In honor of Judge Sonia Sotomayor being approved for the supreme court, I give you my top five favorite courtroom films:
5. A Few Good Men – Demi Who? Jack Who? That one ugly guy Who? This star-studded cast (also including Noah Wyle, Christopher Guest, Keifer Sutherland, and Kevin Bacon) would mean nothing to me if it wasn’t for Mr. Tom Cruise. And since this is my favorite court room movies and not the best, I feel a Tom Cruise appearance is in order. There was nothing better at 12-years-old than watching my 30-something-year-old Tom spit in ferocity. Corrupt military, foreign invasions, machismo, blahblahblah, all I cared about were those cute little outfits, and the pay-off was gorgeous.
4. Anatomy of a Murder – The first film under the code to use the term “panties.” Awesome. (and according to IMDB “rape,” “bitch,” “penetration,” “contraceptive,” “sperm,” and “slut.” Many of which words you still can’t say in public school!) Otto Preminger was good at getting away with stuff, and in 1959, as the glory days of the code were winding down, he was able to get away with even more. The result is a fairly honest, bare look at the US judicial system. Here Jimmy Stewart isn’t exactly the innocent little cutie of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Airing everyone’s dirty laundry for the sake of winning a case, even Stewart’s dad condemned the film as naughty.
3. Close-Up – Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up is a film way ahead of its time. Shot in 1990, the film centers around the true story of a man who pretended to be the famous Iraqi director Mohsen Makhmalbaf in order to make friends with a family he meets. Kiarostami cast all of the people originally involved in the case and had them reenact their parts in the case and subsequent trial. Using non-actors and setting up various scenarios causes you to wonder what is actually a reenactment, what is scripted, and what is “real.” What levels of manipulation do we see here, meaning manipulation of the audience and the people involved? To what effect? This movie still has me thinking, at least five years after I saw it for the first time. Kiarostami’s films are all wrapped up in layers of reality, and they are all fantastic.
2. Judgement at Nuremberg – For those uninterested in reading Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, there is the only slightly shorter Judgement at Nuremberg. Another courtroom film that stars everyone, this film has the opposite effect of A Few Good Men, and masks every star in a more important issue. (Though you can’t keep Richard Widmark down as he shines above the rest.) The film deals with all the ethics a good courtroom drama should focus on: justice, freedom, patriotism, and humanism. What I liked about this one is it takes it’s time. The trial is presented slowly and completely, leaving room for drawn-out (though perhaps over-scripted) testimonies. I think it deserves the respect it’s gotten.
1. Adam’s Rib – This is my favorite Katherine Hepburn movie. It’s so funny, and every piece of hilarious dialogue is delivered in quick passing – true to Hepburn’s classic style. Plus, I just found out it was written by Ruth Gordon! I don’t even know what to say about this movie…there’s nothing to criticize. It’s too funny.
Some runner ups that I finally decided don’t exactly qualify as courtroom films: The Devil and Daniel Webster, Angel Face, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Also, with the release of District 9 and Scott’s recent obsession with “Alien Nation,” I have decided that I want so see an alien-on-trial movie.