Twenty-One Great Court Room Drama Movies

Louise Ward
4 min readAug 3, 2023


Court Room Movies

We all must love a good courtroom drama because there are a lot of them out there. Here are my top 21 legal drama movies which I’ve sorted by their Rotten Tomatoes rating and if they are available on the main streaming channels I’ve added this too (correct at time of writing).

Why twenty-one? I had twenty and just had to add my final choice of The Pelican Brief, rated only 52% which does not do justice to it IMO as it is well worth watching. Let me know any you would have added in the comments.

  1. “12 Angry Men” (1957) — Henry Fonda in a gripping courtroom classic where a lone juror challenges the others’ prejudices, shaping the fate of a young man on trial; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%.
  2. “I Want To Live” (1958) — A biographical film noir of the real-life Barbara Graham’s fight against a flawed justice system after being wrongfully accused of murder; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%.
  3. “The Verdict” (1982) — A washed-up lawyer (Paul Newman) finds redemption when he takes on a medical malpractice case against powerful opponents; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%.
  4. “Inherit the Wind” (1960) — A fictionalised account of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, exploring the clash between science and religion in a small town with Spencer Tracy starring; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%.
  5. “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957) — In this classic courtroom thriller starring Marlene Dietrich, an ageing lawyer takes on the defence of a man accused of murder with a surprising twist; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%.
  6. “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) — A heartfelt drama with Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, about a divorcing couple’s custody battle, forcing a workaholic father to confront his role as a parent; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%.
  7. “Let Him Have It” (1991) — British drama film based on a true story, a mentally impaired teenager faces capital punishment for a crime, raising questions about justice and the death penalty; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%.(Amazon Prime.)
  8. “Compulsion” (1959) — Inspired by the true life Leopold and Loeb case, two wealthy young men commit a heinous crime to prove their intellectual superiority, leading to a high-stakes trial starring Orson Welles; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%.
  9. “The Trial” (1962) — Based on Franz Kafka’s novel, a man (Anthony Perkins) faces a surreal and nightmarish trial for a crime he is unaware of, delving into themes of bureaucracy and absurdity; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%.
  10. “My Cousin Vinny” (1992) — A young, inexperienced lawyer hilariously defends his cousin in a Southern courtroom, navigating unfamiliar territory. Fun film with Joe Pesci; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%. (Disney+)
  11. “Erin Brockovich” (2000) — A tenacious legal assistant (Julia Roberts) uncovers a massive environmental cover-up and takes on a corporate giant to seek justice for affected communities; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%.
  12. “The Lincoln Lawyer” (2011) — A charismatic lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) defends clients from his chauffeur-driven Lincoln Town Car; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%.
  13. “The Rainmaker” (1997) — An idealistic young lawyer battles a powerful insurance company in a David vs. Goliath legal showdown. An all-star cast led by Matt Damon and directed by Francis Ford Coppola; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%.
  14. “A Few Good Men” (1992) — A young military lawyer (Tom Cruise) takes on a challenging case involving a hazing death at Guantanamo Bay. With Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%.
  15. “Suspect” (1987) — A public defender and a juror uncover a conspiracy while working on a high-profile murder trial, leading them to risk everything to expose the truth starring Cher and Denis Quaid; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%.
  16. “A Passage to India” (1984) — Set in colonial India, this mysterious period drama adapted from E. M Forster follows a British woman’s accusation against an Indian doctor, exploring racial tensions and the limits of justice; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%.
  17. “Philadelphia” (1993) — A powerful drama with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington about a lawyer battling AIDS discrimination in the workplace, challenging societal prejudices; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%.
  18. “The Winslow Boy” (1999) — Based on a real case, a father’s determination to clear his son’s name leads to a high-stakes legal battle and a fight for justice in early 20th-century England; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%.
  19. The Firm” (1993) — A young Tom Cruise in a film where the young attorney’s dream job at a prestigious law firm turns into a nightmare as he discovers its sinister connections; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75%. (Paramount +)
  20. “Runaway Jury” (2003) — A great cast (John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz) in a thrilling courtroom drama which unfolds as a mysterious juror manipulates the trial’s outcome; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%.(Netflix)
  21. “The Pelican Brief” (1993) — A law student’s legal theory puts her life in danger as she uncovers a conspiracy involving high-ranking officials starring Julia Roberts; Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 52%.



Louise Ward

Writing about books, behavioural science, advertising, communication. On a continual learning journey and exploring just about everything.