People love movies with suspenseful courtroom scenes where the accused is suddenly exonerated by a surprise witness. Doesn’t happen much in real life, but it reminds me that Hollywood used to make great legal movies Here’s my TOP FIVE list:
1. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
When two New Jersey Italian-Americans are charged with murder in Alabama, they need to find a lawyer, but the only lawyer they know is their cousin Vinny, who failed his bar exam six times. In this laugh-a minute comedy Vinny is played by Joe Peschi, while Marisa Tomei, plays his bubble-headed fiancee. Tomei received an Oscar for her role.
2. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
This Agatha Christie play was turned into a movie starring Marlene Dietrich. It is a terrific movie about a man falsely accused of murder. I have a soft spot in my heart for this film since several years ago, I played Marlene Dietrich in an Arts Club production at the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver, in several scenes where she disguises herself to dupe a lawyer. Many Oscar nominations for this movie.
3. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
This film portrays the real-life trial of four judges appointed by Hitler who were charged with crimes against humanity after World War II and tried at the Nuremberg Court. Nominated for many Oscars, and the recipient of three, it was one of the first Holocaust movies. It starred Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Montgomery Cliff. A new version starring Alex Baldwin was made for TV in 2000. It is also an excellent flick.
4. And Justice For All (1979)
Another riveting courtroom drama, this one starring Al Pacino shouting indignantly : “You’re out-of-order! You’re out-of-order. This whole courtroom is out-of-order! They’re out-of-order!” The story begins with Al Pacino’s character, a brash idealistic lawyer, in jail for contempt of court after he punches Judge Fleming during a heated criminal trial. The story is complex but the Judge Fleming thread is picked up again when Fleming is charged with rape and wants Al Pacino to defend him. The two loathe each other and therein lies the compelling drama.
5. A Few Good Men (1992)
In a Hollywood “tour de force” Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Tom Cruise star in this movie about a military tribunal convened to judge two Marines accused of murdering a fellow Marine. Tom Cruise plays the role of a young lawyer who has never been in a courtroom. The tension is palpable as Cruise cross-examines defence witness Col. Jessop played by Jack Nicholson. Who can forget Cruise’s taunt to Jessop “I want the truth!” and the shocking retort “You can’t handle the truth!” A stunning movie.
There are more to add to this list, but I can’t think of any movie made this decade that compares with my TOP FIVE. I suggest you run to your video store if you have missed any of these stellar films. More to come from me, but what about you? What are your favorites?