Our Favorite Movie Lawyers of the Past 20 Years

Universal/MGM/Warner Bros.

Forget superheroes, the real heroes in movies are lawyers, whose dedicated time, effort and knowledge of obscure laws (and hair products) can save the day and possibly their entire community. Here are some of our favorite movie lawyers, many based on real-life attorneys who went out there and made a difference.12. Charlie Jaffey, “Molly’s Game” (2017)

STX Films

Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut was nominated for one Oscar, Best Adapted Screenplay (Sorkin previously won for writing “The Social Network,” which is also chock full of lawyers). But no love for star Jessica Chastain or the always magnetic Idris Elba as her attorney? We object.11. Mike Weiss, “Puncture” (2011)
Most of us this missed this one in theaters, but if you’re a big Chris Evans fan (and who isn’t?), it’s worth catching up on this drama, where he plays a drug-addicted lawyer battling a medical-supplies corporation.10. Ben Klandis, “Find Me Guilty” (2006)

Freestyle Releasing

A pre-“Game of Thrones” Peter Dinklage steals the show in this Sidney Lumet drama based on the real story of mobster Jack DiNorscio (played by Vin Diesel). DiNorscio unwisely decides to defend himself, instead of relying on the eloquent lead defense attorney Ben Klandis.9. Thurgood Marshall, “Marshall” (2017)Chadwick Boseman stars as the future Supreme Court judge in this underrated biopic that focuses on one of the first, pivotal cases in his career:  In 1940, he has to convince an all-white jury that a black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) was unjustly accused of rape. Although it’s a foregone conclusion to the audience that he wins the case, it’s a tense, dangerous trial to watch unfold.8. Billy Flynn, “Chicago” (2002)
Seems like everyone was nominated for an Oscar in this Best Picture-winning musical, except for Richard Gere. He plays the slick lawyer who defends murderesses with style. The “silver-tongued prince of the courtroom” gets his own big number, “The Miracle Man” and Gere sells every second of it.7. Mickey Haller, “The Lincoln Lawyer” (2011)

Lionsgate

You could say the”McConaissance,” the resurgence of Matthew McConaughey’s career with “True Detective” and “The Dallas Buyers’ Club,” began here, with this neo-noir thriller. McConaughey is smoothness itself as a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who operates from the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car. He lands a high-profile client, but getting to the truth becomes more important than the paycheck for once.
6. Roman J.  Israel, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2017)

Sony Pictures Releasing

Denzel Washington plays antisocial activist lawyer Roman J. Israel, who loses his low-paid job after years of trying to fight the corrupt plea-bargaining system. When a chance to profit off a new case arises, he’s sorely tempted. It’s a great performance in a flawed movie, but one that still earned him his eighth Oscar nomination.5. James B. Donovan, “Bridge of Spies” (2015)Tom Hanks plays an insurance lawyer who ends up defending an accused Russian spy (Mark Rylance) at the height of the Cold War. The role isn’t a showy one, but relies heavily on common sense, stick-to-itive-ness and some quick thinking. The two men develop a mutual respect for each other as Donovan stands his ground when it isn’t popular to do so.4. Michael Clayton, “Michael Clayton” (2007)George Clooney turns in one of his greatest performances as legal fixer Michael Clayton, who thinks of himself as a “janitor” who’s always cleaning up other people’s messes. Despite his distaste for the job, he doggedly pursues the truth about a corrupt company, nearly getting himself killed in the process.3. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “RBG” (2018)
Yes, there’s a biopic out starring Felicity Jones as “The Notorious RBG,” but we vastly prefer the real thing in this Oscar-nominated documentary about the groundbreaking Supreme Court Justice who’s become an unlikely pop culture icon. A must-see.2. Erin Brockovich, “Erin Brockovich” (2000)

Universal

Julia Roberts’s Oscar-winning role as the real-life environmental crusader remains one of the most watchable legal dramas of all time, thanks in large part to the lively direction of Steven Soderbergh. Like its main character, it’s never dull.1. Elle Woods, “Legally Blonde” (2001)

MGM

Who else but Reese Witherspoon could have played the tenacious Elle Woods, who not only gets into Harvard Law, but wins her first big case with panache. Before even getting her degree. Like it’s hard? Elle makes it all look easy.

Legally BlondePG-13July 13th, 200159metacriticBased on 32 Critics

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has it all. She wants nothing more than to be Mrs. Warner Huntington III. But there is one thing stopping him (Matthew Davis) from proposing: She is too blond. Elle rallies all of her resources and gets into Harvard, determined to win him back. Read More

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Erin BrockovichRMarch 17th, 200073metacriticBased on 36 Critics

Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is a woman in a tight spot. Following a car accident in which Erin is not at fault, Erin pleads with her attorney Ed Masry (Albert Finney) to hire her at his law firm. Erin stumbles upon some medical records placed in real estate files. She convinces Ed to allow her to investigate, where she discovers a cover-up involving contaminated water in a local community which is causing devastating illnesses among its residents. Read More

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