I was about to write a legal based article when I decided I would give myself a break for a day and just write a purely fun article. I promise I will get back to the law in a couple of days.
Although there are a lot more movies that should make the list, these are probably my favorites. A few are cliché and totally expected, but they’re still very good movies. I typically never watch legal dramas or legal TV shows anymore because it is too unrealistic but each one on this list has at least one realistic element to it that always grabs me.
While you would figure Daredevil would be on my list because he’s my favorite fictional lawyer, you would be wrong. The movie was terrible and I don’t recommend it, even though I own it. Onto the list!
15. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
- This is stated to be a true story by the creators. It is a story of a failed exorcism that resulted in the death of the exorcism subject, Emily Rose. The priest in charge of the exorcism is then put on trial for manslaughter charges. I thought it was as terrifying as my favorite horror movie, The Exorcist. It does a good job of keeping a very unsettling vibe throughout. Although the events of the movie take place in the USA, it is based off of the story of Anneliese Michel, a German woman who died after a failed exorcism.
- Realistic Moment: This is stretching a bit, because it’s hard to find a realistic moment in a horror movie. However, the closest is at the end, when the priest is found guilty, but is sentenced to time already served by the jury. This just reinforces the idea in the heads of many lawyers that juries will do whatever juries want to do.
- Amistad is another true story movie. After would-be slaves on the ship Amistad take over their ship and land in the infant USA, they raise the question of whether the would-be slaves are property or not.
- Realistic Moment: John Quincy Adams “Well when I was an attorney, a long time ago, young man, I err… I realized after much trial and error, that in the courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins. In unlawyer-like fashion, I give you that scrap of wisdom free of charge. “
- This is the story of 4 friends who grow up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. After two are implicated in a murder, their other two friends and priest (played by Robert De Niro) reach in to help out.
- Realistic Moment: Not so much a realistic moment as it is an important scene. Robert De Niro is asked to lie on the witness stand in his capacity as priest. This is a situation that is not uncommon to criminal attorneys. Witnesses lie fairly often. The duty of the attorney isn’t to tell the court that the witness is lying; it’s not to ask anymore about it. Or to overcome it and show that the witness is lying.
- This shouldn’t be a shocker. I am not as high on the movie as everyone else, but it was a solid movie. George Clooney plays a corporate attorney ‘fixer,’ who uncovers a larger corporate conspiracy.
- Realistic Moment: The character of Michael Clayton is multi-layered enough where he is playing a former criminal lawyer who is working, somewhat uncomfortably in a fairly white collar environment. Since I had a bit of experience with this, they played a very particular feeling with a lot of honesty and show that a criminal lawyer and a corporate lawyer really come from different places.
11. People Vs. Larry Flynt
- This is the life story of Larry Flynt, the publisher of Penthouse magazine. Woody Harrelson plays Larry Flynt with gusto throughout his personal and legal trials.
- Realistic Moment: The most realistic line is when Ed Norton, who plays Flynt’s lawyer, wants to quit. Flynt answers with, “You don’t want to quit me, I’m your dream client: I’m the most fun, I’m rich, and I’m always in trouble.” He’s right, that is the dream client.
10. Inherit The Wind
- This is another classic based on a play about a fictionalized account of the Scopes Monkey Trial. Jack Lemmon is Henry Drummond and George C. Scott is Matthew Harrison Brady. They are analogues of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, respectively. Also, I found out last night you can watch the movie free on Hulu.
- Realistic Moments: Part of the appeal of this movie is the downstate manner of it. Cases downstate proceed…differently than in Cook, Lake, and DuPage counties. There is a separate familiarity that exists downstate that city boys can have a tough time competing against.
- The biggest realistic moment is the friendship shared by Drummond and Brady. These are two men who vehemently oppose each other and don’t hold back one bit, but they can remain friends. This is similar to real life. Lawyers, usually, don’t hate each other. I’ve had the pleasure of trying cases against good friends that can only remain good friends if they hit me with their best shot.