Best Classic Criminal Defense Movies According to Criminal Defense LawyersMany great movies have been made about criminal cases. Most are fictional, though some are based on true events. Movies about crimes are fascinating because there’s always the suspense element of whether the person is guilty of the crime. There’s suspense around the abilities and skills of the lawyers who prosecute the case and defend their clients. While some crime movies are fun, the truly great ones raise moral and ethical questions about the criminal justice system, and inspire people to be better versions of themselves every day.

Now, we’re not saying that anyone at our office became a criminal defense lawyer because of a movie they saw – but even practicing lawyers can be moved by our fictional counterpoints. So today, we thought we’d take a look at some of our favorites and share them with you.

To Kill a Mockingbird

This movie is considered one of the best movies of any genre, and credited with introducing schoolchildren to the realities of inequality. The defense presented by Atticus Finch, portrayed by Gregory Peck, inspired many people to want to become defense lawyers. Even though an innocent man was convicted, it was clear that the defense lawyer did his best to defend a man amidst the racial prejudices of the time.

A Few Good Men

This Rob Reiner military courtroom movie included the famous line by Jack Nicholson – “You can’t handle the truth.” The movie profiles the military criminal justice system, which operates a little differently than a civilian courtroom does. Besides – any movie with Jack, Tom Cruise AND Kevin Bacon is bound to be a good one, right? (And if this isn’t your cup of tea, maybe Breaker Morant is more your style. It’s not as well-known to a younger generation as some of the others, but it’s still an excellent film that raises questions about the accountability of soldiers and superiors, and the evils of war.)

12 Angry Men

There have been multiple versions of this for stage and screen, but the 1957 black-and-white movie is the real classic. A juror, played by Henry Fonda, convinces the eleven other members of the jury to find the defendant not guilty because there was a reasonable doubt. Fonda’s character slowly but brilliantly shows what the concept of reasonable doubt means. The movie starred many notable actors of its time including Lee J Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jack Krugman, Ed Begley Senior, and others.

Judgment at Nuremberg

The world might be a better place if this masterpiece was required viewing. The movie deals with the military tribunal trial of Nazi war criminals after World War Two, and stars the biggest names of its day. It’s notable for its examination of evil and what happens when good men fail to respond to evil.

Honorable Mention: My Cousin Vinny

Disclaimer: There was a lot of hemming and hawing about this choice, for two reasons:

  1. It was made in 1992, and quite a few of us objected to anything from ’92 being considered a classic, and
  2. We have some strong feelings about a movie that ends up with some Yankee savior coming to save the day in the South.

That said, you wouldn’t believe how many people out there have misconceptions about trials (you need to speak in legalese all the time, dress in a bland suit, and never challenging your opponent on the rule of law), when what really matters is gathering facts, a good cross-examination, understanding the role of expert witnesses, and other defense tactics.

And a sharp suit never hurt, either.

At Banks & Jones, our experienced Knoxville criminal defense lawyers assert every defense possible to help obtain dismissals of the charges, to suppress tainted evidence, to negotiate plea agreements, and to persuade juries there is a reasonable doubt that you committed the defense. To discuss all criminal charges, federal and state, felonies and misdemeanors, use our contact form or call us at 865-546-2141 to schedule a free consultation.