In a special series of films which looks to examine the justice and legal system, Belfast’s High Court will host screenings of four classic courtroom dramas as part of the 13th annual Belfast Film Festival later this month. But what makes a good Courtroom Drama? Filmplicity indentifies 5 key ingredients and the films which showcase them.
1. Ingredient: Quotable one-liners. Film: A Few Good Men (1992) – In possession of what is perhaps one of the most iconic courtroom scenes, A Few Good Men is memorable essentially for Jack Nicholson’s shouty one-liner: “You can’t handle the truth!”
2. Ingredient: A tense and sweaty jury. Film: 12 Angry Men (1957) – 12 Angry Men is unique in that (with the exception of one scene) it was shot exclusively in one room and relies entirely on the tension between the jurors as they struggle to agree on a verdict. Excruciating to watch but utterly compelling.
3. Ingredient: Moral dilemma. Film: To Kill a Mocking Bird (1962) – The archetypal courtroom drama, To Kill a Mocking Bird immortalised the character of Atticus Finch (embodied superbly by Gregory Peck) as a bastion of moral integrity, putting his reputation on the line to defend an innocent black man from prejudice in small town depression-era America.
4. Ingredient: Contentious issue. Film: Philadelphia (1993) – Every good courtroom drama has, at its heart, at least one contentious issue, it’s what makes it dramatic. Philadelphia sees lawyer Denzel Washington struggle to overcome his own prejudices in order to represent Tom Hanks’ Andrew Beckett when he is fired because he has AIDS. Read our review here.
5. Ingredient: Human interest. Film: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – An unconventional courtroom drama which pitches the familiarity of reason against the uncompromising nature of faith. Based on actual events (a popular attribute of the genre) this is a horror movie for people who prefer courtroom dramas.
What do you think? What are the key ingredients that make a courtroom drama really cook? Share your thoughts in the comments.