10 Great Courtroom Dramas That Deliver Justice To The Genre

12 Angry Men The courtroom drama is one of the most reliably entertaining and rousing of movie genres, one that allows for great acting, shocking plot twists, and compelling themes concerning the justice system, ethics, morality and other such matters. The genre has produced some of the finest films of the classic Hollywood system, as well as more recent strong entries that continue the legacy of performance. It hasn't changed much over the course of history - but it really didn't need to - as the stories these films tell fit comfortably within a specific framework. This article will focus on 10 outstanding examples of the courtroom genre, many of them produced within the old Hollywood system...

10. ...And Justice For All

...And Justice For All Al Pacino is in his 1970s prime in Norman Jewison's 1979 ...And Justice For All, in which he plays lawyer Arthur Kirkland, a man trying to get justice served in an often cruel and unfeeling justice system. At the beginning of the film we find him in jail for throwing a punch at Judge Henry T. Fleming (John Forsythe), in front of whom he was arguing the case for his client, Jeff McCullaugh, who was stopped for having broken tail lights but wound up in jail due to having the same name of a wanted killer. The scene in which Arthur describes this story to the ethics committee member he is romancing, Gail Packer (Christine Lahti), highlights what I really like about this film, which is that it's angry - angry about innocent people being punished, and angry about judges like Fleming who, in Fleming's own words "don't give a shit" about lawyers' clients. In an ironic twist of fate, Fleming is arrested for raping and sadistically beating a young woman. Fleming wants Arthur to defend him, believing that if he's defended by a man that hates him, it'll show that he's innocent. Arthur at first declines the job, but he learns he'll be disbarred for an earlier breach of client-lawyer confidentially if he doesn't take the case. Reluctantly, Arthur agrees to defend Fleming. Eventually it's revealed that Fleming is guilty as sin. Arthur knows this and in the final courtroom scene Arthur explodes, telling everyone what a sick and sadistic man Fleming is. Arthur is angry over the death of his two clients earlier in the film. Jeff was shot by the police after taking hostages in prison. There's also the suicide of Ralph, a transgender woman. Arthur trusted his friend and fellow lawyer, Warren, to show the judge proceeding over Ralph's case the corrections on a probation report that would've gotten Ralph out on probation, but he didn't. Arthur is also angered over Fleming's sadistic nature, and Arthur's anger becomes our anger, as we truly rejoice in seeing Fleming get his comeuppance. Pacino is surrounded by great character actors such as Forsythe, Jeffrey Tambor (in his first film appearance as lawyer Jay Porter, who suffers a mental breakdown after a client he got off kills two children), Jack Warden as the eccentrically suicidal Judge Francis Rayford (who shoots a gun in court and eats his lunch every day outside his office on a ledge), and Lee Strasberg, Pacino's acting teacher, with whom he also starred with in The Godfather Part II. The film is surprisingly funny for a story of such dark subject matter. Sometimes the humour, like the near fatal helicopter ride Rayford takes Kirkland on, drags down the pacing, but the film's anger and passion, and its uniformly strong performances, makes it a vital example of its genre.

I'm Canadian! I'm a recent graduate of the Journalism Program at the University of King's College in Halifax. I'm an aspiring actor and film critic, and lover of all things film and Shakespeare. My favourite movie is "Casablanca" and my favourite play of Shakespeare is "Othello."