Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Monday, January 9, 2017

Best Appellate Movies

It was a snowy/icy/cold weekend in Virginia.  In fact, I saw something on Sunday that said there is snow on the ground in every state except Florida. Sounds like perfect weather for a movie.

There are several lists out there on the best legal movies, including one by JD Journal and another by the ABA Journal. Most of the greats, however, are courtroom dramas.  Think about it, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Few Good Men, My Cousin Vinny--all courtroom dramas.  

So, what are the best Appellate Legal Movies.  I have combed the lists and offer these suggestions (with help from this list by Missouri appellate attorney Jonathan Sternberg):

  1.  Reversal of Fortune (1990).  This movie is on the ABA Journal list and focuses on the true story of Claus von Bulow who was accused of the attempted murder of his wife. Alan Dershowitz and a group of Harvard Law students helped with von Bulow's defense.
  2. Amistad (1997).  This movie makes all of the lists and follows the 1841 case about a slavery ship uprising.
  3. The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). In addition to following the rise of Larry Flynt, this film follows the famous First Amendment case, ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell.
  4. Bridge of Spies (2015).  Sternberg had this movie on his list.  I had forgotten that the movie briefly covered Rudolf Abel's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  This really was an interesting movie, even though the legal aspect was pretty minor.
  5. The Pelican Brief (1992). Every legal movie/book list needs to include at least one John Grisham book.  This is a great film that qualifies under the appellate category given the fact that it involves the murder of Supreme Court justices.

I am sure that I have missed some.  What is your favorite appellate movie?

Film | Permalink


The movie "Belle" focuses on the English appeal in Gregson v. Gilbert, which was another slavery-related dispute.

Posted by: Ann Lipton | Jan 9, 2017 4:06:07 AM

Slap Shot. Paul Newman appeals to the Chiefs' owner to sell the team rather than fold it, but loses.

Posted by: Reg Dunlop | May 4, 2017 10:50:27 AM

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