Initially based on a play and a subsequent television adaptation, 1957’s 12 Angry Men is a tense and sophisticated look at all the deliberation that goes on behind-the-scenes of a jury’s unanimous decision. Director Sidney Lumet keeps things tight, exciting, and—most importantly—hugely memorable.
Starring all kinds of Hollywood greats like Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, and Demi Moore, 1992’s A Few Good Men is a courtroom drama with a military angle. This unique take on a familiar genre makes all the difference, elevating the film and allowing it to become something truly unique.
Probably the courtroom drama with the lowest stakes of these five, Kramer Vs. Kramer isn’t about life and death or avoiding jail time or anything like that—instead, it’s about a husband and a wife fighting over custody of their child during a messy divorce. Still, despite these seemingly restrained stakes, Kramer Vs. Kramer is absolutely deserving of its place on this list for the way its stressful and heated courtroom scenes play out.
Not only is David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s 2010 collaboration The Social Network one of the best biopics ever made, it’s also easily one of the greatest courtroom dramas to date. Covering the rise of Facebook through the lens of co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s tumultuous lawsuit over the creation of the site, the film manages to reveal Zuckerberg’s true colors through some genuinely great dialogue.
Based on Harper Lee’s unimpeachable novel, 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird has actor Gregory Peck embodying one of literature’s most iconic characters: the humble and heroic lawyer Atticus Finch. When Finch takes on a difficult case involving a black man accused of rape, the trial unearths the small Southern town’s true feelings about race, class, and the United States as a whole.