Greatest Courtroom Dramas

Greatest Courtroom Dramas's icon

Created by eiriknielsen.

Favorited 3 times, disliked 1 time, added to 8 watchlists.

One of the best subject areas for dramatic films (or sometimes crime films) are suspenseful, law-related courtroom dramas, which include trials that pit lawyers against each other, and set up a tense one-on-one conflict between a prosecutor and a defendant. Sometimes, the protagonists are a "little" guy (an individual) against a "big" guy (or corporation), or the more abstract "good" vs. "evil," or they often involve wider issues, such as race, sex, capital punishment (life and death), and morality. It has to be said that not all legal (courtroom) dramas include a court of law sequence (although they are fairly mandatory), while still full of legal jargon and proceedings.

And of course, courtroom dramas usually contain some of the most fascinating thematic elements in film -- murder, betrayal, deception, perjury and sex, often presented with powerful monologues or speeches, thrilling scenes of the pursuit of evidence or suspects, or climactic cross-examinations. They also may feature unexpected twists and surprise testimony, unusual motives, moral dilemmas, crusading lawyers and wrongly-accused victims.

AFI defined the courtroom drama as:

"A genre of film in which a system of justice plays a critical role in the film's narrative."

Many courtroom film dramas are based on historical events, such as the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial (in Inherit the Wind (1960)), the war crimes tribunal (in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)), and Sir Thomas More's defense against treason (in A Man For All Seasons (1966)). However, for reasons of length, many non-fiction courtroom dramas are often shortened or compressed, and details are sometimes glossed over or changed.

The 'golden age' of feature film courtroom dramas lasted through the 1990s, but then a shift occurred with the rise and prominence of legal-courtroom-related TV shows, including Law & Order (1990-2010) and its spin-offs, Ally McBeal (1997-2002), The Practice (1997-2004), and other police procedurals (the NCIS franchise (2003- ) and JAG (1995-2005)). Most people fondly and nostalgically remember the earliest popular legal dramas on TV, such as Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Dragnet (1951-1959) and their many derivatives.

Remove ads

Filter

  1. 1 new

    La passion de Jeanne d'Arc

    1928 — a.k.a. The Passion of Joan of Arc, in 27 top lists Check
  2. 2 new

    M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder

    1931 — a.k.a. M, in 35 top lists Check
  3. 3 new

    Fury

    1936, in 11 top lists Check
  4. 4 new

    Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

    1936, in 11 top lists Check
  5. 5 new

    The Life of Emile Zola

    1937, in 7 top lists Check
  6. 6 new

    They Won't Forget

    1937, in 2 top lists Check
  7. 7 new

    On Trial

    1939, in 0 top lists
    Check
  8. 8 new

    Young Mr. Lincoln

    1939, in 8 top lists Check
  9. 9 new

    The Letter

    1940, in 5 top lists Check
  10. 10 new

    All That Money Can Buy

    1941 — a.k.a. The Devil and Daniel Webster, in 4 top lists Check
  11. 11 new

    The Ox-Bow Incident

    1943, in 14 top lists Check
  12. 12 new

    A Matter of Life and Death

    1946, in 23 top lists Check
  13. 13 new

    Boomerang!

    1947, in 3 top lists Check
  14. 14 new

    Miracle on 34th Street

    1947, in 7 top lists Check
  15. 15 new

    The Paradine Case

    1947, in 1 top list Check
  16. 16 new

    They Won't Believe Me

    1947, in 1 top list Check
  17. 17 new

    An Act of Murder

    1948 — a.k.a. Live Today for Tomorrow, in 0 top lists Check
  18. 18 new

    The Accused

    1949, in 1 top list Check
  19. 19 new

    Adam's Rib

    1949, in 8 top lists Check
  20. 20 new

    Knock on Any Door

    1949, in 1 top list Check
  21. 21 new

    The File on Thelma Jordon

    1949, in 2 top lists Check
  22. 22 new

    Rashômon

    1950 — a.k.a. Rashomon, in 34 top lists Check
  23. 23 new

    A Place in the Sun

    1951, in 13 top lists Check
  24. 24 new

    I Confess

    1953, in 2 top lists Check
  25. 25 new

    The Caine Mutiny

    1954, in 3 top lists Check
  26. 26 new

    The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

    1955 — a.k.a. One Man Mutiny, in 0 top lists Check
  27. 27 new

    Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

    1956, in 3 top lists Check
  28. 28 new

    The Wrong Man

    1956, in 8 top lists Check
  29. 29 new

    12 Angry Men

    1957, in 30 top lists Check
  30. 30 new

    Paths of Glory

    1957, in 26 top lists Check
  31. 31 new

    Witness for the Prosecution

    1957, in 11 top lists Check
  32. 32 new

    I Want to Live!

    1958, in 2 top lists Check
  33. 33 new

    Anatomy of a Murder

    1959, in 13 top lists Check
  34. 34 new

    Compulsion

    1959, in 0 top lists Check
  35. 35 new

    Libel

    1959, in 0 top lists Check
  36. 36 new

    The Young Philadelphians

    1959, in 0 top lists Check
  37. 37 new

    Inherit the Wind

    1960, in 4 top lists Check
  38. 38 new

    Judgment at Nuremberg

    1961, in 8 top lists Check
  39. 39 new

    Town Without Pity

    1961, in 0 top lists Check
  40. 40 new

    Billy Budd

    1962, in 2 top lists Check
  41. 41 new

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    1962, in 18 top lists Check
  42. 42 new

    A Man for All Seasons

    1966, in 14 top lists Check
  43. 43 new

    In Cold Blood

    1967, in 8 top lists Check
  44. 44 new

    10 Rillington Place

    1971, in 2 top lists Check
  45. 45 new

    ...and justice for all.

    1979 — a.k.a. And Justice for All, in 0 top lists Check
  46. 46 new

    Kramer vs. Kramer

    1979, in 8 top lists Check
  47. 47 new

    The Onion Field

    1979, in 1 top list Check
  48. 48 new

    'Breaker' Morant

    1980 — a.k.a. Breaker Morant, in 5 top lists Check
  49. 49 new

    Whose Life Is It Anyway?

    1981, in 0 top lists Check
  50. 50 new

    The Verdict

    1982, in 7 top lists Check
Remove ads
Show all 104 movies

Last updated on Jun 2, 2021; source