Procedural courtroom dramas are dime a dozen. You can just flick through channels and find an Indian programme featuring some brazenly over the top acting that would make real lawyers throw up. That said, last year we got Jai Bhim! So, if you like courtroom dramas, the thrilling, slow uncovering of the stories and real power dialogues, these are a few films you will definitely enjoy.
1. A Few Good Men
Classics never get old and this movie is proof of that. Starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and the legendary Jack Nicholson, this courtroom drama is about the death of a marine stationed at Guantanamo Bay at the hands of his peers.
After being convinced by Moore, Cruise’s character must unearth the deep sickening rot in armed forces units under Colonel Nathan R. Jessep and find out the real murderers. The 1992 film is not just well written but also brilliantly delivered by the actors on screen. At no point during this marathon, will you feel the need to look at your phone, unless of course, you’re on Sony LIV. In that case, you can just watch the film there.
2. To Kill A Mockingbird
Based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, To Kill A Mockingbird firmly sits as one of the greatest courtroom dramas of all time. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), represents Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a young white woman. That is the primary synopsis but the film covers so much more. The screenplay, of course, is brilliant and Peck is simply fantastic on screen. It’s available on PPV on YouTube.
3. 12 Angry Men
This film is an exploration of the human psyche. The story is about a young boy accused of murdering his own father. All the jurors come to a quick decision on the case, except juror 8, a man with very clearly defined moral lines, asks for an in-depth deliberation.
4. The Trial of Chicago 7
This is the story of seven anti-Vietnam war protesters, along with the Black Panthers founder Bobby Seale, all of whom were arrested and prosecuted on the false charges of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In Alan Sorkin’s courtroom, of course, this becomes a to and fro debate concerning the very fundamentals of freedom of expression in America. It’s on Netflix. You can watch it now.
5. Just Mercy
Starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, this film is about a young Harvard lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who moves to Alabama to help people who are in prisons because of improper legal representation. Foxx plays Walter McMillian, who is on death row due to the shadiest legal procedure you can imagine.
Stevenson now must uncover the truth behind the murder that took place all those years ago, while trying to deconstruct the evidence the police and the racist establishment had produced in the McMillian case and time is running out. The film is currently streaming on Netflix
6. Bridge of Spies
This Steven Speilberg film starring Tom Hanks is about the 1957 trial of alleged Russian spy Rudolf Abel. Hanks plays a small-time insurance lawyer who tries to defend Rudolf at a time when Americans thought he was indefensible. The script evokes the eternal American paranoia about communism, something that was at its peak during the cold war. So keep that in mind while you watch the film. And you can do that on Sony LIV.
This period drama is an inspired but fictional adaptation of the life of Dido Lindsay (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the daughter of an enslaved African woman in the West Indies. She becomes an heiress when she grows up, and finds out about the atrocities on the sea where enslaved Black people were thrown from the ship to freeze in the Atlantic. So, she makes it her mission to get some form of justice for the victims. You will have to find the film online or wait for it to air on TV sometime.
While Amitabh Bachchan’s monologue is unrealistic and preachy, especially when told in a courtroom, a place that exclusively relies on evidence, the film does raise some very important topics, and when it had released, it did start quite a bit of conversation about victim-blaming in cases of sexual assault and rape. Pink is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.
This is yet another underrated gem. In 1940, Thurgood Marshall, played by the late Chadwick Boseman was an NAACP lawyer helping Black defendants who had been wrongfully accused of crimes by police and were being jailed due to deeply prevalent institutional racism. This time, Marshall came to the aid of Joseph Spell, a chauffeur who had been accused of rape by his white employer. You can watch the film on YouTube.
This Indian remake of A Few Good Men starring KK Menon and Rahul Bose with Shah Rukh Khan as the narrator is an army courtroom drama. Captain Javed Khan is accused of killing his commanding officer, Major Rathod. However, he remains silent on the accusation as he believes it would ruin the sanctity of his profession. You can catch the film on Zee 5.
A Marathi folk singer is brought to court after he is accused of inciting a sewage worker to die by suicide through his politically charged songs. This is a very important film, especially in this day and age. It sheds some light on the life of Dalits and other marginalised groups in the country while talking about the amount of freedom at offer for artists. The movie is available on Netflix.
There is nothing more engaging than a courtroom drama, I will bet my rent on it. It’s why you all fell in love with Harvey Specter. Except, all of these films are a million times better.