Law in Popular Culture

The 25 greatest legal movies

  • Print.


Judge Beth Bloom, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida

While I enjoyed Loving, the Lincoln Lawyer and Spotlight, my favorite movie is RBG, and here is why: As a relatively young woman and judge who credits the opportunities I have been given to the strong women before me who have fought and paved the way, Justice Ginsburg is my real-life superhero. She has dedicated her entire legal career to the pursuit of gender equality. The movie gives the viewer, through the retelling by other strong women and men, an intimate insight into her brilliant and strategic manner of framing issues argued before the Supreme Court. The documentary gives you a rare view of her deep relationships with others and her tremendous commitment to the law. She is notorious not because of the opinions she has authored but because of the tremendous life that she has led. It is a movie I was excited to take my 12-year-old daughter to see and one that women and men—young and old—should experience.

Our all-time list of cinematic favorites


William Treanor, dean of the Georgetown University Law Center.

RBG is an illuminating, moving, funny and inspiring documentary about Justice Ginsburg and the way in which her profound commitment to justice has shaped her career and the law—and made her a cultural icon: “the Notorious RBG.” The movie traces her extraordinary career, highlights the gender injustices she has fought, and vividly brings to life both her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia and her marriage to professor Marty Ginsburg, with his dedication to supporting her career and his great sense of humor. Plus, it has exercise tips!



Kevin Davis, assistant managing editor, ABA Journal, author of The Wrong Man, Defending the Damned and The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms.

At a time when some in power have called the press “the enemy of the American people,” two recent films underscore that if not for a free press, the people would be in the dark about the darkest secrets that those in leadership would prefer to remain hidden. Spotlight tells the story of how a relentless team of reporters at the Boston Globe uncovered a decades-long pattern of sexual abuse of boys by Roman Catholic priests, an investigation that led to lawsuits and criminal charges. The Post is about the behind-the-scenes struggle at the Washington Post over whether to publish details from the top-secret Pentagon Papers, leaked documents that revealed how the U.S. was failing in the Vietnam War. These movies show how the Fourth Estate and the First Amendment can be powerful allies in exposing uncomfortable truths and holding those in power accountable.



Linda Fairstein, former prosecutor and best-selling crime novelist, offers her picks:

  • 12 Angry Men—A terrific drama, but there isn’t a prosecutor alive who wants his or her jurors to see it on the eve of a trial.
  • Presumed Innocent—The unthinkable! A sex crimes prosecutor is murdered! One of those movies I think is as good as the book, and the Scott Turow book is a superb courtroom drama. One of the first movies to have DNA as a major plot point.
  • Body Heat—One of the finest noir films ever made, and a brilliant primer on estate planning and the importance of hiring a good lawyer.
  • Anatomy of a Murder—From a best-selling novel written by a Michigan trial court judge, the defense strategy leads to a brilliant twist at the end. Great cast and riveting court scenes—all set to a Duke Ellington score.
  • Judgment at Nuremberg—This one is as chilling today as when it first debuted; the war, the law and history in a powerful piece of filmmaking.

The 25 Greatest Legal Movies: Expanding the Boundaries

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.