Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
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If lawyers were all as charismatic as James Stewart, movies would become pointless, people would just have to go to the court. Fascinating film, by the way.
James Stewart VS George C. Scott, What's not to love?
Anatomy of a Murder is an iconic courtroom drama - the poster inspired the Fiasco game's graphic design and Alan Moore's Anatomy Lesson in Swamp Thing, but for most people, it's Jimmy Stewart playing that simple country lawyer - that manages both a dissection of its characters and the event surrounding a murder AND ambiguity as to the verdict's validity. This it does by sticking to Stewart, and not confirming things he's not privy to. In 1959, this naturally shocked audiences, but while we're more used to frank sexual themes and the idea of rape, the film (which is based on a real case) still offers a treatment that is relevant today. Right-minded (that is to say, correct-minded) people know there's never a justification for rape, and yet, trials both legal and public still today re-violate the victim by calling out behavior and dress. I did not feel the tactics used in the film were any different than those used today, which is what remains upsetting today. Of course, how it relates to the murder case is tangential, and almost becomes a distraction. I was retrying it in my head, which the length and procedural pace certainly allow you to do (without ever feeling bored however). Good performances all around, with Stewart and the amusing judge played by Joseph N. Welch (a high profile lawyer, but not an actor, and yet) are the highlights. Lee Remick is properly enigmatic. George C. Scott is a slick shark as the prosecuting attorney, but perhaps a bit too overtly villainous. Jazz fans should check out the Duke Ellington score (and cameo), which supports Stewart's character flying by the seat of his pants during the entire case.
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In 12 official lists
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This movie ranks #30 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #40 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #65 in iCheckMovies's 1950s Top 100
This movie ranks #219 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #241 in Jennifer Eiss's 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #335 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #445 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #564 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #606 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #701 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #709 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #904 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films