

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson
    27
    14

    Released1993

    Directed byJim Sheridan

    In the Name of the Father is a 1993 Irish-British-American biographical courtroom drama film co-written and directed by Jim Sheridan. It is based on the true life story of the Guildford Four, four...  more
  • 16

    Presumed Innocent

    Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy
    38
    21

    Released1990

    Directed byAlan J. Pakula

    Presumed Innocent is a 1990 legal drama. It is a film adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Scott Turow, which tells the story of a prosecutor and his female colleague and...  more
  • 17
    ryanmcw added

    ...And Justice for All

    Al Pacino, Craig T. Nelson
    32
    21

    Released1979

    Directed byNorman Jewison

    ...And Justice for All is a 1979 courtroom drama film, directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, and Lee Strasberg. Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Lahti, Craig T....  more
  • 18

    The Rainmaker

    Matt Damon, Claire Danes
    34
    25

    Released1997

    Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola

    The Rainmaker is a 1997 American drama film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Matt Damon, based on the 1995 novel of the same name by John Grisham. Danny DeVito, Danny Glover,...  more
  • 19
    wiabux added

    Inherit the Wind

    Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly
    39
    14

    Released1960

    Directed byStanley Kramer

    Inherit the Wind is a 1960 Hollywood film adaptation of the 1955 play of the same name, written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, directed by Stanley Kramer. It stars Spencer Tracy as lawyer...  more
  • 20
    wiabux added

    The Accused

    Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis
    28
    22

    Released1988

    Directed byJonathan Kaplan

    The Accused is a 1988 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, loosely based on the the real-life event involving Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts and the resulting trial which...  more
  • 21

    Kramer vs. Kramer

    Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman
    36
    31

    Released1979

    Directed byRobert Benton

    Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 American drama film adapted by Robert Benton from the novel by Avery Corman, and directed by Benton. The film tells the story of a married couple's divorce and its impact...  more
  • 22

    Sleepers

    Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro
    35
    33

    Released1996

    Directed byBarry Levinson

    Sleepers is a 1996 American legal drama film written, produced, and directed by Barry Levinson, and based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel of the same name....  more
  • 23
    wiabux added

    The Lincoln Lawyer

    Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei
    33
    23

    Released2011

    Directed byBrad Furman

    The Lincoln Lawyer is a 2011 American thriller film adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly, starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and Marisa Tomei. The...  more
  • 24
    wiabux added

    Amistad

    Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey
    21
    24

    Released1997

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Amistad is a 1997 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the true story of the 1839 mutiny aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen taken and managed to...  more
  • 25

    The Paper Chase

    Lindsay Wagner, Edward Herrmann
    29
    25

    Released1973

    Directed byJames Bridges

    The Paper Chase is a 1973 film starring Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, and John Houseman, directed by James Bridges. Based on John Jay Osborn, Jr.'s 1970 novel, The Paper Chase, it tells the story...  more
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List Rules: Must deal with courtroom drama