Great Law Films

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July 15, 2013
Tags: Culture | film | law

Summer is here, which means movie theaters are about to hit their peak season. Superheroes have been the craze for the past few years, so while Superman and Iron Man will be getting all the attention, I want to shine a light on some of my favorite movies featuring another type of hero: attorneys.

Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford, 1939)- My preferred depiction of our 16th president belongs to Henry Fonda in this 1939 movie. Starting out poor and shoeless, he exchanges wagon supplies for a law book and decides to devote his life to justice. The movie follows Lincoln as he takes on a murder trial as his first real case. Fonda initially resisted the role for fear of playing so great a man, but director John Ford convinced him by saying, “Stop thinking you’re going to be playing the Great Emancipator, he’s just a
jack-leg prairie lawyer who’s in over his head!”

The Verdict (Lumet, 1982) – This powerful film stars Paul Newman as an aging, alcoholic Boston lawyer who has been reduced to ambulance chasing. A friend throws him a bone, giving him a medical malpractice case that should result in a huge settlement, but Newman sees this as an opportunity to redeem himself. Against everyone’s wishes, he takes the case to trial instead of settling out of court, challenging the Catholic hospital the Archdiocese that owns it, and their formidable team of lawyers. Boasting a superb screenplay by David Mamet, the film was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and a Best Actor nomination for Newman.