10 Great Law Firm Movies For This Century

best law firm movies

The Law movies you don’t want to miss

“A good lawyer makes you believe the truth, but a great lawyer makes you believe in the lie!” This is the basic disposition associated with lawyers and when it comes to law movies made this century we have the list.

They weren\’t all academy award winners or even providing the courtroom drama that law movies are celebrated for, but provide legal drama nonetheless with performances that range from the great (think Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovitch) to the not-so-great ‘Love, Guaranteed’ a 2020 Netflix howler on a lawyer who sues a Tinder-type dating service to help save her firm. Will she find love? Who cares?

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But when watching ’21st century law firm movies\’ we also have a different dynamic to that which we saw with law movie classics like A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and the terrific Jack Nicholson or A Few Angry Men, the Henry Fonda classic and the all-time great movie The Verdict, starring Paul Newman.

Similarly the 1993 Sydney Pollack directed The Firm with Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman and others and its twisty, turny tale of dirty dealings at a prestigious law firm has not altogether been equaled in terms of big law thrillers, other than tv shows like ‘The Good Wife’, which is as much political as legal drama.

We have new issues: climate change, environmental issues, political polarization, industrial-scale illicit drug trades and more.

So below is our list of most of the best of this century\’s law firm (or just law) movies, which provide some stellar performances, moral dilemma or just great film.

Movies depicting the law, crime and the courts are thrilling to watch. It challenges young lawyers to think, analyze and better understand the complexities and fine points of law and justice. These lawyer movies, courtroom dramas, legal flicks or whatever you call them, are eye candy for law audiences.

These movies are worth watching, or you will be held in contempt of court for missing them!

Enjoy our list of the best movies involving lawyers and law firms.

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Erin Brockovich (2000)

The financially and critically successful movie based on fact and directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Julia Roberts is destined to be one of the great law firm movies. The story commences with Brockovitch’s car accident where she begs for legal assistance before discovering some some medical data hidden in the real estate documents.

She persuades her lawyer (Albert Finney) to let her conduct the investigation. While doing so, she unearths a cover-up involving tainted water in a nearby village that is giving its residents fatal ailments.

This compelling law movie has a female hero who convinced the court to grant justice against her lawsuit with confidence. Her story shows that the willingness to do good and overcome adversity in a manner that pre-empted the growing power of women in law and demonstrated the power of the ‘good lawyer’ against corporate power.

The movie won a nomination as Best Director for Soderberg but for Julia Roberts it saw her pick up a ton of awards, including an Academy AwardBAFTA AwardCritics\’ Choice Movie AwardGolden Globe AwardNational Board of Review Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award all for a single performance in this compelling law drama.

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Legally Blonde (2001)

This Reese Witherspoon starrer was based on a book of the same name by Amanda Brown, following the sorority girl Elle Woods who follows her ex to Harvard following a break-up that occurred the night he was \’supposed\’ to propose.

A legal comedy, for lack of a better term, it echoed the financial and critical success of the 1992 legal comedy My Cousin Vinny with Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, a story based on a real life situation involving a lawyer who passed the bar on his 13th attempt and involving a couple of New Yorkers charged in Alabama on a murder they did not commit.

Elle’s original goal is to win Warner back. Still, as she struggles to overcome the difficulties of being a first-year law student, such as making cold calls and preparing case briefs, she soon develops a passion for the legal field. Later, she comes to see that she has what it takes to succeed as a lawyer on her own.

Although somewhat formulaic in its approach the performance from Reese Witherspoon in particular ensured this movie was a major hit and highly entertaining – a suitable introduction on a light-hearted note to the more challenging legal complexities that were to affect law firms in the century ahead. Well worth the watch and a ton of fun, in other words.

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High Crimes (2002)

Starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, this legal thriller is more in the genre of \’thriller\’ than a pure law firm movie, but it (largely) successfully pulls off intrigue with its plot twists and turns circling the central figure\’s alleged involvement in an alleged murder of nine civilians during an El Salvadoran incident some years earlier.

The plot turns have the propensity to both propel the movie forward and return it backwards all at the same time, thus making it an at times frustrating but generally entertaining legal thriller, without the lawyer insights that occur in some of the other movies in our list.

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The Runaway Jury (2003)

There can hardly be a list of top law firm movies without a John Grisham-based movie and The Runaway Jury follows a range of other Grisham-based movies the previous century.

The story involves the manipulation of a jury following an accidental shooting death and has the typical twists and turns that Grisham specializes in so well, although it may not necessarily be the best of the Grisham legal thrillers (which probably goes to The Firm and A Time to Kill with Matthew McConaughey, plus The Rainmaker with Danny DeVito) it is nonetheless an entertaining movie.

It also generated some overall positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic and others.

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Find me guilty (2006)

Here\’s a comedic-but-true story directed by Sydney Lumet and telling the story of New Jersey mobster Jackie DiNorscio in a movie drawn from real testimony and involving the 30 year jail sentence the mobster draws. It was the longest Mafia trial in American history (21 months of testimony) and takes its time largely after DiNorscio fires his attorney and takes on his own defense.

Although a poor box office performer, the movie attracted some good reviews and is a worthy movie for any lawyer keen to observe some actual testimony portrayed in a movie that covered a trial as lengthy and sensational as this one.

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Michael Clayton (2009)

Also available on Netflix, Michael Clayton is a law firm movie starring George Clooney and Sydney Pollack (The Firm director) and telling the tale of a litigator who \”fixes\” every hard turn for a law firm. However, he collapses while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit.

This movie is a double-crossing legal thriller that generated seven nominations for Academy Awards and was had not only strong performances from those starring but also received very high Rotten Tomatoes and overall critical acclaim for its plausibility and overall staging. Also one of our favorites and a must-see law firm movie that stands above many of the others in the genre.

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Conviction (2010)

What happens when a person\’s older sibling is found guilty of a crime he didn\’t commit? In this lawyer movie, a young woman completes her studies, qualifies as a lawyer, and sets out to challenge the verdict against her brother.

Struggling for 18 years before freeing her brother from imprisonment. It shows her sacrifices to study law and work as hard as she can to bring justice to her brother. The fact-based movie was criticized for some legal inaccuracies and generated some positive reviews but does benefits from its compelling true story and strong performances from both Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell.

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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

The Lincoln Lawyer was first a series of successful novels by Michael Connolly, then the movie with Matthew McConaughey and more recently the TV show of the same name.

Mickey Haller, the protagonist, works out of his Lincoln Towncar and while it may not altogether delve into the machinations of law firm goings-on, it does raise issues of attorney-client privilege, legal ethics and related matters that blend with the screenplay and performances to make an entertaining movie that grossed well and received overall top reviews.

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Dark Waters (2019)

Here\’s a movie focused also on environmental issues, based on Robert Bilott\’s case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after the company contaminated a town with chemicals. The story involves Bilott, a corporate defense lawyer from Ohio, exposing a sinister truth that links DuPont to an increasing number of mysterious deaths.

The truth involved polluting a water source and consequently endangering people\’s lives. He realizes that by trying to reveal the truth, he is putting his future, his family, and even his own life in danger.

DuPont’s environmental and safety issues lead to it being broken up with a new company established. When Dark Waters was released it did little help the company’s stock price with DuPont’s stock price dropping further. The movie itself generated very good critical reviews although it was never a major box office hit, but is certainly a hit with many interested in the legal machinations of big business and the effect on the environment.

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Just Mercy (2019)

Just Mercy is a thought provoking lawyer movie telling the story of a Harvard Law graduate who intends to become a defense attorney to fight for poor people on death row. This movie strongly conveys that determination can truly change someone\’s life and is of particular interest for any young lawyer at law school, interested in a murder trial also in the workings of justice leading up to Supreme Court justices.

Starring Jamie Foxx as the young Bryan Stevenson and based on Stevenson’s own biography about his work with Death Row inmates, the movie generated solid business at the box office and equally solid critical ratings. Well worth the watch.

Last Century‘s Law Movies

As mentioned, there are a vast array of law movies from last centuries, stemming from 12 Angry Men, the Sydney Lumet analysis of the US legal system, made in 1957, to the Atticus Finch movie To Kill a Mockingbird with Gregory Peck in 1962, to the John Travolta performance as a tenacious litigator in A Civil Action in 1998.

Author details:

Sara Ammar is a content writer who loves to write with creativity and passion. She is a passionate, enthusiastic and fast-learning writer. She strives to develop her skills and grow professionally constantly. You can view her profile at www.linkedin.com/in/saraammar 

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