Justice is a fundamental right for all human beings. The law as we know it today has been forged under the capable hands of legal proceedings that were fought by determined and steadfast men and women. Whether it is a man fighting for their rights or an individual or group of people fighting against a tyrant, different times have brought about different defining legal battles.
The details of all these legal battles have been recorded over time and converted into some of the most impressive and memorable films. Read on to find out some of the top courtroom films of all time arranged in no special order.
1. 12 Angry Men
This movie involves twelve jurors deliberating on the verdict of a case involving a boy accused of stabbing his father to death. As one of the top movies of all time, the movie has inspired both lawyers and filmmakers over the years. During the jury deliberation sessions, all jurors, except one vote that the accused is guilty.
This starts a long deliberation process, in a small, claustrophobic room, during which various facts of the case emerge. As this happens, each of the jurors changes their verdict. Finally, it becomes evident that the accused cannot be pronounced guilty given the fact that the prosecution does not prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.
2. Judgment At Nuremberg
This film covers the atrocities committed by Germans during World War II. The film follows the prosecution of four German judges involved in the sentencing of Jews to death during this period. As the movie progresses, the reasons why innocent Jews were sentenced to death come out in epic fashion.
This is one of the greatest movies that delves deeper into just how innocent people were judged to be guilty and then sentenced to death.
3. In The Name Of The Father
This movie is set in a period when the fight between the English and the IRA is at its peak. The film follows the story of a father and son, both struggling to overturn the unjust situation they find themselves in. At the beginning of the movie, the son is arrested on suspicion of being a bomber; soon after, the father is also arrested unjustly.
As the legal fight to clear their names continues, both father and son mend their relationship, even with their varying perspectives. The father dies and leaves the son to continue their 15-year fight for justice.
4. To Kill A Mockingbird
This film is based on a bestselling book bearing the same name. The film is set during a period when racial profiling is at its peak in the United States. The story follows the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Everyone, but the defendant’s lawyer is calling for the blood of the accused even without considering the facts of the case.
The defendant’s lawyer, on the other hand, holds his ground, valiantly fighting a losing battle to the end. However, what stands out is the lesson that the defendant’s lawyer fights so hard to get across; that everyone, regardless of skin color is equal in the eyes of the law.
5. Anatomy Of Murder
This film involves a case in which the defense and prosecution are at loggerheads with each other all through. In the beginning, a lawyer receives a call from a woman claiming that her husband, who is also a lieutenant, killed a man who violated her. As the case proceeds, details emerge, putting in question the woman’s character.
The prosecution argues that the defendant committed a cold-blooded murder, while the defense does its best to argue that the crime was committed in a brief moment of insanity.
6. A Man For All Seasons
A highly successful movie, A Man For All Seasons, won a whopping six Academy Awards. The film follows the trial of Sir Thomas More who was charged with treason. Set in London, in the sixteenth century during a time when the Vatican and Royals shared power; King Henry VIII decided to get his wedding annulled. To successfully do so he had to become the supreme leader of the church.
Sir Thomas More, a man who stood by his beliefs, was the only one who stood against the king’s whims and was beheaded for it, after being tried for treason.
7. A Few Good Men
One of the biggest movies to ever hit the big screen, this film follows the story of a group of soldiers accused of killing one of their own. In the movie, a soldier stationed at GITMO dies, and a group of fellow soldiers is accused of committing the crime through negligent behavior.
However, the group pleads that they were ordered to punish the soldiers, during which one of the soldiers died.
This film marks the coming of age of two of the most revered actors to date, Jack Nicholson, and Tom Cruise. It is also in this movie that the famous quote “you can’t handle the truth” was coined.
8. Jagged Edge
In this film, the defendant is accused of murdering his wife and maid. In a movie filled with twists and turns, the defendant’s lawyer, Glenn Close is morally compromised as she ends up sleeping with her client. As the verdict is delivered, there is still more to come as the twists and turns in the story line continue.
Towards the end of the film, the true character of the defendant comes to light, as Close realizes exactly what her client is.
9. Erin Brockovich
In this movie, Julia Roberts plays the role of Erin Brockovich. In the beginning, Erin finds herself in a tough spot as she is involved in a car accident she did not cause. She then asks her personal injury lawyer for a job which she ultimately gets. As she looks through real estate files at work, she finds a file that does not belong; a medical file stashed in the real estate files.
She goes through the file, getting the feeling that she has found something. She digs for more information and discovers that the world’s largest public utility company has been buying up homes that were negatively affected by the company’s pollutant waste disposal activities. After digging up as much evidence as she needed, she approached her boss at the law firm and got him to launch a class action suit.
This film earned Tom Hanks his first Academy Award for best actor. Released in the mid-nineties, the film is set in a time when patients diagnosed with AIDS faced a lot of stigma from the rest of society. In the movie, an employee of a certain corporate legal firm is sacked; with the reason cited being that he is unfit for work. However, the real reason he was let go is that he had AIDS. He tries to find a lawyer who will represent him against his old firm in court to no avail.
This leads him to take matters into his hands and represent himself. As he puts forward his case, even the loudest and most rigid homophobic listeners are obliged to listen to him.
Although movies usually add an element of drama to the plot, the stories told by some of the movies listed above have played a significant role in charting the way forward as far as the law is concerned. All of the movies listed above are not only great to watch but also come with practical lessons in the law and how it relates to society as well.