10 Movies About Law

Some of the biggest classics in American cinema have been set in the courtroom, and over the years, a long list of hit movies have focused on lawyers and law. Some were dramatic, some were funny, but all were thought-provoking and stirred the emotions of audiences through their exploration of the nature of American justice. Below are a few movies about law that should not be missed.

1. Twelve Angry Men

“Twelve Angry Men” is one of the quintessential movies about law. What actually happens inside jury deliberations? What emotions come into play? What personalities emerge when 12 citizens are chosen at random to make a life-changing judgment about someone accused of murder?

In this classic movie, extraordinary performances provide some of the answers to those questions. Foreign attorneys not familiar with jury trials should watch this film for a dramatic (at times, over-the-top) look into jury deliberations.

2. A Few Good Men

Military courts, which adjudicate matters affecting members of the military and certain other cases, are a separate justice system from America’s ordinary civil and criminal courts. This film explores a military murder trial where the accused are two U.S. marines. Classic line after classic line make this military legal drama one of the most entertaining and relevant films on our list.

Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson’s exchange at the film’s climax is among the most famous in American cinema. Don’t look it up on YouTube and spoil the movie, though! Watch the entire thing and prepare to be entertained.

3. The Firm

Shady tax lawyers, a cover-up in the Cayman Islands, and a new associate struggling to adjust to the pressures of law firm life—this film, based on John Grisham’s runaway hit novel, gives a frightening peek into the darker side of private practice. “The Firm” is an action-packed legal thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

4. The Devil’s Advocate

We won’t give away the film’s secret twists, but this story is about a country criminal defense attorney who’s suddenly thrust into life at a big law firm in New York City. This movie explores a lot more than just life in the law, and Al Pacino, who plays the chair of the firm, is unforgettable in this one.

5. A Time to Kill

Is it ever acceptable to take the law into your own hands, and deliver justice when the legal system fails? “A Time to Kill”, another film adapted from a John Grisham novel, is an incredibly powerful racially charged criminal law drama that meets this question head on.

6. My Cousin Vinny

If you need a break from drama, “My Cousin Vinny” is a humorous look into a self-trained lawyer’s first trial. The dialogue alone could carry this one, which features a battle of wits between a wisecracking New York lawyer and a dour southern judge, while two young men’s futures hang in the balance.

7. Kramer v. Kramer

This movie about a couple’s bitter courtroom divorce won five Academy Awards and provides a wealth of insight into some of the core practices in American family court proceedings. This Oscar-winning movie is a required viewing for anyone who likes film, never mind those interested in law.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird

Another American classic set in the deep south in the 1930s. Based on American author Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, this entry in our list of movies about law is an adaptation of one of the best books about law ever written. White country lawyer Atticus Finch is appointed to represent a black man accused of raping a young girl. The criminal legal drama helps drive the plot, but the movie is well made enough to keep even the least-legal-minded person on the edge of their seat.

9. The Accused

“The Accused” is based on a real-life case that is almost too horrific to believe. Those interested in American criminal law and its treatment of rape cases will find this movie to be a true eye-opener.

10. In Cold Blood

“In Cold Blood” is a chilling film about the real-life murder of a family in Kansas by two would-be robbers. Based on a literary classic of the same name, this movie provides a frightening look into criminal investigations and what happens when the relationship between co-conspirators unravels under police pressure.