Yesterday, we brought you five lawyer movies that make lawyers look just awful. When they're not murdering, they're lying. When they're not lying, they're discriminating. When they're not discriminating, they're literally The Devil.
So now it's time to take a look at lawyers in a good light: upholding truth and justice when no one else will. Here are five lawyer movies that make lawyers look really good. Once again, spoiler alert!
1. "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch, basically the only person in 1930s Maycomb, Alabama, who isn't a racist. Atticus defends Tom Robinson, a black man, against charges that he raped a white girl. The whole town thinks he did it (just because he's black), but Atticus points out that Tom's crippled left hand meant that he couldn't have been the rapist. Of course, Tom is found guilty (even though the girl's father probably beat and raped her) and then ends up mysteriously killed while being transported to prison. The girl's father tries to attack Atticus' children, but local recluse Boo Radley saves them. Few movie lawyers will ever be as awesome as Atticus Finch. Because, really, isn't he the reason you went to law school?
2. "A Few Good Men."
Before Aaron Sorkin invented a world where everyone speaks in sharp, witty banter, he invented a world where Jack Nicholson yells, "You can't handle the truth!" After a U.S. Marine gets killed at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, JAG officer Demi Moore investigates and discovers the existence of a "code red" order, the Marines' version of a mob hit. She teams up with JAG officer Tom Cruise to prosecute the case. They have a trial where Col. Jack Nicholson reveals the truth Tom Cruise can't handle: He ordered the "code red" hit on the Marine. Like the end of every episode of "Matlock," Jack Nicholson gets arrested and led away after his witness stand confession.
3. "Inherit the Wind."
It's a movie based on a play based on Clarence Darrow's cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan during the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial. A schoolteacher in a small southern town is on trial for teaching Darwinian evolution in school, which is a crime. Matthew Harrison Brady will testify for the prosecution as a Biblical scholar. But once Henry Drummond, played by Spencer Tracy, cross-examines Brady, he ends up showing that the Biblical story of creation is full of holes, Brady doesn't know what he's talking about, and it shouldn't be a crime to think for oneself. Brady is humiliated and the judge ends up giving Dick York (the first Darrin from "Bewitched") a $100 fine.
4. "My Cousin Vinny."
It seems like an open-and-shut case: Ralph Macchio and his friend were clearly seen by three witnesses robbing a convenience store and shooting the clerk. Macchio calls in his cousin Joe Pesci -- who isn't technically a lawyer yet -- to defend him and his friend. Joe Pesci brilliantly cross-examines the three eyewitnesses, who, it turns out, didn't really see what they thought they saw. Then he uses his fiancee -- an expert in auto repair -- to prove that the car that made the tire tracks outside the convenience store couldn't have been Ralph Macchio's. (Still, though, Marissa Tomei got an Oscar for this?)
5. "Erin Brokovich."
Julia Roberts stars as the title character, a real person who fought Pacific Gas & Electric, one of California's power companies. Working as a secretary in a small law firm, Julia Roberts finds out that PG&E had been knowingly contaminating groundwater in Hinkley, California, for years. The case turns into a class action involving everyone in Hinkley. She's eventually handed a treasure trove of documents proving PG&E knew about the contamination, did nothing, and then tried to cover it up. PG&E is ordered to pay $333 million to the 634 plaintiffs and Julia Roberts gets a bonus, plus Albert Finney's respect.
Honorable Mention: "Miracle on 34th Street."
Not the Richard Attenborough version (sorry, Sir Richard). And not in color. Edmund Gwenn. A pint-sized Natalie Wood. Black and white.
The charming but eccentric Kris Kringle insists that he's the one and only Santa Claus, but the state wants him committed for being a crazy person. How can his friend and lawyer (and roommate?) prove it? Well, he comes up with an ingenious way:
Doesn't that make you feel better about how upstanding lawyers are? They're out there every day, protecting our rights and ensuring that Santa Claus stays out of the asylum.