The Best Criminal Courtroom Movies –

Court drama abounds in the entertainment industry, many of which have come from TV shows. But what are some of the more iconic courthouse movies steeped in crime and released?

Killing a mockingbird

Adapted from Harper Lee’s best-selling classic, the 1962 film sums up the story perfectly. The story follows a black man accused of raping a white woman during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and he is represented by a well-known and popular white lawyer, Atticus Finch. Given that the action takes place in a courtroom, it tops the list for its iconic stature and resistance over time. The film emphasizes the civil rights movement. Being black gets you less favor in the courtroom and puts more innocent lives at risk of imprisonment.

12 angry men

Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film is considered one of the best single-setting films of all time. 12 jurors at a murder trial debate the final verdict in the jury room. The plot leaves viewers tense and unsure of where the judges will land until the end. Since the film is set in a room, the story needs to be gripping enough to hold the audience’s attention, and this film does just that. The film also shows the importance of going through all the scenarios and covering the case thoroughly, so that justice may be properly served.

A few good men

Hothead Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) calls those responsible to account. This military lead leads through the murder of a Marine who is trying to leave the company. Kaffee must find the motive behind the attack. As he does so, he calls out his senior officer, Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson), who delivers the iconic phrase, “You can’t handle the truth!” .

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My cousin Vinny

Joe Pesci plays an eccentric New York attorney who goes to small Alabama to help his cousin and friend. Charged with murder, it’s up to Vinny to plead her not guilty. The kicker is that Vinny has never won a case before. This film follows the law and the process of court etiquette so well that it was studied in law school. The iconic ending scene, in which his fiancĂ© puts the defense in the stands, helped Marisa Tomei win an Oscar for her role. Pesci can entertain the audience in a comedic film and make them wonder how he’s going to win this case.


This Oliver Stone drama explores the conspiracies behind the assassination of former President JFK. Based on the true story of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner), this film follows the attorney who proves that Lee Harvey Oswald (played by Gary Oldman) didn’t kill the President and government forces staged him . This almost 3.5 hour film is an outstanding achievement for Costner and earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

Anatomy of a Murder

James Stewart plays semi-retired attorney Paul Biegler, who works on a case involving Army Lt. Manion (played by Ben Gazzara) who murdered an innkeeper after his wife claimed he raped her. Biegler feuds with District Attorney Lodwick (played by Brooks West) and Claude Dancer (played by George C. Scott). The fate of his case rests in the hands of the victim’s mysterious business partner (played by Kathryn Grant), who appears to be hiding a very dark secret.

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A time to kill

Another deep south anti-racism trial where Samuel L. Jackson plays Carl Lee Hailey and Mathew McConaughey Jake Brigance as his attorney. After his daughter is brutally raped, Hill takes revenge and kills the attacker, but now faces a jury of white colleagues who will confirm his crime was justified.

Naturally blond

Law student Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) gets an internship in a high-profile murder trial. Since the suspect is someone from her past, Woods will do whatever it takes to solve the case and keep the girl code at the top of her list while styling her favorite pink looks. The film follows Woods as she learns what it means to be a lawyer and who is here to support her.

Although these courtroom scenes have nothing to do with crime, they are still just as iconic as the others. Here are some honorable mentions:

Inherit the wind

Bertram Cates (played by Dick York) is a schoolteacher in Tennessee in the 1920s accused of teaching evolution instead of creationism. EK Hornbeck (played by Gene Kelly) attracts national media attention and covers the case. Contrast this with two of the nation’s best lawyers, Matthew Harrison Brady (played by Fredric March) and Henry Drummond (played by Spencer Tracy).

Miracles on 34th Street

A classic Christmas movie puts a man on trial who claims to be Santa Claus (played by Edmund Gwenn) while his roommate Fred Gailey (played by John Payne) has to defend him in court. It makes national headlines and becomes a critical case in ensuring children still believe in Santa Claus. After turning non-believers Doris and Susan Walker (Maureen O-Hara and Natalie Wood, respectively) into believers, Gailey must think outside the box to prove his roommate is who he says he is, just before he has to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

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Kramer against Kramer

Ted Kramer (played by Dustin Hoffman) receives the biggest report of his career, only to find out his wife Joanna (played by Meryl Streep) is leaving him and their son Billy (played by Justin Henry). Ted loses his job and is forced to be a house husband, but in the process he becomes close with his child. With the help of another single mom, Margaret (played by Jane Alexander), Ted seems to be headed in a better direction until Joanna comes back seeking custody of Billy.