10 Best Courtroom Drama Movies

Thursday, January 27 by Lori Boyd

The 10 best courtroom drama movies feature some of the best actors of the last century. These movies also span several decades of movie history. They remind us why courtroom drama movies are so popular. 

  1. "To Kill a Mockingbird" This classic movie is the undisputed number one movie of all courtroom drama movies. Set in the South during the Great Depression, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Robert Duvall makes his film debut as the misunderstood recluse, Boo Radley.  
  2. "12 Angry Men" In this classic courtroom drama, Henry Fonda plays the one dissenting jury in a murder case. The focus of the film is the attitudes of the twelve jurors. Masterful dialogue and an insightful sociological study of human nature make this one of the best courtroom drama movies of all time.
  3. "A Few Good Men" When a marine dies of hazing, two of his fellow marines are charged with the crime. However, when the evidence comes up short, Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) goes after the base commander (Jack Nicholson) instead. Who can forget Nicholson’s now famous line? “You can't handle the truth!”
  4. "Witness for the Prosecution" Based on a novel by Agatha Christie, this classic courtroom drama is full of suspense. Tyrone Powers plays the suspect. This was his last film.
  5. "A Cry in the Dark" This courtroom drama is a re-telling of a true story of a couple whose baby is carried off by a dingo in the Australian outback. Even though there was no evidence, the couple finds themselves on trial for the murder of their daughter. Meryl Streep’s amazing performance as Lindy Chamberlain makes this one of the best courtroom drama movies of all time.
  6. "The Accused" This graphic courtroom drama is the story of a woman of questionable character (Jodie Foster) who was gang raped. Kelly McGillis plays her tough attorney, determined to see justice.
  7. "A Time to Kill" Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) is a small-town Mississippi lawyer with the unenviable job of defending a black man who murdered the men who raped his daughter. Intimidation, complete with a KKK kidnapping of his assistant, doesn’t deter him from a brilliant performance in the courtroom.
  8. "Philadelphia" Tom Hanks gives a riveting performance as a man who was fired because he had AIDS. Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) is his homophobic lawyer who comes around during this courtroom drama.
  9. "Kramer vs. Kramer" Dustin Hoffman stars in this courtroom drama about the custody of his son. When his wife deserts their child, Ted Kramer raises him on his own until the wife (Meryl Streep) tries to take him away in a dramatic courtroom drama. 
  10. "Primal Fear" Richard Gere is the slick lawyer who craves the headlines. He ends up defending a man accused of the grisly murder of an archbishop. Edward Norton shows his talent as the accused in his breakout role. 
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