Top 5 Legal Movies for the Student Lawyer

Top 5 Legal Movies for the Student Lawyer

For those who procrastinate too much and want to feel better about it, or even those who want to enjoy some cultural entertainment with (sometimes loose) ties to law – these movies are for you.


Legally Blonde

Based on a lesser known novel, this is one of those movies that turns stereotypes on their head. The stereotype in this instance is ‘dumb blondes’. If you have already seen this comedy, it likely demands a re-watch. There is also a second film, and a rumoured third in the works.

The plot centres on a sorority girl, Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon), who earns herself a place at prestigious Harvard Law School out of spite. Determined to win back her ex-boyfriend, Woods stays true to her character whilst proving her intellectual capabilities.

It must be noted that some stereotypes are upheld rather strongly. The film, however, manipulates many of these cleverly to a comedic end.

Although the film seems to be a rom-com, I would argue that the focus is less ‘rom’ than one might expect. Admittedly, there is a healthy dose of romance gratuitously thrown in. However, the film centres more on female strength and mutual support.

This movie boasts an array of killer outfits which would no doubt brighten up any courtroom or law firm. Men and women alike can take inspiration not only from the protagonist’s wardrobe, but also from her self-assurance and genuine kindness in a judgemental world. Somewhat predictable, Legally Blonde nevertheless is a great, light-hearted movie that anyone will enjoy.

This film is available to buy on DVD.


To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird is a movie based on Harper Lee’s renowned novel of the same name, published in 1960. The Academy Award winning film was created two years later. It stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the father of the protagonist, Scout.

The story centres around Scout’s unconventional upbringing by her father, a lawyer. Atticus takes on a controversial case in defence of a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white woman. Set in Alabama in the 1930s, the film deals with issues of racism and justice.

Although the movie’s main focus is Robinson’s court case, there is an important subplot which serves to reiterate the moral lessons taught in the main story-line. This film is particularly didactic, forcing viewers to self-reflect when faced with the upsetting realities of the past. Despite this, Atticus demonstrates incredible human decency in the face of his angry, prejudiced community. The movie demonstrates humanity’s great capacity for goodness and compassion in addition to its potential for hate.

Although the film is about Scout growing up, by the time it concludes it is safe to say those watching likely feel changed for the better as well. Inspiring in spite of its often depressing content, To Kill A Mockingbird falls into the category of one of those important movies that any future lawyer should see.

It can be rented or bought from Amazon Prime Video.


12 Angry Men

This movie is a fascinating discussion of American legal culture delivered from the perspective of a jury deliberating over what appears to be an open-and-shut case. When a charismatic juror begins challenging the received notions of justice amongst the surprising prejudices of the court, the other characters, as well as the audience, are forced to question their own morals.

The film involves (shockingly) a cast of twelve men, who are, perhaps unsurprisingly, angry. These men are forbidden from leaving their assigned room until the verdict is settled, which has to be unanimous.

Of the entire run time, only three minutes of the movie take place outside this one set. Buoyed by sharp cinematic conceits, the jurors are never referred to by anything other than their numbers. This cleverly contrasts the theoretical idea of a ‘perfect and blind’ justice system with the gritty human realities of dark and biased individuals.

This famous tale does a good job of demonstrating the intense biases that govern daily life.

This commentary on the American justice system, supposedly egalitarian but nevertheless reliant on skewed moral convictions of the individual, is a worthwhile watch.

It can be rented or purchased from Amazon Prime Video.


In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood is another novel adapted for the screen. It is based on Truman Capote’s semi-nonfiction work. This documented the 1959 murder of the Clutter family in rural western Kansas.

The film follows both men who committed the crime, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, as well as the search for the perpetrators, in addition to their trial and execution.

The boundary between fiction and reality is blurred in this film, which was designed to be an effective iteration or copy of true events. Indeed, some characters in the movie are played by genuine citizens of the town in which the crime occurred. Indeed, many locations depicted in this movie are authentic.

The bleak tragedy of this senseless murder is portrayed dramatically to great effect. Although it may seem like a chase film, the events are told as flashbacks after Smith and Hickcock’s arrest, and deals also with the trial.

The work was nominated for four Academy Awards and was well reviewed. It can be bought on DVD.


Erin Brockovich

Julia Roberts stars in this movie as the eponymous character. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards; Roberts won the award for best actress as well as several others for her role. The plot revolves around Brockovich, an unemployed single mother who gets a job filing papers for a law firm. This is after she is left financially tight following a failed lawsuit.

During her work, she discovers files for a real estate case wherein a successful gas company wants to purchase the house of a resident of Hinkley, California. The inclusion of medical files raises her suspicion.

On further investigation, Brockovich discovers that toxic substances from the company’s plant have been contaminating the area’s groundwater. Brockovich’s determination to bring justice to this corrupt organisation results in the case being brought to trial.

Once again based on a true story, the film is uplifting. Following a young, often underestimated woman who works to bring about justice, this is one of those movies that captures the audience with its ‘underdog’ sentiments.

It can be rented or purchased from Amazon Prime Video.


Did we miss any good movies out? Let us know in the comments! You can also check out our definitive rundown of the top legal TV shows here.

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