What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start.
As the quote from Philadelphia shows, Hollywood has a love-hate relationship with lawyers. Time after time, filmmakers depict lawyers as money-grubbing parasites who are more interested getting a pay check than seeing justice served. But at the same time, there are countless films that depict lawyers as champions of the underdog, defending the poor and weak in the face of overwhelming odds. Still others, like The Lincoln Lawyer, fall in the middle, and show the complex nature of a job where people are often asked to chose between what’s right and what’s legal. Regardless of what side of the fence they fall, we definitely want the following nine movie lawyers on our side if we ever end up in a court room. (Spoilers Ahead)
When it comes to people you don’t want to sue, a high-profile law firm is probably at the top of the list. So when lawyer Andrew Beckett seeks to sue his former firm for discrimination, he has a hard time finding someone who will take the case. Despite his initial reluctance, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) agrees to take Beckett on as a client, and manages to beat the prestigious law firm at its own game.
When two students falsely accuse high-school guidance counselor Sam Lombardo of rape, he soon finds himself out of a job and facing jail time. To make matters worse, one of the girls comes from a very powerful family, which makes finding a reputable lawyer difficult. But who needs reputable when you’ve got Ken Bowden (Bill Murray). This sleazy ambulance chaser takes on the case, and actually manages to clear his client’s name. Of course, it was all a setup from start to finish, but at the end of the day, Bowden is one of the last men standing. You have to respect that.
The nice thing about Alan Dershowitz is he’s a real lawyer. This Harvard Law professor wrote the book on which the film is based. It tells the story of the trial of Claus von Bülow, who was accused of attempting to murder his wife. Dershowitz also went on to help with OJ Simpson’s defense. So if anyone out there is thinking of murdering their wife, you know who to call. Bring money.
Frank Galvin is ambulance chasing lawyer who lost a promising career because of his alcoholism. When a friend sets him up with a slam-dunk case that is sure to settle out of court, he has a change of heart, and decides to see the case though and no take the payout. Despite the odds, and the wishes of everyone involved, he manages to win the case. His clients are awarded a sum far in excess of what they would have received in the settlement, while Frank wins his redemption.
On paper, Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci) isn’t exactly what you’d look for in a defense attorney, especially if you were being charged with murder. But that just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover (or by its five failed attempts to pass the bar exam). Despite the fact that he has no experience in criminal court, Gambini manages to win a not guilty verdict for his clients based mainly on his girlfriend’s knowledge of cars and his personal experience with cooked grits. That’s what I call impressive.
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a vapid socialite who is more worried about her accessories than the inner workings of the legal system. But when her boyfriend leaves her because he can’t take her seriously, she applies to law school in order to prove him wrong. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d actually hire her as an attorney. But I’ve always wanted to bang Reese Witherspoon), so she made the list.
Defense attorneys lie. There’s no other way to say it. It’s there job to defend a client, even if they are guilty. So, imagine how difficult it would be for a defense attorney who couldn’t tell a lie. Fletcher Reede (Jim Carrey) learned that the hard way in Liar Liar. When his son’s birthday wish comes true, Reede finds himself unable to tell the slightest fib, yet, he somehow manages to win the case. Now that’s some top-notch lawyering.
If you’re going to run a crime family, you better have a good lawyer. The Corleone family has the best. Tom Hagen acts as the family’s consigliere, attending to any legal or political issues that arise. How good is he? After intimidating a witness (via his brother) into not testifying at a congressional hearing, he has the stones to demand an apology. Nice.
When it comes to movie lawyers, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is the character by which all others are measured. In fact, Peck’s portrayal is so moving, that you might actually forget he didn’t win the case. Even so, if your life was on the line, you’d be lucky to have a lawyer like this on your side.