The law practice often seems so tedious: uptight lawyers in business suits drowning in paperwork and arguing about law interpretations for days in a row. What kind of life is this?
Still, the legal profession can be exciting since it revolves around human destinies and stories. This article invites you on a journey through the mind-boggling world of law, bubbling with emotions, mysteries, and controversies—and hungry for justice and freedom. So, sit back and relax as AXDRAFT introduces you to the 12 best legal movies.
Legal comedy films
Let’s start with legal comedy movies to do away with the stereotypic image of lawyers as prim know-it-alls that take themselves too seriously. Contrary to popular stereotypes, legal practice presents many humorous or ironic situations. The following films about lawyers revolve around them.
Liar Liar (1997)
This film comes first on our list of movies about lawyers to bust the stereotypes about this profession. Liar Liar stars Jim Carrey in the lead role, so do expect a handful of extraordinary and hilarious scenes.
The main character, Fletcher, a guardian of justice, turns out to be a pathological liar. This has helped him to build a distinguished career. He lies at work. He lies to his ex-wife. Finally, he lies to his son, who is desperate to spend time with his father. Eventually, his son makes a birthday wish: he wants his father to speak only the truth for the whole day.
Well, as you might’ve guessed, this wish comes true. The next day, Fletcher finds himself in an awkward situation — he can’t tell anything but the truth.
Running time: 86 minutes
Director: Tom Shadyac
Starring: Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Jeniffer Tilly
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Legally Blonde (2001)
Here is another attorney movie that shows an unconventional image of a lawyer—a glamorous and, at first glance, naive blonde young woman, Elle Woods. She’s obsessed with fashion and never dreamed of a career in law. But destiny had other plans.
It all starts with a breakup. Elle’s boyfriend, Warner, says goodbye to her. He thinks Elle is too down-to-earth, while he intends to apply to Harvard Law School and build a successful career in politics. All in all, Elle looks like a poor match for him.
But Elle decides to prove that she’s not and applies to Harvard Law School as well. Wait and see how the story develops as Elle takes it upon herself to show Warner who’s a poor match there.
There’s a sequel to this good lawyer movie: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, where Elle Woods continues to fight for justice in her signature way.
Running time: 96 minutes
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair
IMDB Rating: 6.4/10
Legal horror films
Legal practice can take you on an emotional rollercoaster, from laughter to horror. These two films about law won’t leave you indifferent, either.
The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
This law film presents the traditional image of a lawyer: a talented young man Kevin who strives for success in his legal career. However, his path isn’t as dull as his business suit. Defending an accused who is obviously guilty doesn’t bother Kevin. After this successful case, he gets a lucrative offer from a law company that protects the interests of millionaires.
As time goes on, Kevin realizes that the firm’s owner is literally the devil, whereas he appears to be the devil’s advocate…
Running time: 144 minutes
Director: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
This is a perfect law film for those in love with otherworldly things.
Erin Burner, who’s set to become a senior partner at her law firm, takes on the case of a Catholic priest. He is accused of negligent homicide after performing an exorcism on a young woman, Emily Rose.
The prosecutor claims Emily had undiagnosed schizophrenia. But a defense attorney, Erin, insists that Emily’s condition can’t be attributed to science alone.
A film critic Olly Richards concluded: “Viewed as a horror movie, Emily Rose isn’t much scarier than the average, but combined with intelligent and balanced courtroom drama, it has more to offer than your usual big-lunged, big-breasted screamer.”
Running time: 119 minutes
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Legal thriller films
Legal practice doesn’t always need the intervention of supernatural forces to impress you. What seems like a typical case might just as well get out of hand. These movies about attorneys can strain your nerves no worse than horror movies.
The lawyer film tells the story of sexual harassment. Tom Sanders, a computer specialist at a technology company, is happily married with children. He nurtures high hopes for career advancement. But instead, Meredith Johnson, Tom’s ex-lover, gets the promotion.
Tom would’ve humbly accepted his boss’s decision, but for Meredith. She’s still trying to reignite the fire between them and gets mad when Tom turns her down. Tom’s only option is to file a sexual harassment lawsuit. The problem is that everyone thinks it was the other way around. The situation threatens Tom’s career and personal life, but he is still determined to celebrate his victory in court.
Running time: 128 minutes
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
How to Get Away with Murder (2014-2020)
This American legal thriller TV series tells the story of a prominent criminal defense attorney and law professor who selects five first-year law students as interns for her firm. But it happens so that all of them are forced to practice law the hard way: the professor and her students get involved in a real murder case. Now they really have to learn how to avoid punishment for murder.
How to Get Away with Murder might be dubbed a legal House. This lawyer movie is full of complex court cases, legal terminology, interpretation of the law, and, of course, unexpected twists that add even more sparks to each new season.
Running time: 43 minutes
Created by: Peter Nowalk
Starring: Viola Davis, Alfred Enoch, Jack Falahee, Aja Naomi King, Karla Souza, Matt McGorry
IMDB Rating: 9.5/10
Legal drama films
We all need a little drama in our lives. Law and drama are often linked, too. Scroll down for an overview of some first-rate law movies with a dramatic plot.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The film tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer from Alabama, who’s raising his two children alone. As a defense attorney, Atticus is defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. During the trial, Atticus faces the hostility of a Southern town teeming with racial prejudice.
The parallel plot shows Atticus’ children as they grapple with social and racial injustice while growing up.
Running time: 129 minutes
Director: Robert Mulligan
Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
The Reader (2008)
Another excellent movie that tracks the relationship between Michael Berg, a young German studying to become a lawyer, and an elderly lady Hanna Schmitz, a streetcar conductor. A secret romance flares up. Michael spends the whole summer reading books to Anna. Soon after, he discovers that his lover has vanished, leaving an empty apartment behind.
Later, she is charged with war crimes for serving as a guard in a Nazi concentration camp. It becomes clear to Michael that Hanna is hiding a secret, which she believes is greater than her Nazi past and, if revealed, would help her in court. He must decide whether to intervene in the court proceedings and save his ex-lover—or let things take their own course.
Running time: 124 minutes
Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
This American TV series portrays a series of events at a law firm in New York. A successful lawyer, Harvey Specter, hires an assistant without a law degree, Mike Ross, who was expelled from college for cheating.
Although Michael lacks a proper education, he impresses his boss with his superior memory and attention to detail. Here begins the path of Mike’s brilliant legal career. His empathy and concern about their cases and clients remind emotionally numb Harvey of why he chose to become a lawyer in the first place.
Suits is your best bet if you’re looking for a legal series with a complicated yet entertaining plot.
Running time: 42 minutes
Created by: Aaron Korsh
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Rick Hoffman, Meghan Markle
IMDB Rating: 8.7/10
Real-life stories can be crazier than any movie. The dramas in these top-ranking legal biopics are based on real events. Intellectual property theft is a prominent theme, and matters of the heart are another one.
The Social Network (2010)
This first-rate biographical film shows a background story of Facebook and the subsequent legal battles between its founders: Mark Zuckerberg, a brilliant Harvard student who created the social network; Eduardo Saverin, a former close friend of Zuckerberg’s who gave seed money to the startup; Napster, who introduced Facebook to Silicon Valley venture capitalists; and the Winklevoss twins, Harvard classmates who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea.
All these events are shown as flashbacks during two closed court hearings.
Running time: 121 minutes
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garlfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Big Eyes (2014)
This wonderful drama is directed by no less wonderful Tim Burton, whose movies immerse us in his recognizable visual esthetics. This is exactly what became the stumbling block between the American artist Margaret Keane and her second husband, Walter Keane, the main characters of Burton’s film.
Margaret Keane creates phenomenally popular portraits with big eyes. Her husband helps her market the paintings, but there’s a catch: he claims they belong to him.
Finally, Margaret decides to take legal action and defend her dignity and her artwork.
Running time: 106 minutes
Directed: Tim Burton
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz
IMDB Rating: 7/10
The Tinder Swindler (2022)
This British true-crime documentary tells the story of Simon Leviev, who posed as the son of a Russian-Israeli diamond magnate to scam women. He tricked them into believing he lived a bohemian lifestyle, so the victims had no doubt he would repay all the money they’d lent him. It’s estimated that he swindled $10 million from women around the world.
Before the events described in the film, Simon Leviev had already been charged with fraud and served two years in a Finnish prison.
Simon Leviev is now at large, dating photo models, but he can no longer use Tinder. The app banned him and even released a new guideline to protect users from scammers like him.
Running time: 114 minutes
Directed: Felicity Morris
Starring: Simon Leviev, Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm, Ayleen Charlotte
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10
With this take-home message, our overview of top-ranking legal films ends. “Be careful with dating apps,” it says, to avoid running up legal fees, like Tinder Swindler‘s protagonist. But that’s not what our article was about.
Our goal was to highlight the wealth of experience legal have—and to show that an average lawyer’s day is often far from Groundhog Day. It might as well resemble a whirlwind of unforeseen events, intrigue, drama, and fascinating cases to shoot a movie about.
We hope our overview helped you choose a good lawyer movie to watch tonight. Enjoy!
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