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7 Great Criminal Law Films Of The Last 75 Years

Crime doesn’t pay, but when it comes to the movies, the public loves crime and legal stories. 

The films below have been beloved by moviegoers for years. And if you are ever charged with a crime, don’t forget to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

12 Angry Men

This legal movie was released in the 1950s and stars Henry Fonda. It provides fascinating insights into the jury deliberation process. 12 Angry Men highlights the challenges the jury can deal with as it mulls the fate of a person who is charged with murder. 

The film’s highlight is when Fonda’s character has doubts and won’t go along with the overwhelming pressure he faces from the other jurors. Instead, he slowly convinces each juror, one by one, that the case has reasonable doubt, and they eventually decide to declare the accused not guilty. 

Anatomy Of A Murder

This classic film, based upon the book with the same title, follows a Michigan attorney as he represents a man accused of killing a bar owner after he learns he was charged with rape. The film hinges upon the defendant being declared innocent by the reason of insanity, which was an unusual plea in that period. 

The attorney, played by James Stewart, has to face a highly skilled local prosecutor, played by George C. Scott. 

To Kill A Mockingbird

This legal film came out in the early 1960s a few years after the book was published. It focuses on an African-American that the police accused of rape. His skilled attorney, Atticus Finch, provided a strong defense for him and is known as one of the most famous fictional characters representing racial heroism. 

Over the years, To Kill A Mockingbird has been recognized as a classic story about racism, the problems of race, and obtaining social justice. 

The Firm

This legal film stars telegenic Tom Cruise, a young attorney who is part of a successful and prestigious legal firm in Tennessee. 

As the film progresses, he learns much more going on at work than representing clients accused of crimes. Some of the firm’s top attorneys are engaged in questionable behavior themselves. 

A Few Good Men

This 1990s legal film deals with legal procedures in the US Marines as Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise, defends two soldiers who are accused of murder. 

The film heats up as it becomes clear that their superiors instructed the accused men to discipline the deceased soldier. While the men are eventually found not guilty, they are convicted of engaging in conduct that is ‘unbecoming’ to US Marines and are dishonorably discharged. 

Jack Nicholson co-stars in this legendary film, and he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the brash colonel who lies under oath to hide his role in the tragedy. 


This early 1990s film focuses on attorney Andrew Beckett who is terminated from his job at a big law firm after learning that he has AIDS. Tom Hanks gives one of his legendary performances as a gay man who deals with homophobia and discrimination in the workplace. 

The only attorney who will work for him is the homophobic character that Denzel Washington portrays. 

The jury finds that Beckett was indeed wrongfully terminated, and Washington’s character evolves as he learns regardless of one’s sexual orientation, everyone is entitled to the same rights. 

My Cousin Vinny 

My Cousin Vinny was released in the early 1990s, and it is regarded as a classic legal comedy today. 

The film involves two New York college students who enter a convenience store in rural Alabama and allegedly kill the cashier. 

When the sheriff arrests the men, one of them calls his relative in New York, his cousin Vinny, who Joe Pesci brilliantly portrays. His character is an abrasive, inexperienced personal injury lawyer who, at first, is in over his head in a criminal defense case. 

But as the case proceeds, Vinny finds his footing and eventually gets the case declared a mistrial. While it is primarily a comedy, legal experts have noted over the years that the film offers an excellent overview of legal and procedural matters in criminal cases. 

The above films continue to grow in stature as the years go by, and we can be sure that more notable legal and crime movies will be made in the future. 



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