10 Underrated Courtroom Dramas From 2010s That Still Hold Up
Tension is almost palpable in these ones.
Here are just some of the criminally underrated courtroom dramas from the 2010s that you've gotta see.
1. Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)
Denzel Washington as Roman, an idealistic defense attorney. He's been toiling behind the scenes for years but is suddenly thrust into the spotlight when his partner has a heart attack. Eager for change, Roman joins a swanky law firm led by George Pierce (Colin Farrell).
When Roman discovers that a murderer was accidentally released due to a legal error, he faces a moral dilemma — does he stay silent and accept a hefty reward or speak up? Ultimately, Roman decides to turn whistleblower, which leads to a plot twist you won't see coming.
2. Conviction (2010)
Hilary Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a high school dropout who goes to law school to overturn her brother Kenny's (Sam Rockwell) unjust murder conviction. The story spans nearly two decades, with Betty Anne facing hurdle after hurdle, from failing the bar exam to dealing with uncooperative witnesses. But she's relentless. Eventually, with the help of DNA evidence, she proves Kenny's innocence.
3. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Matthew McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a smooth-talking defense lawyer who works out of his Lincoln Town Car. His newest client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), seems like a straightforward case; he's accused of assaulting a woman. But hold your horses.
As Mick digs deeper, he discovers that this case links back to an old case involving another client, Jesus Martinez, who's serving time for a murder he may not have committed. Mick juggles threats to his family, manipulative clients, and a hostile DA.
4. Closed Circuit (2013)
This one's a political thriller starring Eric Bana as Martin Rose and Rebecca Hall as Claudia Simmons-Howe, two lawyers appointed to defend a man accused of bombing a London market. They're former lovers, and due to British law, they can't communicate while preparing the defense.
Plot twist: their client's case ties back to MI5, and suddenly they're knee-deep in a government conspiracy. They both realize they're being watched and manipulated. Despite the secrecy, they piece together evidence that implicates the government.
5. Puncture (2011)
Chris Evans swaps his Captain America shield for a law degree here, but he's still fighting the good fight. He plays Mike Weiss, a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a case involving a safety-engineered syringe that could save thousands of lives, if not for the pharmaceutical companies suppressing it.
Mike and his straight-laced partner, Paul Danzinger, go against these medical giants, facing bribes and threats. All the while, Mike's addiction worsens.
6. Just Mercy (2019)
Michael B. Jordan portrays Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard law grad who moves to Alabama to represent wrongfully convicted death row inmates. He takes on the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), convicted of a murder he didn't commit.
Fighting through a maze of racial prejudice and systemic flaws, Bryan faces enormous hurdles – like the moment when they find a tape proving the prosecution's main witness lied under oath.
7. Bridge of Spies (2015)
Tom Hanks plays James B. Donovan, an insurance lawyer unexpectedly chosen to defend Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy caught in the U.S. The public wants Abel hanged, but Donovan believes in due process. Flash forward, an American U-2 pilot is captured by the Soviets.
Donovan is sent to East Berlin to negotiate a trade: Abel for the pilot. Amidst the Cold War tension, Donovan also learns of an American student detained in East Germany and insists on a 2-for-1 deal.
8. The Judge (2014)
The dynamic between Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in this film? Chef's kiss. Downey Jr. plays Hank Palmer, a big-city lawyer who returns to his small hometown for his mother's funeral. His estranged father, Joseph (Duvall), the town's judge, is soon accused of murder. Hank stays to defend him despite their fraught relationship.
During the trial, Hank realizes his father is hiding early-stage dementia. The case turns on its head when a key piece of evidence is disallowed, but Hank persuades the jury to consider the facts.
9. The Third Murder (2017)
This Japanese courtroom drama is a bit of a mind-bender. Masaharu Fukuyama plays Shigemori, a defense attorney assigned to a seemingly open-and-shut case. His client, Misumi, admits to murdering his factory boss. But Misumi starts changing his story, throwing the whole case into chaos.
Shigemori's investigation uncovers a complex web of family secrets and motivations that turn his understanding of guilt and innocence upside down.
10. Labor Day (2013)
The courtroom scenes in this film are brief but impactful. Kate Winslet plays Adele, a reclusive single mom who ends up harboring an escaped convict, Frank (Josh Brolin). They fall in love, but Frank is eventually caught and sent back to prison. He represents himself in court, delivering a touching defense that wins him an early release.
Maybe it's more love drama than courtroom drama, but the legal moments still pack a punch.