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Just the Facts, Ma’Am

In our last post we explored whether art really does imitate legal life. But while many legal-themed films give reality a wide berth, these six keep it real:

By Editorial Team. Published 06 October 2016. Last updated 06 January 2022.

12 Angry Men (1957)

After closing arguments in a murder trial, the jury members are faced with one dissenting voice. Personal tensions and heightening conflict threaten the process that decides whether the accused will live or die. The playwright, Robert Rose, based his initial script on his own experience as a juror.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Gregory Peck famously plays attorney Atticus Finch, charged with the defence of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. The film casts its lawyer hero as a man of bravery, principle, and honesty as he tackles racial inequality and prejudice to a heart-pounding conclusion.

A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Set in Tudor England, the film focuses on the life and death of lawyer, philosopher, and politician Sir Thomas More, who is portrayed as a man of integrity caught in an impossible situation. Amid its many quotable lines is this: ‘I know what’s legal, not what’s right. And I’ll stick to what’s legal.’

Breaker Morant (1980)

The film portrays the 1902 court martial of Breaker Morant – commander of an elite British Army unit during the second Boer war. Raising issues that are just as newsworthy now as they were then, the plot exposes the difficulties faced when the line between combatants and civilians is blurred.

In the Name of the Father (1993)

This harrowing film deals with the case of Giuseppe and Gerry Conlon, a real-life father and son falsely accused of taking part in an IRA bombing campaign, and the struggles of their lawyer to prove evidence in their case had been falsified.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Based on a true story, the film casts Julia Roberts as a paralegal whose dogged work exposes a case of illegal dumping of toxic heavy metal. Her work sparked one of the largest class action suits in US legal history. Roberts won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Brockovich.