There is something magical about going to the cinema. Perhaps it’s the popcorn, the tasteless hot dog bereft of meat, or the gigantic litre of cola filled too high with ice.

I remember as a child being dragged through Leicester Square to go to a ‘proper cinema’ to see the Empire battling the Resistance for the domination of the stars. I was hooked, and in truth have been ever since.

But there is, and has to my mind always been, something special about movies relating to this business of ours, the law. For many, the reason that they entered the profession was because of Erin Brockovich, or Darby Shaw, or ‘because we couldn’t handle the truth’. Wouldn’t we all like to find the killers of two Supreme Court judges; uncover the truth about some toxin, to save the lives of thousands; or be able to use our knowledge of the consequences of showering too soon after a perm to find a murderer. I accept that some readers of this piece, will puff out their chests and exhale ‘well, that’s the day job’.

But for others (well, basically me) we ‘sometimes’ have those moments, those brief encounters when our questions hit home in cross-examination; just like in the movies. But there is no fee-paying audience, no fanfare; merely the judge who has seen it all before. We come to court the next day for the sequel hoping for resolute success but resigning ourselves to the fact that it will never be as good as the first time (the problems with sequels). The reality is that for many of us, we can’t offer a Hollywood blockbuster, but we try our darndest to avoid Hammer House of Horrors.

Film makers clearly have a special attraction with the law. Who knew it was so exciting?

Be it placed within that realm of a thriller, a comedy or indeed the supernatural, they have attached a legal angle to it.

So, yet again, I have been asked to compile a top ten. This time, the top ten legal movies.

As ever, some parameters. I have only included those films with a trial scene.

I appreciate that not every lawyer is a trial lawyer. Nor that every legal film has a trial scene. But I think in movies, and I have been liberal in my description of a trial, there is often something special to that courtroom interaction. The dalliance with the judge, or one’s opponent.

I have not criticised films for their liberal interpretation of the facts (How can I? I’m a barrister. I have heard the liberal interpretation of the facts in court on many occasions.)

So let us begin.

Great films which failed to make the cut included The Firm, the Pelican Brief, Dark Waters and the wonderful Green Man. I have, and this has surprised me, included a fair number of black and white films. With age comes quality (well, that’s what I tell my clients). So where to begin? Let’s go old school with number 10:

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10: Twelve Angry Men

Twelve Angry Men is an absolute classic. The ultimate legal drama where we never see the inside of the courtroom; but instead the jury’s deliberations. That see-sawing over whether the young man is guilty or innocent of murdering his father. The jury dealing with the advocates’ deficiencies. The film is extremely good, not merely as a detective piece but at also looking into the minds of the 12 ‘good men and true’. Their passions, bias and prejudices.

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9: Legally Blonde

At 9, we have Legally Blonde. One of Hollywood’s tricks is its attempt to put someone who you would not traditionally expect to see as a lawyer (we see the same at Number 7) who as it happens (the moral of the story) turns out to be an extremely good lawyer. That is ultimately because there should be no ‘type’ for this ‘role’ of lawyer. We all face imposter syndrome (without the assistance of Hollywood). Reece Witherspoon plays the role superbly with confidence, authenticity, preparation, and determination (as any good lawyer would). A great watch on a Sunday afternoon.

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8: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird at number 8, is another fine classic. Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson, a Black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama. Race, prejudice and fellowship follow. A wonderful book and a great film, particularly for the performance of Gregory Peck. Growing up, everybody I knew wanted Atticus Finch as their father. The film is now sadly somewhat dated, but the message is as clear as ever; that equality, honesty, liberalism and that passion to defend the rights of others shall prevail.

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7: My Cousin Vinny

At 7, we have a comedy with Joe Pesci playing the out of town and, dare I say, out of touch lawyer in My Cousin Vinny. A family member accused of murder and Vinny, our reluctant hero with more expertise in ‘gritz’ (a southern breakfast delicacy for the uncultured) than the law; saves the day (spoilers).

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6: On the Basis of Sex

At 6, On the Basis of Sex is the story of the life of the phenomenal, awe inspiring Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her journey to the US Supreme Court. Again, that liberal fight for gender equality and indeed justice. Felicity Jones is great as RBG and the trial scene is particularly good where to a judge’s objection that the Constitution does not contain the word ‘woman’, she responds passionately that neither does it contain the word ‘freedom’. Boom.

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5: A Matter of Life and Death

At 5, A Matter of Life and Death we have the archetypical Englishman, David Niven, play a pilot during WWII crashing to his death in this fantasy-romantic comedy. During his descent to Earth he speaks with June, a radio operator at Air Command. Within a moment they fall in love (look, I said it was part-fantasy). He cheats death. The bond with June grows before Heaven recognises the technical error that they missed him. A trial in Heaven ensues as to whether he should live or die. Roger Livesey battles Raymond Massey over the thorny issue of ‘love’, freedom and life. Well worth a watch.

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4: The Children Act

At 4, we have The Children Act. As a family barrister I was always going to go for this film, which at its heart is the question over whether a 17-year-old boy, a Jehovah’s Witness, should be forced by court order to have a blood transfusion. Emma Thompson plays the High Court judge with this incredibly difficult decision. Stanley Tucci is excellent (when isn’t he?) as the judge’s husband. What makes the film for me, is that we get to see a realistic portrayal of the family life of the judge and of the problems of balancing life, the law and relationships at the modern Bar. It is also to see how creative the film makers are in showing our judge as grumpy, cantankerous and difficult in court (they can just go too far with fiction). An excellent film.

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3: The Trial of the Chicago 7

At 3, we have The Trial of the Chicago 7. This film took me completely by surprise. It’s brilliant. A fabulous cast including Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne and Sacha Baron Cohen star in this quite frankly absurd, brutal, brilliant, political trial thriller. Based on a true trial, we see a corrupt legal process in Chicago in the 1970s. The film follows (and it is mostly based during the trial) the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-Vietnam war protesters charged with conspiracy and inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (he of the West Wing) we have a film which attacks at our emotions, our sensibilities and our belief in justice. Wow. Just wow.

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2: Inherit the Wind

At 2, Inherit the Wind is another film based on a real trial. This time we are in 1925 and Dayton, Tennessee where a schoolteacher is prosecuted in the ‘Scopes Trial’ for teaching this radical new ‘idea’ called human evolution, in school. The film has yet again, a wonderful cast. Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly and Dick York. The issues in the film (and the advocates’ arguments) are as pertinent today as they were in 1925. Themes such as a person’s right to have a cause; to think; to hold an opinion that is unpopular to others. This is an extraordinary film with great acting.

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1: A Few Good Men

Which brings us (thankfully) to our last and indeed top film. That prize goes to A Few Good Men. A modern classic, with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in that trial scene. The reluctant lawyer who, for want of a better phrase, shows up and kicks butt. The film revolves around the court martial of two US Marines charged with murdering a fellow Marine; and a Code Red. Wonderful, iconic performances.

Now, where did I leave that Oscar?