Films are generally regarded as an exciting escape from reality through dramatic plots and loveable characters. Sometimes, however, the most exciting stories don’t need romance or fantasy; they take place in a realistic setting with true-to-life intensity. Legal and courtroom drama has drawn in and enraptured audiences for decades, inspiring some of the world’s greatest films. Check out these five classics to see why avid film viewers tout them as some of the most realistic and heart-stopping courtroom scenes in the industry.
Known famously as required reading in many American classrooms, the novel-turned-film To Kill a Mockingbird features one of the film industry’s most intense and heart-wrenching courtroom battles. Atticus Finch, father to Scout and Jem Finch, defends an African-American man from a racism-fueled accusation that he raped a young white woman. Although the film concludes with Atticus’s defeat in court, there remains an emphasis on the respect Scout develops for her father and his dedication to justice. This scene catapulted Gregory Peck (Atticus Finch) to an Academy Award win and secured the film’s place on multiple lists of the greatest films in cinema.
This courtroom comedy starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Ralph Macchio details the blubbering hijinks of Vinny Gambini as he attempts to prove his teenage cousin’s innocence in a murder trial,. Made worse by Vinny’s complete lack of legal experience. The climactic courtroom scene involves a losing Vinny calling Mona Lisa Vito, his fiancée and automotive guru, to the witness stand to testify against previous eyewitness accounts. Mona Lisa’s testimony is a fiery and flirtatious back-and-forth that earned actress Marisa Tomei an Oscar.
Sometimes a courtroom scene in film isn’t about the satisfaction of being right. Sometimes, it’s about the characters finding their humanity. This is exactly what happens in Kramer vs. Kramer, a film in which a custody case between Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) devolves into a heart-breaking admission of personal fault, hopes and dreams on the part of Joanna. This touching scene won Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman Academy Awards.
Perhaps one of the most famous courtroom scenes of all time, the climactic cross-examination between Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Colonel Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) remains a favorite for lovers of courtroom drama. This scene keeps the viewer at the edge of their seat as Kaffee demands, “I want the truth,” to which Jessep shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!” This admission of wrongdoing in the form of an indignant outburst from the defendant ultimately seals his fate.
Being involved in a legal battle may seem glamorous in film, but is anything but fun in real life. When you’re involved in a vehicle accident or are injured on the job, personal injury and workers’ comp attorneys pay an important role in helping people get past these issues.