Courtroom movies have always held a particular allure. Their high-stakes narratives, complex characters, and the fascinating intricacies of law draw in viewers of all types. These movies meticulously unpack the pursuit of justice, leaving us with compelling stories that mirror our societal realities. We made a list of 5 great recent courtroom movies that are worth your time: find them all below, in alphabetical order.
Anatomy of a Fall (2023)
The first film on the list is a movie you must have heard about, if only for all the Oscar nominations it earned a few days ago – and rightly so. Anatomy of a Fall starts from an irresistible premise. A novelist named Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is giving an interview to a journalist in the secluded house in the French Alps where she lives with her husband. But while she’s on the ground floow, speaking to the journalist, her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) starts playing loud music that is clearly meant to disrupt her – and it does, as the interview has to be interrupted.
Next, we follow their son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) on a walk with his dog, and when he returns, his father is dead in the snow, right below the chalet. Did he fall? Did he commit suicide? Or did his wife – the only other person who was in the chalet with him – kill him? That is what Anatomy of a Fall sets forth to explore, and it does it in a gripping, thought-provoking way that simultaneously plunges us into the courtroom case and into Sandra’s psyche and past.
It’s best not to say anything else about the film, because slowly discovering the truth – or, at least, everyone’s version of it – is what makes the film so gripping. It also features a fantastic performance from the great Sandra Hüller, a superb turn from newcomer Milo Machado Graner, and a clever script that will keep on surprising you till the very end.
The Collini Case (2019)
You might not have heard of The Collini Case, but it should definitely be on your watchlist. This fascinating legal drama has a mystery at its center, and a young, inexperienced defense lawyer named Caspar Leinen (Elyas M’Barek) finds himself entangled in it when he has to defend a notorious magnate (Franco Nero) who was accused of murder. But the truth is much more complex than it would appear to be, and the more Caspar investigates, the closer he gets to it.
The film does have a few clichés and, like many courtroom movies that favor drama over accuracy, it’s not always accurate when it comes to the law itself – for those wanting to delve into the complex world of the law, Lawrina provides immense in-depth insight. But where The Collini Case really excels is in its performances from the entire cast, led by veteran actor Franco Nero. The plot’s meandering path, from the tension-filled courtrooms to the intimacy of personal reflections, makes this movie a genuinely captivating cinematic experience.
The Mauritanian (2021)
The Mauritanian is a courtroom drama that brings real-world legal battles to life. Based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir “Guantanamo Diary,” the film recounts the experiences of Slahi (Tahar Rahim), who was imprisoned without charge by the US government for many years until defense attorneys Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) take his case.
The film itself is a little clichéd and not as gripping as it could have been, but The Mauritanian is still worth watching for two reasons. The first is the relevance of the story it tells, with a poignant legal battle that brings human rights into the spotlight. The second is a career-best performnce from Tahar Rahim, who absolutely shines as the film’s protagonist.
Miranda’s Victim (2023)
Have you ever wondered about how the “Miranda Rights” – that is, the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not answer questions that could be self-incriminating – came to be? Miranda’s Victim shines a light on the true story that led to the term being coined: it all dates back to a young woman named Trish Weir (Abigail Breslin), who survives a chilling kidnapping and sexual assault in 1963. Her assailant, Ernesto Miranda (Sebastian Quinn), initially confesses, leading to his conviction. However, the trial takes a twist as the confession, made without legal counsel to “remain silent” and not answer incriminating questions, results in the conviction being overturned by the US Supreme Court, and in the Miranda Rights being created.
The film mainly follows the ensuing retrial, where prosecutor Lawrence Turoff (Luke Wilson) and criminal defense lawyer Ryan Philippe (John Flynn) go head to head to ensure justice is made. The film is an informative watch about a landmark legal battle that profoundly transformed the US justice system, but it’s also a gripping and emotional one thanks to the performances, particularly Abigail Breslin’s.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a modern classic that brings to life one of history’s most iconic legal showdowns. The film tells the true story of the 1969 Chicago 7 Trial, where seven anti-Vietnam war protestors, who were charged with conspiracy and “crossing state lines” when they were found protesting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The film mainly follows the titular trial, but it does so in an innovative way, with the use of both satire and documentary footage that blend fiction and facts to deliver the movie’s message. And for a film that mainly takes place inside a courtroom, it’s also a surprisingly gripping one, featuring a stellar cast that includes the ever-excellent Yahya Abdul-Mahteen II, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, Frank Langella and even more names you’ll recognize. The Trial of the Chicago 7 serves both as a reminder of the horror of the Vietnam War, and the political tensions that ensued, and as a testament to the enduring power of truth and justice. A must-watch.
The courtroom is more than just a physical space, as these movies reveal. It’s where perceptions are challenged, truths are uncovered, and justice strives to prevail. The 5 movies listed above are all gripping watches that also carry a message about truth and justice, while highlighting the personal struggles faced by their protagonists. Happy watching!