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Top 10 Movie Lawyers

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Tiffany Ezuma. You can handle the truth, can’t you? Fictional works are full of fake lawyers: some are honourable and upstanding individuals who fight for the little guy and what’s right; others are money-grubbing ambulance chasers who are just in it for the cash and the glory. But either way, they’re entertaining. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 movie lawyers. For this list, we’ve picked the cream of the crop: the most moral, hard-working lawyers you’d want on your side in the courtroom. Special thanks to our users TheNewEntertainer, Deathmatch1959, Zlatin Dotin, ALSFLAVOUR, Luis Enrique Garcia and Alaa Abdelati for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Movie Lawyers

You can handle truth, can’t you? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movie lawyers.

For this list, we’ve picked the cream of the crop: the most moral, hard-working lawyers you’d want on your side in the courtroom.

#10: Martin Vail
“Primal Fear” (1996)

Vail is that classic money-hungry lawyer who doesn’t care about the truth as long as he wins. But, he experiences one of the biggest personal transformations on our list, changing from a self-absorbed big-shot to a humble civil servant, just trying to get his altar-boy client off on murder charges – y’know, the usual case. Despite his doubts, he sticks by his client…if only he was sure of his innocence!

#9: Rudy Baylor & Deck Shifflet
“The Rainmaker” (1997)

Two lawyers for the price of one – what a bargain! Baylor is a wet-behind-the-ears newbie, while Shifflet is a less-than-upstanding old-timer. The duo manages to open a practice and win a medical lawsuit against an insurance giant. The two teach each other how to be better lawyers and men through their triumphs and setbacks. Along the way their ethics are tested but they remain unscathed.

#8: Jake Brigance
“A Time to Kill” (1996)

Matthew McConaughey has portrayed a lawyer several times onscreen. But as Jake Brigance, he must fight against the odds as a lawyer in the Deep South defending a black man who shot and killed his daughter’s rapists. The KKK target Brigance’s family but he stands by his client in pursuit of justice, and McConaughey’s performance is riveting as he makes tough choice after tough choice.

#7: Frank Galvin
“The Verdict” (1982)

Our seventh spot goes to an alcoholic lawyer looking for redemption. Galvin is given an easy medical malpractice suit to settle, but decides he can do more for his clients by going to trial. Galvin’s redemption story paid off: Paul Newman was nominated for the Oscar and the movie is listed as number four on AFI’s “10 Greatest Films in the Courtroom Drama” category – redemption indeed!

#6: Jan Schlichtmann
“A Civil Action” (1998)

Our first character based on a real-life person is Jan Schlichtmann, a personal injury lawyer out to make a quick buck. Jan becomes the classic underdog by going against a major leather manufacturer whose chemical dumping polluted a town’s water source and left dozens with leukemia. Travolta’s more than convincing as a man facing adversity and moral dilemmas at every turn. You can’t help but to root for him!

#5: Lt. Daniel Kaffee
“A Few Good Men” (1992)

This story begins with Tom Cruise’s Kaffee depicted as a lazy attorney, out to do as little work as possible. But when put on the murder trial of two Marines accused of killing a fellow private, against an adversary like Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessup, he has no choice but to prove himself. Kaffee’s transformation from zero to hero makes for a riveting courtroom drama.

#4: Erin Brockovich
“Erin Brockovich” (2000)

Julia Roberts is used to playing women audiences will cheer for, and her role as Erin Brockovich, a secretary turned legal-eagle, is no exception. It’s easy to connect with the story of a real-life woman who fights an electric company responsible for polluting a town’s water source. Critics were captivated and Roberts swept the four major awards for best actress, including the Oscar – and it’s easy to see why.

#3: Andrew Beckett
“Philadelphia” (1993)

Andrew Beckett is a closeted lawyer with HIV, who is wrongfully terminated from his law firm after his illness is discovered. In this story inspired by a true-life event, Hanks gives a career best performance as a man who won’t be bullied by bigots. His performance impacted the Academy and Hanks took home the Oscar that year for his moving portrayal.

#2: Vinny Gambini
“My Cousin Vinny”(1992)

Easily one of Joe Pesci’s best performances, Gambini is the fast-talking New York lawyer who’s trying to get his cousin out of murder charges in the Deep South. Commended by lawyers as a faithful representation of their profession, this film has Vinny come up against setback-after-setback in the courtroom. As funny as he is smart, Gambini’s the kinda guy you want to succeed in spite of his critics. And he delivers!

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honourable mentions:
- Roger Sherman Baldwin: “Amistad”
- Elle Woods: “Legally Blonde”
- Mitch McDeere: “The Firm”
- Fred Gailey: “Miracle on 34th Street”
- Fletcher Reede: “Liar, Liar”
- Paul Biegler: “Anatomy of a Murder”
- Mickey Haller: “Lincoln Lawyer”

#1: Atticus Finch
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

It’s no surprise that our number one pick goes to the lawyer every lawyer aspires to be. Gregory Peck brought Harper Lee’s literary character to life and to most he is Atticus Finch, the moral compass in a town divided by racism. His teachings on equality and respect will resonate with audiences for years to come. No wonder he took home the Oscar that year!

Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite movie lawyer? For more law-abiding top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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