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Movies and TV shows for future lawyers

These titles need no help defending their place on this list

This article provides a list of ten admissible movies and TV shows for anyone interested in a courtroom drama. Whether you’re a Legal Studies major, a concerned party or maybe an amicus curiae, these picks can definitely teach you a thing or two about the inner workings of the U.S. legal system.

12 Angry Men” (1957) dir. by Sidney Lumet

“It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

Although this movie doesn’t directly show you a lawyer’s perspective, Sidney Lumet’s film about jury deliberation is a must-watch. “12 Angry Men” is a drama that watches 12 jurors unravel a case where a guilty verdict would mean death for the accused.

Immediately following the closing remarks of the judge in a New York City courthouse, the 12 jurors are sent into the deliberation room. The accused is a young boy who is believed to have stabbed his abusive father, and 11 of the jurors assume he is guilty at the beginning of the deliberation.

Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda, sets himself apart by casting doubt on the facts of the case. He soon makes it his mission to convert the others throughout the course of the film. 

“12 Angry Men” teaches its audience how the judicial system works, why it’s important to understand it and how herd mentality can easily end an innocent person’s life. For future lawyers, it also offers insight into how different personalities can influence one another, which you should keep in mind for jury selection.

“12 Angry Men” is available to stream on Amazon Prime, Tubi and Pluto TV.

Legally Blonde” (2001) dir. by Robert Luketic

“What? Like it’s hard?”

“Legally Blonde” is a staple in women’s empowerment cinema. Robert Luketic’s film tells the story of a sorority girl initially obsessed with winning back her ex-boyfriend, who ends up on a journey of self-discovery. 

Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, gets dumped as she finishes her undergraduate program in fashion merchandising. This shock motivates her to do everything in her power to get into Harvard Law School and win her ex back. 

Not having much luck in initially catching her ex’s attention, Elle begins working to sharpen her mind, and in turn, her self-confidence. With her new self-appreciation, Elle learns she is more than capable of being the lawyer she now sees herself to be.

“Legally Blonde” is available to stream on Max.

On the Basis of Sex” (2018) dir. by Mimi Leder

“Nor does the word ‘freedom,’ Your Honor.”

In Mimi Leder’s award-winning biopic, Felicity Jones flawlessly brings the story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s start as a lawyer to life. 

Ginsburg starts off the film as one of the first women enrolled at Harvard Law School. She is discounted and her intelligence is ignored by almost all of her classmates, except the only other woman in her year and her husband. 

After struggling to find a job in New York, she must settle for a teaching position. Still, she eventually helps a man sue his employer for gender-based discrimination.

This case set a precedent that shaped the entirety of Ginsburg’s career as she worked to end sex-based discrimination case by case.

“On the Basis of Sex” is available for rent or buy on Amazon Prime.

Suits” (2011-2019) created by Aaron Korsh

“When you are backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down.”

Created by Aaron Korsh, “Suits” is nine seasons of the perfect mix of comedy and drama in the legal world. Although the circumstances that shape the leading relationship are less than favorable, Mike Ross and Harvey Specter become fast and unlikely friends throughout this series.

Played by Patrick J. Adams, Ross is a college dropout struggling to afford his grandmother's medical care. Ross accidentally stumbles into an interview for an associate position at a top law firm in New York City, but after an interview with Specter, played by Gabriel Macht, Ross’ photographic memory and extensive knowledge of the legal system lands him the job despite his not having a law degree.

Even better — all of this occurs in the first episode. The rest of the series follows the journey of cases, trickery and relationships that Ross and Specter experience as they represent the top cases at their firm.

“Suits” is available to stream on Netflix and Peacock.

To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) dir. by Robert Mulligan

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

In this adaptation of Harper Lee’s book, Robert Mulligan’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” highlights the evils that reside within the legal system. 

Told through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch, played by Mary Badham, the audience watches as Scout’s attorney father represents a Black man in Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. 

Attorney Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, works to prove that the fabricated rape charge brought against Tim Robinson, played by Brock Peters, is false. With the entirety of the town showing open animosity toward Robinson, Atticus is unwavering in his determination to prove Robinson’s innocence.

This film is filled with hope for a better generation and growth within the town of Maycomb but falls short of a happy ending. The audience is transported to a time of great suffering for the country and forced to reckon with the horrors they witness.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is available to stream on Tubi and Plex.

Erin Brockovich” (2000) dir. by Steven Soderbergh

“Oh, I got numbers comin' outta my ears. For instance: ten.”

“Erin Brockovich,” played by Julia Roberts, is based on a true story of a woman by the same name. Steven Soderbergh’s film tells the story of a badass legal assistant who changed her law firm’s reputation by taking down a major California power plant company.

After Brockovich wins a lawsuit following a car crash she was not at fault for, she convinces her attorney to give her a job at his firm. Though he initially has no faith in her abilities, Brockovich proves herself when she notices a connection between cases that no one else could see — a single power plant was causing medical issues in the neighboring community.

Not only did Brockovich dig deeper, but she taught her attorney to never underestimate the value of a legal assistant determined to make a difference.

“Erin Brockovich” is available to stream on Netflix.

The Lincoln Lawyer” (2011) dir. by Brad Furman

“Know what I’m afraid of now? Evil. Pure evil.”

In Brad Furman’s most well-known film, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is brought to life through the complex character of Mick Haller. Played by Matthew McConaughey, Haller is a freelance attorney who knows how to work the system and continues to show how his unique ways of thinking help him defend his clients, even as a con artist who resorts to tricking clients to maintain their business. He can usually be found being chauffeured around in a Lincoln Navigator that has become his makeshift office. 

Haller prides himself on being able to tell if a client is truly innocent or guilty, but his most recent case changes everything he thought he knew. The son of a wealthy family in California is accused of assaulting an escort, and Haller believes his client innocent until he keeps digging and finds connection to a past case that has haunted him for years.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” is available to stream on Peacock.

My Cousin Vinny” (1992) dir. by Jonathan Lynn

“Uh... everything that guy just said is bullshit... Thank you.”

In this Jonathan Lynn film, the audience is brought on a rollercoaster as Vinny Gambini, played by Joe Pesci, finds his bearings in his first major legal case. 

Gambini’s teenage cousin, along with his friend, are accused of murder while on a road trip through a small town in Alabama. They call Gambini, who took six tries to pass the bar exam, and he comes straight from New York to defend them.

Although the teenage cousin’s confidence in Gambini is seemingly unwavering, his friend is less than confident due to Gambini’s inexperience. 

Gambini’s chaotic approach to the case is balanced out by his determined girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito. Played by Marisa Tomei, Vito is the true mastermind behind the case Gambini delivers to the small town Alabama court.

Vito’s knowledge of automotives, legal proceedings and Gambini’s ability to play a few tricks on the judge and opposing counsel give the team a fighting chance. 

“My Cousin Vinny” is available to stream on Hulu and Peacock.

The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020) dir. by Aaron Sorkin

“This is the Academy Awards of protests and as far as I’m concerned it’s an honor just to be nominated.”

In this Oscar-nominated film based on a true story and directed by Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” follows the high-profile trial of a group of defendants charged with several crimes in regards to their organizing of protests that called for an end to the Vietnam War. 

As the film develops, it shifts between the present trial from 1969 back to the events leading up to the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the protests the defendants organized as a response to the convention.

The infamous trial closely examined countercultural protests and began a conversation about the use of chaos to undermine the US government.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” captures the events of the protests and the trial in a way that transfixes audiences and forces them to question whether the protests were truly a peaceful demonstration, or if the Chicago 7 brought the war to the streets of the city.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is available to stream on Netflix.

Better Call Saul” (2015-2022) created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

“I’m gonna be a damn good lawyer, and people are gonna know about it!”

A prequel to the hit show “Breaking Bad” from the creative masterminds of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, “Better Call Saul” is six seasons of pure genius. Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, is the lead attorney for Albuquerque’s infamous chemistry teacher turned meth dealer, Walter White. 

Before reaching that pinnacle in his career, Goodman was known as Jimmy McGill. “Better Call Saul” follows McGill as an aspiring lawyer and former con artist several years before “Breaking Bad” takes place.

As McGill’s moral decline unfolds, he truly does become a “damn good lawyer,” but the series is bittersweet. The audience grows to root for McGill in his career, but fans of “Breaking Bad” know his fate.

“Better Call Saul” is available to stream on Netflix.

This per curiam list has a mix of drama, comedy and romance to follow along with as you are transported to a courthouse. After a few of these movies and TV shows, you might even be Googling “how hard is the LSAT?”

This article was edited by Bailey Hobbs, Sara Winick and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Charlie Mennuti and Julia Patton. 

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