Entertainment

The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated December 26, 2019 2.4k votes 340 voters 28.6k views 46 items

List Rules Must 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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Jack Lemmon, James Gandolfini, Tony Danza

Released: 1997

Directed by: William 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.
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Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, William Windom

Released: 1962

Directed by: Robert 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. ...more

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3
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Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson

Released: 1992

Directed by: Rob 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 ...more

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#183 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #41 of 460 The Most Quotable Movies of All Timelisted on The Highest Grossing 90s Movies

4
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Marisa Tomei, Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio

Released: 1992

Directed by: Jonathan 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

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#127 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'My Cousin Vinny'listed on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
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Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney

Released: 1996

Directed by: Gregory 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 ...more

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#5 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #22 of 59 The Best Movies Where the Bad Guy Wins

6
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Bruce Willis, Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling

Released: 1982

Directed by: Sidney 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 ...more

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#248 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #4 of 23 The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies

7
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Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Julius Erving

Released: 1993

Directed by: Jonathan 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 ...more

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#47 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again #127 of 292 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Crylisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
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willyboymcoy added Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich

Released: 1961

Directed by: Stanley 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

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#38 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #51 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

9
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Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman

Released: 2003

Directed by: Gary 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 ...more

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#213 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #216 of 265 The Best Ensemble Movies

10
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James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick

Released: 1959

Directed by: Otto 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
11
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Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger, Aaron Eckhart

Released: 2000

Directed by: Steven 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 ...more

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#26 of 243 Critically Acclaimed Movies That Kinda Suck #26 of 236 The Best Movies Based on True Storieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
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Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, JoBeth Williams

Released: 1979

Directed by: Robert 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 ...more

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13
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Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman

Released: 1996

Directed by: Barry 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.
14
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Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raúl Juliá

Released: 1990

Directed by: Alan 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
15
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Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Gary Busey

Released: 1993

Directed by: Sydney 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. ...more

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#11 of 42 The All-Time Best Tom Cruise Movieslisted on The Highest Grossing 90s Movies

16
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wiabux added Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey

Released: 1996

Directed by: Joel 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 ...more

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17
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ryanmcw added Al Pacino, Craig T. Nelson, Jeffrey Tambor

Released: 1979

Directed by: Norman 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 ...more
18
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Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker

Released: 1994

Directed by: Joel 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 ...more

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#1,044 of 1,196 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #8 of 23 The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies

19
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Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Mickey Rourke

Released: 1997

Directed by: Francis 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 ...more
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Inherit the Wind is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made
wiabux added Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly, Harry Morgan

Released: 1960

Directed by: Stanley 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 ...more
21
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Lindsay Wagner, Edward Herrmann, John Houseman

Released: 1973

Directed by: James 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 ...more
22
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wiabux added Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Bryan Cranston

Released: 2011

Directed by: Brad 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. ...more
23
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wiabux added Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Tom Wilkinson

Released: 1993

Directed by: Jim 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, ...more

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#167 of 302 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time #48 of 320 The Best Political Films Ever Made

24
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wiabux added Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Garry Chalk

Released: 1988

Directed by: Jonathan 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 ...more

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#15 of 23 The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies #115 of 520 The Greatest Crime Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
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wiabux added Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban

Released: 1981

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Absence of Malice is a 1981 American drama film starring Paul Newman, Sally Field, and Bob Balaban, directed by Sydney Pollack. The title refers to the legal definition of libel defamation, and ...more

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#1,505 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #452 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked