12 Angry Men (1957 film)

12 Angry Men (1957 film) The Law in Film

12 Angry Men is doubtless the most famous film about a jury in American cinematic history. But there are many other memorable films about trials, the law, and the deliberation process of juries. Films like Runaway Jury, The Lincoln Lawyer, A Few Good Men, The Verdict, The Judge, My Cousin Vinny, To Kill a Mockingbird, Kramer Vs. Kramer, and The Rainmaker all concern the judicial process, its pitfalls, triumphs, and the dramatic stakes that are built in to the legal process.

The dramatic dimensions of the courtroom make it a natural fit for cinema. Within the confines of the courtroom, individual characters tell different versions of the same story, while alternately heroic and antagonistic individuals must sift through these accounts in search of the truth. In many ways, the courtroom follows the structure of drama itself, complete with exposition, rising action, climax, and denouement. On the AMC Filmsite, an article about "the greatest courtroom dramas" suggests, "...courtroom dramas usually contain some of the most fascinating thematic elements in film—murder, betrayal, deception, perjury, and sex. They often feature unexpected twists and surprise testimony, unusual motives, moral dilemmas, crusading lawyers and wrongly-accused victims."

M, directed by Fritz Lang, is considered one of the first courtroom dramas, and stars Peter Lorre. Other early courtroom dramas include Fury, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and They Won't Forget. Indeed, cinematic depictions of the law have had such an influence on our society that many high-level lawyers, judges, and justices have cited early cinematic experiences as inspiring to their desire to enter the field.