January 19, 2010
Top 20 movies for law students
Here's a list of the best legal movies every law student should see based on an informal survey of some law profs as published in the National Jurist Magazine:
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Twelve Angry Men
- Anatomy of a Murder
- Kramer v. Kramer
- Michael Clayton
- The Accused
- The Verdict
- Inherit the Wind
- The Paper Chase
- Erin Brockovich
- The Thin Blue Line
- Murder in the First
- And Justice for All
- Presumed Innocent
- Class Action
- A Few Good Men
- The Firm
- My Cousin Vinny
- A Time to Kill
- North Country
One glaring ommission, IMHO, and a film I refer to in class to illustrate the policy underlying removal jurisdiction is Deliverance (although the entire film is a meditation on the "law of the of the jungle" versus "civlized" law, the "removal jurisdiction" scene occurs when, following the murder of Ned Beatty's rapist, Burt Reynolds tries to convince the others that reporting the murder and standing trial in rural Georgia would be a mistake because the judge, jury and witnesses are all likely related to the victim) . And while I agree with Professor Bond's recommendation that the recent Batman movie, the Dark Knight, should be included on the list, unlike her I saw it as a defense of the Bush-Cheney administration's stance on terrorism rather than a defense of the rule of law. Just goes to show that films about the law, like the law itself, are subject to wide interpretation.
I am the scholarship dude.
January 19, 2010 | Permalink
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Don't forget Body Heat
Posted by: Annonymous | Jan 20, 2010 3:05:43 PM
IMO Legally Blonde should be on the list. Not only for laugh factor, but I think it is a fairly accurate depiction of law school!
Posted by: Anon | Jan 20, 2010 5:07:45 PM
Jesus- there are some real dogs on there like North Country, Michael Clayton and The Firm.
And then probably the most realistic film about the legal industry that has come out in the last 20 years, A Civil Action, doesn't even make the list- that's how you know the list was compiled by a bunch of professors who don't know anything about the practice of law.
Posted by: Gabbin | Jan 20, 2010 5:41:41 PM
I'd suggest adding The Star Chamber, which starred Michael Douglas. No fictional story more compellingly conveys why we have a presumption of innocence in this country.
Posted by: Ben Bratman | Jan 20, 2010 5:59:42 PM
Here's another vote for A Civil Action. Where else will you see a realistic depiction of plaintiffs lawyers going broke handling a case on contingency. Also I would recommend The Rainmaker for a good idea what most law students haveto look forward to after graduation. And True Believer to remind people of why lawyers are needed to defend bad people.
Posted by: Evan hanson | Jan 20, 2010 6:21:35 PM
One of the best movies of all time of any genre is "Paths of Glory" directed by Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas.
Posted by: creditderivativesguru | Jan 20, 2010 6:23:42 PM
How you could leave off the masterpiece Suspect is beyond me. A juror -- played by Cher(!) -- teams up with the criminal defense attorney -- played by Dennis Quaid -- IN THE MIDDLE OF TRIAL to investigate the murder and try to exonerate the wrongfully-accused murder defendant -- a mentally ill, incoherent homeless man played by Liam Neeson -- and the murderer turns out to be -- Oh, I just can't spoil it. Go out and rent it already!
Posted by: dellajo | Jan 20, 2010 6:24:32 PM
The movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington should definitely be on this list.
Posted by: Laura P. | Jan 20, 2010 6:37:15 PM
I agree. The Firm was a horrible movie. How it's ahead of the Rainmaker (which wasn't spectacular but still light years ahead of The Firm) beats me.
Posted by: Jon Voight | Jan 20, 2010 6:45:59 PM
Witness for the Prosecution, Dead Man Walking, Hurricane should be included. I concur on Civil Action
Posted by: roger | Jan 20, 2010 7:13:08 PM
Devil's Advocate is missing.
Posted by: Anon | Jan 20, 2010 7:18:50 PM
Witness for the Prosecution
Posted by: dude | Jan 20, 2010 7:43:52 PM
I want to get in on this action too. How about David Mamet's "The Winslow Boy"?
And I'll add another vote for A Civil Action.
Posted by: Jim | Jan 20, 2010 7:45:24 PM
+1 each for Legally Blonde and A Civil Action.
My Cousin Vinny should be in the top 10, if not 5. Even the way-too-serious lawyers I know love it.
Posted by: tim | Jan 20, 2010 7:48:46 PM
Judgment at Nurenberg!
Posted by: Sue | Jan 20, 2010 9:08:57 PM
"Fracture" and "Reversal of Fortune" should both be on here.
Posted by: MH | Jan 21, 2010 1:05:13 AM
We recently showed a personal favorite of mine at Georgetown: "Breaker Morant." Highly recommended. Also, no list can exclude "The Fortune Cookie."
Posted by: Mike Frisch | Jan 21, 2010 4:29:04 AM
I cannot imagine how Rashomon by Kurosawa does not make the list.
Posted by: Erik | Jan 21, 2010 6:17:29 AM
A list without A Civil Action has no credibility. Concur on Breaker Morant, but I'd also nominate The Caine Mutiny.
Posted by: Mike | Jan 21, 2010 7:07:50 AM
Can't believe they left off Breaker Morant.
Posted by: heya | Jan 21, 2010 7:12:03 AM
The Devil's Advocate is the most realistic portrayal of the life living and working in a law firm (in a metaphorical sense).
Posted by: Jack | Jan 21, 2010 7:15:48 AM
Come now, no Judge Dredd?
I AM THE LAW!!
Posted by: John | Jan 21, 2010 7:18:48 AM
flash of genius?
Posted by: poui | Jan 21, 2010 7:52:27 AM
How many of the top twenty are focused on Solos or small firm lawyers, rather than the firms most profs came from and try to send students to?
Posted by: Ted | Jan 21, 2010 9:02:53 AM
While it didn't include a standard court of law, M did have a trial by thieves, and is an incredible movie about taking the law into your own hands.
And I don't see The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell on the list.
Posted by: anon | Jan 21, 2010 9:57:17 AM