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The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies 

Ranker Film
Updated October 8, 2019 1k votes 214 voters 18.6k views 23 items

 

The cat and mouse antics of smart lawyers and even smarter defendants make courtroom thrillers an entertaining film genre. The best movies set in the courtroom often examine the life and death consequences of high-stakes trials. This is a list of the best courtroom thriller movies including everything from To Kill a Mockingbird to 12 Angry Men to Erin Brockovich.

What thrilling films will you vote to the top of this list? Maybe you're a fan of A Few Good Men. The back-and-forth courtroom exchange between Colonel Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) and Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) climaxed with the delivery of the iconic line, “You can't handle the truth!” The Devil's Advocate is another entertaining courtroom drama. Edward Norton was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a killer alter boy in Primal Fear. Other good films featured on this list of the best courtroom thriller movies include Sleepers, The Verdict, and The Pelican Brief.

Do you have a favorite trial thriller? Give the best movies a thumbs up and get in on the conversation in the comments section.

 

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1
12 Angry Men is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb

Released: 1957

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. Written and co-produced by Rose himself and directed by Sidney Lumet, this trial film tells ...more

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2
A Few Good Men is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson

Released: 1992

Directed by: Rob Reiner

This is also one of the most famous lawyer movies.

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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3
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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4
Primal Fear is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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
A Time to Kill is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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6
The Verdict is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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7
The Firm is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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8
Philadelphia is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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9
Anatomy of a Murder is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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

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10
The Rainmaker is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Choicy added 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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11
The Client is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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12
Runaway Jury is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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13
The Pelican Brief is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, John Lithgow

Released: 1993

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

The Pelican Brief is a 1993 legal thriller based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham. Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the film stars Julia Roberts in the role of young law student Darby ...more

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14
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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15
The Devil's Advocate is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Charlize Theron, Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves

Released: 1997

Directed by: Taylor Hackford

The Devil's Advocate is a 1997 American mystery thriller film based on Andrew Neiderman's novel of the same name. It is directed by Taylor Hackford and stars Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, and ...more

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16
The Accused is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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17
...And Justice for All ... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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

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18
In the Name of the Fathe... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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19
A Civil Action is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Choicy added John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Kathy Bates

Released: 1998

Directed by: Steven Zaillian

A Civil Action is a 1998 American drama film that was directed by Steven Zaillian, that stars John Travolta and Robert Duvall, and that is based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Harr. ...more
20
Kramer vs. Kramer is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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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21
Sleepers is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
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.

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22
The Judge is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Robert Downey Jr., Leighton Meester, Robert Duvall

Released: 2014

Directed by: David Dobkin

The Judge is a 2014 drama film written by Bill Dubuque, Nick Schenk and David Seidler; and directed by David Dobkin.
23
Jagged Edge is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Lance Henriksen

Released: 1985

Directed by: Richard Marquand

Jagged Edge is a 1985 film starring Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, and Peter Coyote. Robert Loggia received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in this film. It is a ...more