Scene: 11:30 PM in an Omaha, NE hotel room, Ethan is feeling drowsy after a long day of meetings with other lawyers. He turns on the TV, but the hotel’s cable package is mediocre at best, so he ends up on VH1 of all things. Surprise! The viewing of choice tonight is a movie, a courtroom drama starring Matthew McConaughey. He’s a criminal lawyer representing someone accused of rape, and the trial is entering closing arguments.
This was how I spent last Friday night – I turned on this random McConaughey movie about 30 minutes from the end and wound up watching the rest even though I had absolutely none of the backstory. Apparently VH1 doesn’t want you to know what you’re watching, because they never flashed the name of the movie on the screen. It’s just an IMDB search away, but I still have no idea what the name of the movie was.
That movie got me thinking about other lawyer movies. There aren’t many about estate planning – that I know of, anyway – but courtroom dramas are one of the “old faithfuls” for filmmakers. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order:
- To Kill a Mocking Bird – Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.
- Erin Brockovich – An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.
- Michael Clayton – A law firm brings in its “fixer” to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multi-billion dollar class action suit.
- Runaway Jury – A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer.
- 12 Angry Men – A dissenting juror in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the others that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court.
As with any law-related subject matter, not one of the descriptions does these lawyer movies justice. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the all-time greatest novels and screen adaptations, and Michael Clayton was nominated for the 2007 Oscar for Best Picture. If you’re looking for a high-quality film-watching experience, check out one the films on this list.