We’ve compiled a list of the top law-related movies of all time, including the only two that genuinely focus on law school itself.
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I imagine law school would be on the list of the ten most uninspiring settings for a movie if you polled screenwriters. At least in fiction, lawyers only become intriguing once they graduate from law school. On the other hand, a few films have managed to turn understanding the law into something worth filming, and those are the ones we’ve included in our list. The rest of the plots revolve around lawyers, who everyone knows are excellent movie fodder.
Here are some of the best law school and law-related movies ever made. Let us know in the comments if there is something you feel is missing from the list. In the event that there are any glaring errors, we will correct them right away.
1. LEGALLY BLONDE (2001)
This is a heartwarming comedy about a woman who decides to leave her California sorority behind in order to track down her ex-boyfriend at Harvard Law School. Her priorities change drastically as a result of this experience. Witherspoon’s portrayal of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde has made her a popular role model for aspiring law students.
In spite of the film’s over-the-top nature, it depicts law school admissions and the admissions process rather accurately. Even Elle Woods is shown working hard to prepare for the LSAT. If you want her 179, you’ll have to work hard too.
2. The Paper Chase (1973)
This is the only film about law school life that is truly serious. Intense and moody, it captures the relationship between a professor and a pupil brilliantly. John Houseman’s Academy Award-winning performance as Professor Kingsfield is enough to merit a viewing of the film. It’s still possible to find a lecturer who can terrify 1Ls, like Richard “The Hammer” Helmholz at the University of Chicago. Professor Kingsfield from The Paper Chase is a condensed version of all of these horrifying Arch-Villain instructors.
No professor will ever be as terrifying as Kingsfield, but the movie still has some useful lessons: if viewing makes you want to be a thousand miles away from a classroom, you might want to reconsider your plans for law school! While the socratic approach is exaggerated, the video depicts studying for exams in an accurate manner. Finals week at law school may be exhausting. The Paper Chase is available for purchase on Amazon.
3. Rounders (1993)
Matt Damon plays a former poker shark turned law student who is compelled to return to the seedy underbelly of New York City’s poker scene in order to save a cheating friend. Even though it isn’t a fantastic picture, John Malkovich’s performance as oddball gangster Teddy KGB is memorable enough to help the film achieve cult status (or at least a bro favorite).
Even though there isn’t a lot of legal work or study going on here, is that necessarily a bad thing? When you don’t want to ponder too much, this is an excellent movie to watch during your first year of law school.
There are just three movies in history depicting a law school study group in action. Comment below and let me know if you see anything I’ve overlooked. Let’s move on to the legal dramas! Amazon has Rounders.
4. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
For those slackers who are still pursuing a career as a lawyer, Vinny is the patron saint of Elle. Vinny’s prospects of surviving three years of law school in real life are slim, but I think anything is possible if you have the perseverance to succeed (Vinny passes his bar on the 6th try). The movie’s depiction of courtroom procedure, however, is astonishingly realistic (the director, a law student himself, insisted on getting it right).
Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei have great chemistry together, so that should be the big draw here. This is a movie you’ll want to watch again and again, thanks to the excellent performances by Marisa Tomei in particular. At the time, I’m assuming it was the most F-words in a movie.
5. A Few Good Men
You can’t handle this movie’s truth.
The floor is yours if you can think of a more combustible example of a trial confession. You won’t be able to do it.. There are probably a hundred later lawyer shows and movies that can be directly traced to this smoldering courtroom drama.
Excuse me, but I think I’ll have to put this down for a bit and watch that instead. As always, Jack Nicholson is a joy to watch on screen. Amazon has A Few Good Men for sale.
6. Michael Clayton (2008)
Even though it’s just a great movie, I included this one because it captures the corporate feel perfectly, making it more appealing to future corporate lawyers. If you’re a law student, you’ll be well-prepared for a career-killing crisis of conscience 20 years from now.
There are some excellent supporting roles for George Clooney, who is the film’s headliner (this movie was the only film up for multiple acting awards at the 2008 oscars). Thrilling and cerebral, it’s a must-see. Amazon has Michael Clayton’s books (2008)
7. The Verdict (1982)
This is one of the best movies ever made about a disgraced attorney. To right a terrible wrong in society, Frank Galvin (played by Paul Newman) emerges from the fog of drink and moral confusion.
Keep in mind that this one isn’t very concerned with portraying court proceedings accurately. There are some advantages to this for a law student, in my opinion. You can feed your idealistic side with this.
8. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
It’s a no-brainer to include Atticus Finch on the list, as most lawyers revere him. Finch, played by Gregory Peck, was voted the “Greatest Hero of American Film” by the American Film Institute.
As difficult as it may be, I believe that standing on the right side of history is an obligation of a lawyer.