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7 Oscar-Nominated Films about Law
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In the heart of Oscar season, great films are on everybody’s mind. Here are seven great films, all nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, that focus on law. They all have fabulous courtroom scenes, compelling characters (mostly lawyers, jurors, defendants, or judges), and wide acclaim – so, if you love both quality film and the law, check out the list below.

Oscar Statues, via theodysseyonline.com

Oscar Statues, via theodysseyonline.com

  1. 12 Angry Men (1957)

One of the most iconic courtroom films ever released, 12 Angry Men is about a jury, made up of 12 men, that must decide a case based on the standard of reasonable doubt. At the beginning, the jury wishes to convict – except for Juror 8 (Henry Fonda). The film is a complete courtroom drama, but it takes place mostly in the jury room as the jury works to return a unanimous verdict.


Directed by Sidney Lumet, 12 Angry Men was nominated for three Oscars – Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing of Adapted Screenplay – although it didn’t win any of them, losing Best Picture to “Bridge Over the River Kwai.”

2. Judgment at Nuremburg (1961)

This groundbreaking film is set in Nuremburg in 1948. The story centers around an American military tribunal charged with the task of trying four German judges for war crimes committed in Nazi Germany. The film stars such superstars as Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland. It was directed by Stanley Kramer. It was highly acclaimed for its brave exploration of extremely dramatic, ugly Holocaust experiences.

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Judgment at Nuremburg was nominated for a whopping eleven Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Spencer Tracy), Best Actor (Maximilian Schell), Best Supporting Actor (Montgomery Clift), Best Supporting Actress (Judy Garland), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, and Best Film Editing. Two Oscars were awarded to the film: Maximilian Schell won Best Actor, and Abby Mann won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Gregory Peck stars in his most iconic role as Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the South who agrees to represent a black man in court. The story also revolves around Finch’s kids, Scout and Jem, as he guides them to abandon the racist roots of the society they live in. Featuring one of the most famous courtroom scenes ever, this film is a classic.

To Kill A Mockingbird was nominated for eight Academy Awards – Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Music, Score – Substantially Original. The film won three awards: Gregory Peck won Best Actor, and the film also grabbed Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction.

4. The Verdict (1982)

Disgraced lawyer Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) has become an alcoholic and a failure. When he takes a medical malpractice case, he just intends to do it for the cash – but he becomes invested in reaching justice for his client.

The Verdict was nominated for five Oscars: Best Actor (Paul Newman), Best Supporting Actor (James Mason), Best Director (Sidney Lumet), Best Picture, and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (David Mamet). However, it walked away with no wins.

5. A Few Good Men (1992)

This film, written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Rob Reiner, and starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore, is a complex tale of the court-martial of two Marines accused of murder. Their team of lawyers work hard to defend them, with much friction and drama along the way.

A Few Good Men was nominated for four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Nicholson), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It didn’t, however, win any awards.

6. Erin Brockovich (2000)

This film is based on the true story of Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), a feisty single mother-turned-legal assistant who takes down the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for contaminating a California city’s water supply.

Erin Brockovich was nominated for five Academy awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Soderbergh), Best Actress (Julia Roberts), Best Supporting Actor (Albert Finney), and Best Original Screenplay (Susannah Grant). Roberts won the Oscar for Best Actress, the only award the film received.

7. Michael Clayton (2007)

George Clooney stars in this corporate legal thriller, supported by Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Sydney Pollack. Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a “fixer” involved in insidious backroom dealings. While representing a reprehensible international conglomerate (allegedly based on Monsanto), Clayton struggles with the moral implications of his job.

The film was nominated for seven Oscars: Best Actor (George Clooney), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Wilkinson), Best Supporting Actress, Best Director (Tony Gilroy), Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Tilda Swinton walked away with the only award, for Best Supporting Actress.


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