If it seems like every other movie or television series is about the law, you’re not imagining things.
Lawyers are popping up onscreen everywhere. They can be found in Marvel shows like Daredevil – who wins lawsuits by day and protects humanity by night – to more serious fare like Seven Seconds.
Most should be taken for what they are – pure entertainment. The protagonists rarely behave like actual lawyers, and the courtroom scenes ore often laughably unrealistic.
But some offer nice life lessons, and they can teach even the most jaded counselor a thing or two about justice and integrity.
7 Shows to Add to Your Netflix Watchlist
Here are some to consider adding to your Netflix queue:
- Twelve Angry Men. You might think a movie set in the claustrophobic confines of a jury room would be a snooze-fest. But this Sidney Lumet classic is anything but. Henry Fonda plays the lone juror with an open mind and a conscience. The tension is palpable, the dialogue pitch-perfect. And the themes of prejudice, close-mindedness and the danger of rushing to judgment ring as true today as in 1957 when the film debuted.
- A War. A Danish military company is in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban while trying to protect innocent civilians. Things go terribly wrong in a firefight. When the company commander – a brave, thoughtful family man – returns home he is put on trial for war crimes. Despite its title this film is deeply anti-war, and it illustrates the challenge of trying to litigate the chaos and insanity of armed conflict in the hushed halls of justice.
- Michael Clayton. The title character, played by George Clooney is a fixer at a big law firm who cleans up his employer’s messes. But he’s burned out and hopelessly in debt. What follows is, on one level, a dramatic class-action slugfest. But on a deeper level, it’s a portrait of a lawyer struggling to rediscover the best parts of himself.
- Acts of Vengeance. Let’s be clear: nobody will mistake this one for great – or even good – cinema. It’s happily content to be a pulpy, violent, B-movie romp. But it has its delights. Antonio Banderas plays a high-powered, fast-talking lawyer who starts out as Michael Clayton and ends up as George Bronson. Following a family tragedy, he takes a vow of silence, abandons the law and embarks on a revenge quest. In the process, he brings bad guys to justice and reads Marcus Aurelius. But there is something poignant about seeing our lawyer-hero find his true voice only after he shuts his mouth.
- Spotlight. This 2015 Best Picture winner follows a team of Boston Globe reporters as they investigate systemic child sex abuse by Catholic priests. The film is more about newspaper reporting – think All The President’s Men – than the law. But its vivid depiction of how silence and denial slowly corrodes our system of justice offers an important civics lesson for us all.
- Seven Seconds. The plot of this 10-episode Netflix original could have been pulled from today’s headlines. The hit-and-run death of a black teenager by a white police officer ignites a powder keg of racial tension in Jersey City. From its opening minutes, the film is painful to watch. And though the courtroom scenes sacrifice realism for drama, it’s undeniably great theater. What elevates this series to the level of art is the acting, especially by Regina King as the victim’s grieving mother and Clare-Hope Ashitey as the dauntless prosecutor KJ.
- Wild, Wild Country. Okay, I’ll admit it. This one has been added mainly for the weird factor. The six-hour documentary chronicles the life of controversial guru Bagwhan Rajneesh and his efforts in the 1980s to build a utopian commune in the Oregon desert. Needless to say, the locals were not happy when tens of thousands of blissed-out followers arrived and began singing, dancing and accumulating a huge arsenal of weapons. A standoff with police and federal prosecutors was averted when the Bagwhen fled in his Lear jet. What’s fascinating are the questions the documentary raises about the limits – if any – to free speech, free religion and the right to bear arms.
What shows would you add to this list?