Top 10 films about the law  

From all-time classics to guilty pleasures, some of the best films of all time centre around the judicial system. Of course, considering the legal industry by nature deals with human problems, it’s no surprise to see it pop up time and time again in cinema – be it a gritty courtroom drama or a musical retelling of a murder case.

Whether or not their representations of lawyers were true to reality, it can’t be denied that these films gave us an insight into the highs and lows of life in the legal industry.

1.   Twelve Angry Men

Endlessly parodied and deservingly praised, 12 Angry Men (1957) is a film that will be shown in classrooms for years to come. Based on Reginald Rose’s stage play, Henry Fonda both starred and produced this tale of deliberations and disagreements amongst a highly charged jury fighting tooth and nail over a death penalty conviction. Even today, it’s the film that comes to mind for most when called up for jury duty.

2.   To Kill a Mockingbird

The name Atticus Finch will forever be synonymous within the legal film genre. Gregory Peck plays a small-town attorney who rises above racism, prejudice and societal norms to protect the rights of a black man in Depression-era Alabama. If you have yet to see this timeless classic, make sure to add it to the top of your list.

3.   Philadelphia

Inspired by the life and ligation of Geoffrey Bowers, Tom Hanks plays an Ivy league educated gay attorney who fights a battle against a goliath legal firm after discovering he was sacked for contracting AIDS. Hank’s character is routinely turned down for legal support, that is until the charismatic Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) takes his case and battles stereotypes and injustice in this academy award winning masterpiece.

4.   Chicago

The courtroom has never been more musical. Chicago details the story of Roxie Hart, an ambitious showgirl who is convicted of murdering her secret lover. To escape execution, Roxie enlists the help of Billy Flynn, played by Richard Gere, to defend her “innocence” in court. Winner of best picture at the 2002 academy awards, this musical number is not one to miss.

5.   Kramer vs Kramer

Winner of five academy awards, Kramer vs Kramer details the complex and heart wrenching implications of a married couple’s divorce that family lawyers will know too well. The film excellently examines the personal consequences for the family members involved, with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep both putting in award winning performances.

6.   Miracle on 34thStreet

As supermarkets begin to stock their shelves with all things Christmas, we thought we would get ahead of the game and put this holiday classic on our list. As Santa Claus battles to prove his identity, a young attorney leads the case to prove Kris Kringle’s legitimacy. The 1947 iteration of Miracle on 34thstreet won three Oscars, while the 1994 version has Richard Attenborough playing ol’ Saint Nick.

7.   Legally Blonde

Taken from a novel penned by Amanda Brown, Reese Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, your stereotypical prom queen who has ambitions to join the legal sector. This smash hit spawned a hit musical on Broadway, two sequels and cult fandom worldwide. If you are in the mood for a light-hearted, feel-good comedy, Legally Blonde tick’s all those boxes.

8.   Erin Brockovich

Based on a real-life paralegal, Julia Roberts won an academy award playing Erin Brockovich. Single mother Brockovich delved into the world of illegal toxic waste dumping, to eventually raise one of the largest class action lawsuits’ in American history. Keep an eye out for a cameo from the real Erin Brockovich and enjoy this modern classic.

9.   The Judge

What could be worse than walking into court and seeing your own father as the judge? Robert Downey Jr jousts with Robert Duvall and Billy Bob Thornton in this recent courtroom classic. Downey Jr takes a break from saving the world in this comedy-drama, while Robert Duvall won plaudits for his role as Judge Palmer.

10.   Dredd

Based on the 2000AD graphic novel, the 2012 cult classic Dreddsees Karl Urban wrestling with a dystopian legal system, and a whole bunch of bad guys. If you are looking for an action movie that is sure to raise The Bar, look no further.