Maybe you’re a lawyer, a law student, or wanting to become one, or just interested in watching one of the best lawyer movies – we’ve got you covered. Below is the list of the 16 best lawyer movies to watch in 2020. We’ve done quite a bit of research to come up with the films and their reviews – and hope that you’ll find one of your own likings. Let’s dive in!
Reviews of the 16 Best Lawyer Movies
1. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
This is an American biographical drama film about the early life of President Abraham Lincoln – played by Henry Fonda. It follows Lincoln as a country boy in Illinois until he becomes a well-known lawyer in Springfield.
A case referred to in the film is based on a murder case against William Duff Armstrong that took place in 1858.
|Studio||20th Century Fox Film Corporation|
2. Twelve Angry Men (1957)
This is an American courtroom drama film that tells the story of a jury consisting of 12 men as they decide on whether to convict or acquit an 18-year-old defendant, who is a Puerto Rican charged with murdering his father.
As the story unfolds, we explore the personalities of each of the jurors and how they affect their thoughts and decision makings. The names of jury members are hidden until the very end – forcing the audience to examine our own self-image.
|Stars||Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden|
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
This is regarded as one of the best lawyer movies and is adapted from the Pulitzer-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee. Set in a small Alabama town in the 1930s, the story revolves around a highly respected lawyer Atticus Finch and his three young children, particularly Scout. Finch seeks to defend Tom Robinson – a black man accused of rape.
To Kill a Mocking Bird explores the themes of social conscience and racial prejudice as Tom is trialed and the ensuing events that take place. This movie is ranked #1 in Yale’s study about the greatest legal movies.
|Stars||Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, John Megna, Ruth White …|
4. Presumed Innocent (1990)
This is an American legal drama film based on a novel of the same name by Scott Turow. Starring Harrison Ford, it is about a prosecutor named Rusty (Ford) who is charged with murdering his colleague and former mistress Carolyn (Scacchi).
As the story unfolds, Rusty finds evidence piled up against him: his fingerprints are found in her apartment; phone records show that he called her earlier in the evening, and his semen is found at the scene of the crime.
Ford did a great job for seeming plausible as both a killer and an innocent man. It is only at the very end that we find out who is behind the murder.
|Director||Alan J. Pakula|
|Stars||Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, Bonnie Bedelia …|
5. A Few Good Men (1992)
A Few Good Men is an American legal drama starring Tom Cruise as he tries to defend that the two Marines – Dawson and Downey, are innocent of murdering their comrade, Santiago. The lawyers gradually find out that someone else may be involved…
The acting performances of the film stars – especially Jack Nicholson are superb.
|Stars||Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore|
6. The Firm (1993)
Based on an international best-selling novel by John Grisham, one of the best lawyer movies tells the tale of Mitch – a Harvard Law graduate coming from a humble origin, as he accepts a lucrative offer from a Memphis firm.
As Mitch uncovers the truth about the firm’s illegal entanglements and is blackmailed by both the firm and the FBI, he needs to find ways to save his life and his lawyer’s license.
Certain great things about the film are that the legal aspects are given enough depths; the female characters take part in all the action; and the supporting actors are plainly good at what they are doing.
|Stars||Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris…|
7. A Time To Kill (1996)
A Time to Kill is an American legal drama film based on John Grisham’s novel of the same name. Starring Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Matthew McConaughey, the film revolves around the rape of a young girl and her father’s revenge that leads to a murder trial.
The overarching theme is racial prejudice – carefully portrayed by the outstanding performance of the acting cast.
|Stars||Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey|
|Studio||Warner Home Video|
8. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
This Hollywood’s classic is an American supernatural horror film adapted from a novel by Andrew Neiderman. It follows the life of Kevin Lomax – a defense attorney from Florida who has an all-win record as he accepts an offer from a New York firm – under John Milton (played by the Oscar-winner Al Pacino.
As Kevin gets absorbed in his work, his wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) starts experiencing strange things…The movie does a good job at exploring the power of temptation and ambition. You’ll see why it’s ranked one of the best lawyer movies!
|Stars||Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron|
|Studio||Warner Home Video|
9. Erin Brockovich (2000)
This is an American biographical film based on the true story of Erin Brockovich (portrayed by Julia Roberts) – who sued the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for polluting the city’s water supply.
Roberts’ acting in this film earns her many awards including the Academy award and the Golden Globe award. From an unemployed single mom, Erin gets a job as a legal assistant and stumbles upon something out of the ordinary…
|Stars||Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick|
10. Legally Blonde (2001)
This movie is a classic comedy based on Amanda Brown’s novel of the same name.
Elle Woods is the president of her sorority, a fashion merchandiser and having a good life when suddenly her boyfriend Warner breaks up with her to pursue a new love interest at Harvard Law School. Determined to win him back, Elle studies hard, gets admitted to Harvard and the ensuing events are both exciting and amusing.
Witherspoon is witty and charming; her role as someone trying to prove herself in a world seemingly stacked against her because of her hair color is the highlight of the film. You’ll likely laugh a lot and enjoy your time watching this movie.
|Stars||Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis…|
11. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
This film is an American legal thriller starring Matthew McConaughey and an amazing cast of supporting actors – it is based on a novel of the same name by Michael Connelly.
Mickey Haller (McConaughey) is a criminal defense lawyer who works mainly in the backseat of a chauffeured Lincoln Continental. His clients are mostly criminals – such as petty thieves, prostitutes, and even drug-dealing bikers.
Things change when he is introduced to a high-profile case representing a wealthy playboy named Louis Roulet (played by Ryan Phillippe) for brutally beating a prostitute, Regina Campo (Margarita Levieva). Shortly after receiving a large lump sum, Mick and his colleagues start to uncover a series of evidence about his client that prove the case may not be as straightforward as it seems.
|Stars||Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas…|
12. Devil’s Knot (2013)
You probably have heard of the West Memphis Three or watched documentaries on the case – the two most famous are West of Memphis by Amy Berg and Paradise Lost by Bruce Sinofsky. This film is a real-life drama revolving around the horrific murder of three young boys and the following conviction of three teenagers believed to have taken part in a satanic ritual.
The movie explores how a harrowing crime could affect a deeply religious community and how they go about handling the case. The other themes include social stereotyping and religious bigotry.
While the police and the local community are fairly convinced about the culpability of the teenagers, one of the victims’ mom, Pam Hobbs (played by Reese Witherspoon) and the defense team’s investigator, Ron Lax (Colin Firth) – have second thoughts.
|Stars||Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos…|
14. The Judge (2014)
The Judge is an American legal drama film directed by David Dobkin – it explores the complex father-son relationship between a town’s judge, Joseph Palmer (played by Robert Duvall), and a big city lawyer, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.).
Hank is in the middle of a court case when he hears the news of his mom’s passing. Rushing home in Carlinville, Indiana to attend his mother’s funeral, Hank reunites with his father for the first time after many years only to learn shortly after that Joseph is a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run accident.
4k movie deals come once in a while, and when it does, you need to watch the Judge. It will blow your socks off!
|Stars||Robert Duvall, Robert Downey Jr., Vera Farmiga…|
|Studio||Warner Bros. Pictures|
15. Denial (2016)
Denial is a British-American biographical drama film directed by Mick Jackson based on a 2005 book titled ‘History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier’ by Deborah Lipstadt. It’s about a famous libel lawsuit by David Irving (a writer, played by Tom Wilkinson) against Lipstadt, a Holocaust scholar (Academy Award winner – Rachel Weisz).
In the UK court – unlike the United States, defendants are guilty until proven innocent. Hence the burden is upon Lipstadt and her team to find evidence that the Holocaust actually existed.
|Stars||Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott…|
16. Marshall (2017)
Marshall is an American biographical legal drama film based on a real-life story of the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall as he takes on one of the early cases of his career – the State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell.
He travels places to defend for those who are wrongly accused.
Chadwick Boseman does a great job at portraying Marshall as a brilliant attorney, who majors in defending people of color who are wrongly accused. This time he is sent to Connecticut to defend Joseph – a chauffeur accused of raping his white employer, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). Along with his partner Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad) – a young Jewish lawyer, the duo navigates their ways through a legal environment influenced by racism and anti-Semitism.
|Stars||Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens…|
|Studio||Open Road Films|
17. RBG (2018)
RBG is an American documentary film about the second female Supreme Court of the United States Associate Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is a national icon – best known for her tireless fight against gender discrimination for both women and men. The film captures the most memorable moments of her life and career – one of which is the Frontiero v. Richardson case.
Now, at the age of 86, she’s still going strong and plans to stay in the Supreme Court for as long as she can to dedicate her knowledge and experience to practicing law. One of her fans once said: “You can’t spell truth without Ruth.”
|Director||Betsy West, Julie Cohen|
|Stars||Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg…|
The Best Lawyer Movies Movie Guide: Which One To Choose?
Hopefully the list above gives you a good guide regarding the 16 best lawyer movies to watch in 2020. Feel free to browse through them to decide on a film.
If you’re still undecided, maybe it’s a good idea to go in a chronological order – the films in this review are listed from the oldest to the latest dates. Maybe you’d like to watch a historical movie, go for Young Mr. Lincoln (dated back to 1939). Or you prefer a more recent movie – then RBG (2018) would be a good choice.
Another thing to consider is which domain of law you are interested in. Say you’re keen on watching about environmental laws; then Erin Brockovich (2000) is a good pick. Or you want a movie that has some comic elements; Legally Blonde suits you just fine.
Best Lawyer Movies FAQs
The list of the greatest lawyers of all time includes: Abraham Lincoln, Mary Jo White, Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many more.
Conclusion: Best Lawyer Movies
All in all, it’s a good idea that you first ask yourself what you’re looking for in a lawyer film, and then corroborate that with the information we’ve written here in the reviews. That way you should get what you’re looking for!