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Law-Related Movies Inspirational Lawyer Movies


Movies - Home Page
"A to Z" List of Law-Related Movies
Movies Organized by Substantive Law Subject
Court Martial Movies
Courtroom Dramas

Inspirational Lawyer Movies
Prison-Related Movies
Top 10

Amistad (1997): A historical drama, directed by Stephen Spielberg, that tells the true story of African slaves who mutiny against their capture and transport aboard La Amistad, a slave ship. Focusing largely on the courtroom scenes in which the slaves are charged with mutiny, the story ends in a decision from the US Supreme Court ruling that the slaves were wrongfully kidnapped and in their rights to mutiny and ordered them freed (realize this summary does not do justice to the movie or the story). Read Roger Ebert's review here.

The Attorney (2013). Directed and co-written by Yang Woo-suk This Korean movie tells the tale of an underdog "street lawyer" who, with only a high school diploma, takes on unpopular cases, including the defence of several students charged with being communist sympathizers. The movie has a rating on Rotten Tomatoes hovering in the low seventies (percentage-wise). Available here on iTunes.

Breaker Morant (1980). Starring Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson. An excellent Australian court-martial movie set in the time of the Boer War. Three Australian lieutenants are treated as scapegoats when prosecuted for executing prisoners of war. Strong performance by their defence lawyer. See a good review here from The Guardian.

Bridge of Spies (2015). Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks as lawyer James B Donovan. This drama is a fictional re-telling of the arrest and legal defence of Rudolf Abel, an accused and subsequently convicted Soviet spy. There are good courtroom scenes as well as scenes showing the ethical dilemmas facing the lawyer played by Tom Hanks. The movie currently has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Castle (1997). Starring Michael Caton. An extremely hilarious Australian comedy dealing with, of all things, expropriation (hence the title, which stems from the saying "A man's home is his castle"). Some hilarious courtroom scenes. Laugh-out-loud funny. See Roger Ebert's review (3 out of 4 stars).

The Conspirator (2010). Directed by Robert Redford and starring James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood and Tom Wilkinson. James McAvoy plays the young lawyer assigned to defend Mary Surratt (played by Robin Wright), the mother of the alleged co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, arrested for failing to provide the location of her son.

Conviction (2010). Directed by Tony Goldwyn and starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. Tells the true story of Bette Ann Waters, a single mother whose brother was (as it turns out) wrongfully convicted of murder. Her "conviction" in her brother's innocence leads to her returning to school - and eventually law school - to help overturn her brother's wrongful conviction through DNA evidence (with the help of Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project. Read Roger Ebert's review (3 out of 4 stars).

Dark Waters (2019). Directed by Todd Haynes and starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, and Victor Garber. This movie tells the real-life 20-year struggle by lawyer Robert Bilott to hold Dupont liable for its release of PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical related to teflon) into the water system that caused cancer and injured local livestock. The movie is based on the article  by Nathaniel Rich, "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" (6 January 2016). The film has a Rotten Tomatoes score in the range of 90%.

Gandhi (1982). Starring Ben Kingsley and a cast of thousands. Directed by Richard Attenborough. An epic story of the life of Mahatma Gandhi who started as a lawyer in South Africa and who end up liberating India from British domination through his policies of non-violence. Read Roger Ebert's 4 of 4 stars review here.

The Hurricane (1999). Starring Denzel Washington. Directed by Norman Jewison. Tells the true story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's wrongful imprisonment on murder charges and the efforts made by his lawyers to free him from prison. Read Roger Ebert's review (3.5 out of 4 stars). Carter was an Executive Director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, an organization based, in part, out of Toronto.

I Am Sam (2001). Starring Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer. A nicely told story of a child custody case involving Sean Penn, as the father, who has the mental capacity of a 7-year old. When is 7-year old daughter is taken by child welfare authorities, he hires a lawyer (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) to act on his behalf. Some good courtroom scenes. Read Roger Ebert's review (2 out of 4 stars).

In the Name of the Father (1993): Based (loosely, as noted by Roger Ebert) on the true story of the Guildford Four wrongfully accused of an IRA bombing of a British pub in 1974, this drama has Emma Thompson playing the hard-working defence lawyer and focuses on the trials and tribulations of Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his father (Pete Postlethwaite) wrongfully convicted for the crimes. Read Roger Ebert's review here.

Just Mercy (2019). Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. This courtroom drama tells the true life story of Walter McMillan (played by Jamie Foxx) and the efforts of his legal team, including Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan), to reverse his wrongful conviction. Note: this movie is premiering at TIFF in September 2019 and is not slated for wider release until later in the year.

Long Shot (2017). This short documentary, available on Netflix Canada, tells the story of Juan Catalan, convicted for a murder he says he didn't commit in Los Angeles and the efforts of his lawyer, Todd Melnik. If you have not heard of the "long shot" involved in his defence, I have intentionally not described what happens. Essential viewing.

Loving (2016). Starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, directed by Jeff Nichols. A well-done fictional recounting of the true life courtroom battle of Richard and Mildred Loving, an inter-racial married couple who successfully challenged Virginia state law prohibiting interacial marriage in the US Supreme Court decision in 1967 in Loving v Virginia. Read the positive review of The New York Times.

Making a Murderer (2015, 2018). This 10-episode documentary with a 10-episode second season released in 2018 (and both available on Netflix Canada), tells the story of Steven Avery, and his fight within the Wisconsin judicial system regarding his wrongful conviction for rape and his fight with the police officers who put in him jail (note: this summary is brief to avoid including spoiler alerts). A compelling story.

Marshall (2017). Starring Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson and directed by Reginald Hudlin. This drama tells the story of the future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (played by Chadwick Boseman) as a young NAACP lawyer in the early 1940's defending a driver wrongfully convicted of raping his employer with the assistance of insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (played by Josh Gad).

The Mauritanian (2021). Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Zachary Levi. This drama tells the true story of of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a citizen of Mauritius, held in captivity in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years without charge.

Murder in the First (1995). Starring Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman. Christian Slater plays a young lawyer who takes on the case of a prisoner of Alcatraz who is wrongfully put into solitary confinement for years and becomes insane as a result. Strong courtroom (and prison) scenes Read Roger Ebert's review (2 of out 4 stars).

North Country (2005): For some reason, I was never a huge fan of Charlize Theron, but she does a good job in this story as a mistreated female employee in a male-dominated workforce in a mine in Minnesota, based on a true story, that resulted in the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States (the Wikipedia entry here has a nice overview of the real-life lawsuit). Read Roger Ebert's review here.

On the Basis of Sex (2018). Starring Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux and directed by Mimi Leder. This excellent biopic tells the story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg including many courtroom scenes involving some of her early landmark civil rights decisions she argued as a lawyer. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie has been hovering around the 75% level. A good company piece to the documentary about her life (RBG, discussed below).

Philadelphia (1993). Starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington. Tom Hanks plays a successful lawyer fired by his law firm because he has AIDS. The only lawyer willing to act for him in his wrongful dismissal action against his old firm is an ambulance-chasing type lawyer played by Denzel Washington. Well-acted (Hanks got Best Oscar for his performance) and good courtroom scenes. Read Roger Ebert's review (3.5 out of 4 stars).

Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz (2018). This documentary recounts the life and work of Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials and an inspiration for the entire world.

RBG (2018). Directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. This documentary, tells the life story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, including her early days as a pioneering gender discrimination lawyer.

Reversal of Fortune (1990). Starring Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons and Ron Silver. Based on the true life story where Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz agrees to handle the appeal of the conviction of socialite Claus von Bulow for the attempted murder of his wife. Good dramatization of the work done by Dershowitz and his students in preparing for the appeal. Read Roger Ebert's review (4 out of 4 stars).

Selma (2015). Directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo. This movie tells the story of the human rights activism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his campaign for equal voting rights in the American South. It has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Available here on iTunes.

Spotlight (2015). Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup. Ostensibly, this is a movie about investigative journalism and the efforts of Boston Globe journalists who reported on the cover-up of child abuse by the Catholic church in Boston. However, lawyers play a role as does the role of public access to court records versus the private arbitration the church was using to settle claims. While watching the lawyer played by Stanley Tucci, I couldn't help but notice that he had a set of the Dominion Law Reports behind him on his office bookshelf (which would be extremely unlikely for a Boston lawyer), confirming for me (which I confirmed after seeing the movie) that the movie was filmed in Toronto (with other scenes shot in the Bay-Adelaide Centre). The movie has a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. A solid dramatization of Harper Lee's novel telling the story of Atticus Finch and his daughter Scout and how Atticus defends a black man wrongfully charged with rape in a racially-biased environment. Peck won the Best Actor Oscar. Read Roger Ebert's review here.

Worth (2020). Directed by Sara Colangelo. Starring Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg, appointed Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and Amy Ryan as Camille Biros, law partner to Feinberg, appointed as his administrative deputy. Feinberg is tasked with difficult job of coordinating payments to victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Last updated: January 2024    |    Legal / Terms of Use    |    Ted Tjaden 2010-2024

  Cover of 4th edition of Legal Research and Writing
                (Irwin Law)

Legal Research and Writing:
4th Edition

by Ted Tjaden

Softcover 512 pgs.
Published: January 2016
Paperback: 978-1-55221-414-5
e-book: 978-1-55221-415-2

Purchase here


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