The verdict is in! Allen & Allen attorneys rate legal shows and films

  • January 17, 2024
  • Blog

What is your favorite legal movie or TV show of all time?

My favorite legal movie is The Verdict.  It is far more realistic than most and tells a gripping story.

– Malcolm “Mic” McConnell, III

For a movie, The Verdict with Paul Newman. It’s about a lawyer on hard times, committed to helping a client against bad guys despite huge odds. For the TV show, it’s Criminal. It has realistic interrogation scenes, set in foreign countries.

– Richard Armstrong

R. Lee Appleton

A Civil Action – it’s a true story about a difficult personal injury case where a contaminated water supply causes cancer. A lawyer fights the big chemical company on behalf of his clients, even at the risk of his own financial ruin.

– Robert C.T. Reed

“I like Bull because of the concept. It has to do with observing human behavior, in order to determine which way people would swing in a jury. I find that interesting.”

– Danielle Kent

I love (and constantly quote) My Cousin Vinny! Joe Pesci is hilarious, and Marisa Tomei steals the show. All lawyers would love a star witness to completely wrap the case up in our client’s favor, so to us, it’s like watching a dream come true. There are so many great one-liners, and who doesn’t love a come-from-behind victory for the good guys? It’s a great movie to watch at the end of a long week if you want to laugh. Just watch out for those “yutes!”

– Sarah Rose

Jennifer Capocelli

“Easy answer: Ally McBeal (1997-2002). Nowadays, we see lawyers portrayed on TV and in movies all the time. But that hasn’t always been the case. In the wake of shows like Perry Mason, there was a huge void of shows and movies that portrayed lawyers in a favorable light; all the others cast attorneys as villains or misrepresented the nature of the job, etc.

But, in 1997 (when I was 8 years old), that all started to change with the premiere of Ally McBeal, which quite literally began to reshape public perception of lawyers and the legal profession. For the first time in recent decades, Ally McBeal presented the public with likable and funny characters who, for the most part, had fun being lawyers. As a result, the show was able to successfully infuse humor into the civil/criminal justice system while still maintaining reverence for its core principles.

All in all, the Ally McBeal lawyers always endeavored to give their clients the best possible representation, despite having somewhat easy-going attitudes towards their jobs. But, more importantly, they genuinely cared about their client’s well-being and the successful resolution of their case, which was a huge contrast to the typical money-hungry skeezy attorneys portrayed for decades.

Finally, the courtroom scenes were incredible and showed impassioned closing arguments, rigorous cross-examinations, and methodical direct examinations. The attorneys also had firm-wide meetings discussing ongoing cases, all of which sounds quite familiar, no? Overall, the show was just super badass and I LOVE IT SO MUCH.”

– Emily E. Smith

Ally McBeal cast

The cast of Ally McBeal Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

What is your least favorite legal movie or TV show of all time?

“Ally McBeal.  Stupid, not funny, and unrealistic.”

– Richard Armstrong

Robert C.T. Reed

What is the most realistic TV show or movie about attorneys?

“My Cousin Vinny – that movie is used in law schools to teach trial practice.”

– Robert C.T. Reed

“The most realistic show is Boston Legal. The main character’s closing arguments were often realistic for criminal cases.”

– Junior Ndlovu

“Although not completely realistic, Better Call Saul handles topics that don’t normally come up in other legal depictions. Jimmy McGill (later called Saul Goodman)  and the other attorneys deal with ethics issues that are rarely, if ever, addressed in other shows, such as the rules behind advertising to and recruiting potential new clients. By showing how Jimmy/Saul continuously breaks these ethical codes, it highlights that attorneys are actually bound to a standard.

Additionally, it shows that many cases are lengthy and not over in one quick episode. The show depicts hearings, which illustrates the amount of work and time in the courtroom we put in beyond just the razzle-dazzle of the actual trial. Although Jimmy/Saul is not an example of a good lawyer, the show overall does a good job portraying a more realistic version of the legal system.”

– Sarah Rose

Better Call Saul cast

The cast of Better Call Saul Photo credit: AMC

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story did a good job depicting that trial. But so much of the legal process building up to a trial is tedious and lengthy, so it doesn’t make for compelling television without a lot of creative license.”

– R. Lee Appleton

“The movie The Paper Chase really captured what it is like to be a law student. And for TV, it’s L.A. Law.”

– Richard Armstrong

“ I love My Cousin Vinny. There are so many components to the movie that reflect real life. Like the older rural Southern judge that emphasizes procedure and/or tradition to a fault? We’ve dealt with judges like that. The patronizing opposing counsel? Been there. And the scene with Marisa Tomei’s character, where they are trying to qualify her as an expert witness – opposing counsel underestimated her knowledge about cars because she was a woman. Then BOOM, she goes down her list of qualifications and blows it out of the water. It’s the kind of witness we’d all love to have.

There are teachable moments in the movie too. During the cross examination with Joe Pesci’s character, he uses photographs as evidence. He asked the right questions, loaded those bases up, and hit the person on the witness stand with a grand slam – albeit a scripted one!”

– Danielle Kent

Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny

Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny Photo credit: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

What is the least realistic movie or TV show about attorneys?

“I’d hate to be a Debbie Downer on this one because I really love Elle Woods. But Legally Blonde might be the least realistic attorney movie of all time. The idea that someone could take the LSAT on a whim, ace it, and get into Harvard Law School is, in itself, hard to swallow. For that same person to be offered an internship with the best professor at Harvard Law School and permitted to cross-examine an important witness in a high-profile murder case, well, that’s just pure make-believe.

If you’re watching this movie for entertainment or fashion advice, you have my full support. If you think Legally Blonde is an accurate depiction of law school or the legal profession, kindly “bend and snap” your way out.”

– Courtney Winston

Reese Witherspoon in Clueless

Reese Witherspoon in Clueless Photo credit: MGM

“The least realistic TV show about attorneys must be Suits. Basically, everything on that show inaccurately reflects what happens in a courtroom. It should be used to teach law students what NOT to do as a lawyer!”

– Jennifer Capocelli

Suits. No lawyer can pull off half of what Harvey does.”

– Junior Ndlovu

Richard Armstrong

“Jury Duty – the point of the show is that one guy shows up for jury duty and never realizes that everyone else in the courtroom is an actor. They’re trying to see how much crazy stuff they can do without him realizing it’s all fake.”

– Robert C.T. Reed