Law

The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies  

Ranker Film
890 votes 186 voters 15.7k 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.

 

list ordered by
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
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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#348 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #10 of 264 The Best Ensemble Movies #5 of 25 The 25 Best Movies That Take Place in One Day

2
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, William Windom
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 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Booksfeaturing 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Quotes That'll Change How You Thinklisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
A Few Good Men is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson

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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#86 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimefeaturing The Real Story That 'A Few Good Men' Is Based On Is More Shocking And Violent Than The Actual Movielisted on The Highest Grossing 90s Movies

4
The Verdict is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Bruce Willis, Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling
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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#267 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #245 of 575 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #75 of 241 The Most Inspirational Movies Ever

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
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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#286 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #25 of 717 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #282 of 409 The Best Rainy Day Movies

6
Primal Fear is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney
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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#19 of 257 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #257 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #5 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings

7
Anatomy of a Murder is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick
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
8
The Client is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker
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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#1,043 of 1,203 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #18 of 46 The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made #10 of 23 The Best Movies About Life in the South

9
Philadelphia is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Julius Erving
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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#431 of 717 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #128 of 291 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Crylisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

10
The Firm is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Gary Busey
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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#157 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #11 of 42 The All-Time Best Tom Cruise Movieslisted on The Highest Grossing 90s Movies

11
The Rainmaker is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Choicy added Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Mickey Rourke
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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#252 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #17 of 46 The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made #53 of 89 The Best Southern Movies

12
The Pelican Brief is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, John Lithgow
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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#8 of 28 The Best Movies With A Bird Name In The Title #41 of 178 The Best Mystery Movies #39 of 89 The Best Southern Movies

13
Runaway Jury is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman
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 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #210 of 264 The Best Ensemble Movies #9 of 46 The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made

14
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger, Aaron Eckhart
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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#23 of 240 The Best Movies Based on True Stories #26 of 241 Critically Acclaimed Movies That Kinda Sucklisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

15
The Accused is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Garry Chalk
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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#24 of 46 The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made #18 of 48 The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980slisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Kramer vs. Kramer is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, JoBeth Williams
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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#53 of 93 The Very Best Oscar-Winning Movies #741 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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
...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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#392 of 460 The Most Quotable Movies of All Time #119 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #19 of 46 The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made

18
The Devil's Advocate is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Charlize Theron, Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves
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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#99 of 257 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #173 of 769 The Best Horror Movies of All Time #425 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

19
In the Name of the Fathe... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Tom Wilkinson
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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#149 of 304 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time #27 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '90s #49 of 318 The Best Political Films Ever Made

20
A Civil Action is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Choicy added John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Kathy Bates
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
21
Sleepers is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies
Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman
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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#1,041 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #14 of 36 30+ Great Movies About Juvenile Delinquents #14 of 46 The Greatest Legal Dramas Ever Made

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