Top 5 Law Movies for Summer


In honor of Independence Day, we thought we would bring you the top 5 law movies for summer. To qualify, movies had to take place in summer, with visibly sweating people who are complaining about the heat or celebrating July 4th—and of course, it had to relate to the law. So for those of you studying for the bar, take a few hours of free time and treat yourself to one of these classics.

1. My Cousin Vinny

Plot: Two New Yorkers are accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college, and one of their cousins—an inexperienced, loudmouth lawyer not accustomed to Southern rules and manners—comes to Alabama to defend them.

Sure, it took Vinny seven tries to pass the bar, but we’re glad he did. His representation of the Karate Kid and his friend on trial for murder was one of the most unique courtroom comedies of all time. His accent, his leather outfits and tuxedo rental, his unorthodox cross examination style…definitely not an example for future lawyers, but certainly the funniest defense lawyer we’ve come across. For our money, the scene in the prison cell where Vinny introduces himself to Stan is one of the funniest of all time. “Excuse me, but I think a modicum of gratitude would not be out of line here.” We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the hilariousness that comes out of the lovely Marissa Tomei’s mouth. Our favorite line of hers: “Imagine you’re a deer. You’re prancing along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put your little deer lips down to the cool clear water…bam! A fucking bullet rips off part of your head!”

We could go on and on. Rent it. Everytime we hear someone discussing the future generations of this country we can help but chuckle at Pesci’s pronunciation of the word “youth.”

We know it’s a summer movie because: Their tires got stuck in the mud in Alabama and they were on their way back to college when they accidentally pocketed a can of tuna from the Sac-O-Suds convenient store.

2. Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde

Plot: Elle Woods heads to Washington D.C. to join the staff of a congresswoman in order to pass a bill to ban animal testing.

For some lighter fare, check out the sequel with Elle Woods standing up for the rights of her chihuahua. Yes, it’s a silly premise. Of course, she manages to overcome their first impression of her as a dimwitted sorority girl and uses her feminine wiles and intellect to get them to come around. As we have recently learned about politicians, they are suckers for women…any women at all, so it’s no surprise an attractive one can convince them to change laws for the sake of her pet.

We know it’s a summer movie because: The title. It was released on July 4th weekend a few years ago. Bitter Staff remembers watching it at a drive when those still existed.

3. Twelve Angry Men

Plot: A dissenting juror in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the others that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court.

Anyone who’s ever served jury duty in summertime knows how badly it can stench in that cramped deliberation room, now imagine it 50 years ago without A/C. Absolutely brilliant performances all around but watching Henry Fonda convince 11 other men to change their minds makes us think maybe he snuck into the jury room for the Casey Anthony trial.

We know it’s a summer movie because: There was a guy complaining about missing a baseball game (when people actually cared about baseball) and people spent half the movie running into the bathroom to pat themselves down with paper towels.

4. A Time To Kill

Plot: A young lawyer defends a black man accused of murdering two men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, sparking a rebirth of the KKK.

In our humble opinion, the best of the numerous Grisham law-related movies that include The Firm, The Pelican Brief and The Client, (though the Firm was the best book). This very underrated Grisham film had a blockbuster cast, Matthew McCoughnehey, Sandra Bullock (playing a law student!), Samuel Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Ashley Judd and Oliver Platte and  was one of the few true legal summer blockbuster hits.

We know it’s a summer movie because: Believe it or not, when it was released, for two consecutive weekends in  August 1996, it outgrossed the megahit Independence Day.  It grossed a total of $110 Million (second only to the Firm for highest grossing law movies).

5. To Kill a Mockingbird

Plot: Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.

Kinda like A Time To Kill, only much, much better. One of the more brilliant portrayals of all time by Gregory Peck in the lead role as a lawyer who personifies integrity (before lawyer and integrity became a punchline). The movies teaches lesson of racial injustice, intolerance and overcoming fears while managing not to be overly preaching.  If there is one must see on this list, it’s this one…or read the book for godsakkes if one of your schoolteachers never required you to.

We know it’s a summer movie because: The kids keep spending their summers in their treehouse and Boo Radley kept leaving gifts and fixing their clothes when they weren’t around.

Bitter Staff is a collection of current and former editors, contributors, and various other lawyers who have written for Bitter Lawyer over the years. Posts include interviews, contests, and other general lawyerly and bitter content.

3 Comments

  1. Sue

    July 6, 2011 at 11:41 am

    You may want to check your spelling on first two movies titles. “Vinnie” is actually spelled “Vinny” and “Blond” is “Blonde.”

    • Guano Dubango

      July 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      a smart woman!

  2. P-Nut

    July 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    My Counsin Vinny takes place in the winter, not the summer. They were returning from Christmas vacation.

    “Your Honor, Counsel, members of the jury, the evidence in this case is going to show that at 9:30 in the morning, January 4, both defendants, Stanley Rothenstein and William Gambini, were seen getting out of their metallic green 1964 Buick Skylark convertible with a white top.”

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the j-j-j-j-jury. On January f-f-f-fourth my client did indeed visit the Sack O’ Suds uh uh convenience store…”

    Also, the whole leather jacket thing wouldn’t make sense in Alabama in the summer.

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