When you’re watching lawyer movies, do you wonder how accurate it is? Can a real defense attorney actually make the jury cry with their impassioned speeches? And what about the prosecutors? Do they always trip up the perp on the stand? Do real lawyers really have to stay awake all night pouring over boxes and boxes of evidence to find the one document that will throw the case wide open?
The answer, of course, is “it depends.” Some movie lawyer tropes are more accurate than others and the ones that are less accurate might even be a little bit more entertaining. But if you’re looking for a few good films about lawyers that will give you a general idea of what the profession is like, we’ve got you covered.
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Our Law Firm Picks
For those who love movies and TV shows that feature lawyers, we’ve compiled a list of our law firm favorites. From classics like To Kill a Mockingbird to modern hits like Erin Brockovich, these are the movies that will keep you entertained and maybe even educate you a little bit about the law. Here’s what we consider to be some of the best lawyer movies of all time.
The Firm (1993)
Based on author John Grisham’s eponymous novel, The Firm features an ensemble cast of Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Gary Busey, and Holly Hunter. Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a recent graduate of Harvard Law School who accepted an offer at the small yet prestigious tax firm of Lambert & Locke in Memphis Tennessee.
While the young lawyer initially overlooks the unusual levels of secrecy and exorbitant fees charged by his firm, he eventually discovers that his firm runs a sophisticated tax avoidance scheme using offshore shell corporations in the Cayman Islands to help the Chicago Outfit hide their illegal wealth. McDeere soon finds himself in too deep and must devise a plan to escape if he hopes to survive.
Why You’ll Want to Watch The Firm
While The Firm is a work of fiction, it does offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of law and bribery. If you’re looking for a legal thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is the movie for you.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Legally Blonde follows the ditzy high school student Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) after she is dumped by her boyfriend when he gets accepted into law school. Not to be outdone, Elle tries to get revenge by studying and getting into Harvard Law School so she can show her ex that she is not the airheaded young woman everyone thinks she is.
While not your typical lawyer movie, Witherspoon’s great acting makes this light comedy a top movie about lawyers.
A Legal Comedy Must-Watch
While this lawyer movie might make the decision to go to law school seem easy, it does show that anyone can achieve their dreams if they set their mind to it. And it’s also one of the most fun legal films out there and a strong recommendation for our lawyer movie list.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Starring Joe Peschi, Fred Gwynne, and Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny is a comedy known for accurate depiction of court procedure, trial strategy, and rules of evidence. Based in rural Georgia, the New Yorker and newly minted attorney Vinny Gambini (Joe Peschi) rushes to the help of his nephew Billy Gambini and his friend Stan Rothenstein after they are wrongfully arrested for a robbery-murder in southern Georgia.
While Vinny’s abrasive New York attitude initially upsets the judge, his unique advocacy skills help to undermine the prosecution’s case against his clients. With the help of his wife Mona Lisa Vito (Marissa Tomei), he eventually secures a dismissal of the entire case, and Billy and Stan are set free. My Cousin Vinny was lauded for its accurate court depictions. Tomei even won an Oscar for Best Supporting Female Actor!
A Legal Comedy Must-Watch and one of the Great Courtroom Dramas
This is a great movie for anyone who wants to learn about how real courtroom proceedings play out. If you’re interested in trial advocacy, this is a must-watch.
Other Great Movies About Lawyers
Once we get going, it’s hard to stop making a list of lawyer movies we love. So here are a few other great lawyer movies that range from stories about law school trials and tribulations to depictions of true stories of legal heroes.
The Verdict (1982)
This old-school courtroom drama features Paul Newman as a washed-up, failing lawyer who spends his time drinking and trying to solicit business as funerals. His luck suddenly changes when a friend gives him a medical malpractice case that he must build from the ground up in a matter of days. In doing so, he realizes this is the chance of a lifetime to turn his life around and be the lawyer he always dreamed of being.
Watch Courtroom Drama Unfold
You’ll want to watch this movie if you’re interested in seeing a great drama unfold in the courtroom.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Based on Harper Lee’s eponymous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the trial of a young Black man wrongfully accused of sexual assault trial in the Jim Crow South. After nobody would represent him, local lawyer Atticus Finch takes up the case. To Kill a Mockingbird is a sobering look into the racism that blatantly permeated into the American judicial system under Jim Crow.
To Kill a Mockingbird went on to win four Academy Awards and has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
A Classic Must-Watch
This classic movie is a must-watch for anyone interested in social justice or the American legal system.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
In this legal drama based on a real case, Julia Roberts plays Erin Brockovich, a single mother working as a legal assistant at a solo practitioner’s office. While reviewing routine paperwork, she discovers that a California power company has been surreptitiously depositing toxic waste into residents’ groundwater, triggering a fight for the rights of residents in a small California town who had been developing rare tumors and cancers.
Erin Brockovich went on to earn five Academy Award nominations, with Roberts winning Best Female Actor for her starring role, and grossed over $250 Million at the box office, making this a truly great lawyer movie.
A Riveting True Story
You’ll want to watch this film if you’re interested in seeing a David-and-Goliath story about an underdog taking on a big corporation. If you’re passionate about environmental law or social justice, this movie is for you.
A Few Good Men (1992)
Starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore, this legal drama follows the court-martial of two Marines charged with killing their comrade after their comrade asks for a transfer out of the platoon. Lieutenant Kaffee (Cruise) is appointed to defend the two Marines, and in doing so discovers a conspiracy reaching up to the highest levels of the platoon. A Few Good Men was nominated for four Academy Awards.
The Military Justice System in the Movies
Not only is the cast of A Few Good Men impressive, but the writing and story are top-notch as well. This film is a great look into military justice and how the American legal system works when members of the military are charged with crimes. This makes it another movie to consider when you’re watching the best lawyer movies.
The Paper Chase (1973)
This classic film follows the story of a first-year Harvard law student (Timothy Bottoms) who gets on the bad side of his contracts professor, Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman). The rest of the movie is a battle of wills between student and professor, with Kingsfield pushing his students to their limits to get them to think like lawyers. John Houseman won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as a Golden Globe for his performance.
The Challenges of Law School
This movie is a great look at what law school is really like, the pressure students are under, and how demanding professors can be. If you’re considering law school, this film will give you a good idea of what to expect.