Monday, June 21, 2021
Contracts Prof Michael Asimow has teamed up with Paul Bergman to publish Real to Reel: Truth and Trickery in Courtroom Movies.
The best courtroom movies combine great storytelling with conflict and suspense. We never know whether the jury will send the defendants to the chair or let them walk out the courtroom door to freedom. Courtroom films wrestle with the eternal conflicts between law and justice and between truth and falsehood. The movies have delved deeply into hot-button issues, like the death penalty, inter-racial adoption, political protest, military justice, or discrimination based on race or gender.
The book reviews almost 200 courtroom movies, going back to the early 1930s and continuing to the present. It covers older classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Witness for the Prosecution, and 12 Angry Men as well as excellent current movies like The Trial of the Chicago 7, Denial, and Woman in Gold. The book also includes courtroom comedies like My Cousin Vinny and musicals like Chicago.
The book can help you discover trial films you haven’t seen and rediscover the ones you have. To help you make your selection, the book assigns gavel ratings to each film, with four gavels reserved for the very best .
The book also answers the questions that you might ask after seeing the film. If the film is based on a true story, is it true to the historical facts? What is hearsay evidence, manslaughter, libel, community property, or consideration? Can lawyers get away with dramatic courtroom stunts? Did they commit ethical violations? Do adversarial trials promote the search for truth and justice? Or just the opposite?
We recommend Real to Reel for the lawyers and film fans in your life—or for my wife, so that she will see that I am not the only one who pauses movies so that I can explain how what just happened would never happen in a real courtroom.