Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom Battle

The greatest courtroom movies take a very simple setting to create a cauldron of sweaty tension and high stakes. Here’s 10 great movies and the lawyers you can rely on to win a courtroom battle…

The best courtroom dramas and thrillers have provided us with some of cinema’s most iconic characters. Take for example Tom Cruise’s Daniel Kaffee in For A Few Good Men and his face-off with Jack “you can’t handle the truth” Nicholson or Gregory Peck’s good-natured idealist in To Kill A Mockingbird. In this top 10 list, I take a look at some of the greatest movie lawyers, the ones you can rely on to win a courtroom battle.

10. Ghostbusters 2 (Reitman, 1989)

Rick Moranis as Louis Tully

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleLet’s face facts. Louis Tully isn’t the ideal lawyer if you’re in a real bind. However, the cash-strapped would be unlikely to find anyone better, especially since he has a slimy friend for company who could sway the judge if things aren’t going to plan.

9. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (Derrickson, 2005)

Laura Linney as Erin Bruner

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleLaura Linney’s lawyer in The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a must-have for any good courtroom team for two very important reasons. Firstly, she’ll happily tackle a case where the defendant requires the dead to rise from the grave and testify that they in fact were up to no good. Second, she’s a brilliant actor. And being a good actor in court is always good to sway the jury if you’re losing the case, or, like O.J. Simpson, you’re actually guilty and want to get away with it. There’s a third reason too: who wouldn’t want to spend endless hours with Laura Linney? The longer the case, the better if you ask me!

8. Guilty As Sin (Lumet, 1993)

Rebecca De Mornay as Jennifer Haines

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleWith legs that could kill a man (literally), Jennifer Haines is a hot lawyer in more ways than one. She’ll try to get you in court but if that doesn’t work she’s quite handy taking care of business in her own way. She’ll fight for justice even if it means putting her own life on the line.

7. Witness For The Prosecution (Wilder, 1957)

Charles Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Robarts

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleDespite his doctor warning against the sort of high stakes tension a major legal battle can have on a man’s ailing blood pressure, Sir Wilfred Robarts takes on a murder case regardless. That’s the definition of determination.

6. My Cousin Vinny (Lynn, 1922)

Joe Pesci as Vinny Gambini

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleKeep it in the family because most of the time you can rely on the loyalty of your bloodline to help win a court battle. Vinny Gambini isn’t very smart, he only just passed his exams, and he has very little experience. But he’s got more charm than most legal representatives which is helpful when swaying a jury (and a judge).

5. The Verdict (Lumet, 1978)

Paul Newman as Frank Galvin

Sidney Lumet's The VerdictWashed up and somewhat out of the game, Frank Galvin is still a man determined to find the truth and bring wrongdoers to justice. In Sidney Lumet’s brilliant courtroom drama The Verdict, a chance to renew his belief in the system comes when a friend gives him a seemingly open and shut lawsuit case. Galvin sees it as an opportunity to extract proper justice and refuses an initial compensation package. Against all odds he fights for what he feels his client deserves. With fire in his belly again, he’s a man you want in your corner.

4. The Lincoln Lawyer (Furman, 2011)

Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleThis ballsy L.A defence lawyer knows everyone in and outside the system. He’s the man you want on your side if you know you’re guilty but want a ticket out. That’s if you can afford him. In Brad Furman’s slick thriller The Lincoln Lawyer, Haller prefers to earn his pennies defending guilty rich kids. But he’s targeted by his latest defendant who has a fetish for seeing other people do time for his crimes. Haller has to draw on all his inner cool to get himself out of this sticky situation.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan, 1962)

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

To KIll A Mockingbird - Top 10 FilmsThere are few movie lawyers who believe as strongly in the belief you’re innocent until proven guilty as Atticus Finch. There are even fewer with his moral fibre, his belief that everyone should be treated equally. Finch has the courage to stand by what he believes in, making him a vital asset in the courtroom, especially when the evidence points to guilt despite the accused being innocent.

2. JFK (Stone, 1992)

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison

jfk_oliver-stone_top10filmsTough as nails. Determined. Undeterred by outside influence. Compassionate and in possession of a squeaky clean moral standing. Jim Garrison is the man for the biggest case (even those involving American presidents). He also loves to break the fourth wall!

1. A Few Good Men (Reiner, 1992)

Tom Cruise as Daniel Kaffee

Top 10 Movie Lawyers You Can Rely On To Win A Courtroom BattleAnyone with the balls to go up against Jack Nicholson in a movie courtroom has confidence on their side. And confidence is crucial when it comes to winning a case when you have the entirety of the U.S. Navy fighting against you. That’s why Tom Cruise’s Daniel Kaffee is a must-have lawyer: No foe is too much, or too strong.

Over to you: what movie lawyers would you want on your side?

Written and Compiled by Dan Stephens

Dan Stephens
About the Author
Dan Stephens is the founder and editor of Top 10 Films. He's usually pondering his next list, often inspired by his adoration for 1980s Hollywood, a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Rory Reply

    A delightful list! Given that Cruise dares to take on Nicholson in A Few Good Men, there’s no one I’d rather have on my side.

    • Dan Reply

      The right man for the number one spot then! 😉

      • Rory Reply

        Of course. Great choice to include Laura Linney. Hardly the best film, or performance, of hers, but a willing lawyer nonetheless.

        • Dan Reply

          Even sub-par Linney is better than most. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a less-than impressive performance from her. My favourite – I think – being alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Savages.

  2. Rach Reply

    Great list. Love a good courtroom drama and these are some of the best!

    • Dan Reply

      Thanks Rach.

  3. Dan Grant Reply

    Terrific list. I agree with the number one choice. Linney is also a good choice, but I would have chosen her role in the Richard Gere, Edward Norton film, Primal Fear. She was so hot in that film, in more ways that one.

    I’d also have Dustin Hoffman from Sleepers on the list. He really wasn’t a good lawyer but if he let “Uncle Benny” down, he was taking the dirt nap.

    • Dan Reply

      Linney’s brilliant in everything. Such an underrated actress.

      Yeah, good suggestion on Sleepers. I’m a huge Dustin Hoffman fan and I often try to get him into my lists somewhere.

  4. Dean D Reply

    Awesome list! I’m guessing Richard Gere in Primal Fear misses out for getting hoodwinked! 🙂

    • Dan Reply

      Thanks Dean. Primal Fear’s a good film and Gere’s lawyer is definitely a worthy addition.

  5. Callum Reply

    Great list Dan. I was thinking of McConaughey in A Time To Kill too. You could even include Sandra Bullock in that.

    • Dan Reply

      That one crossed my mind. Wanted to keep the McConaugh-Love down to one but perhaps could have included it for Bullock. Excellent film.

  6. Mark Fraser Reply

    When Garrison died I paid for an unoriginal obit in the local rag that said “Close, but no cigar”. That still may be true – I’m no longer sure; if I was going to pay again my money would be on Santo Trafficante, Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli (the latter of which turns up in Stone’s Nixon, played by French Connection New York connection Tony LoBianco).

    What about Richard Dreyfuss in Nuts? Also, Matt Damon and Danny DeVito in The Rainmaker make a pretty good unconventional legal team team.

    Nevertheless a solid list.

    • Dan Reply

      Cheers Mark. It was a fun one to put together. I’m not The Rainmaker’s biggest fan but Damon and DeVito are satisfyingly unconventional like you say. As for Richard Dreyfuss, it’s strange for him NOT to make one of my top 10s… what was that about “close but no cigar”.

  7. Carol Chambers Reply

    Nice to see some old classics mixed with moderns greats. I agree that The Lincoln Lawyer is one of the better courtroom thrillers of recent years and McConaughey is brilliant! But Witness for the Prosecution is a long-time favourite of mine. Such a wonderful film.

  8. ArchE Reply

    You can’t handle the truth!!! Great top 10.

  9. Nigel Reply

    Great list.

  10. Greg McCall Reply

    lincoln lawyer – underrated. great to see it make the top 10.

  11. Jeff Jones Reply

    Brilliant idea for a top 10 list. Thank you for such wonderful recommendations.

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