How dare I leave Gambini and Denuto from our top 10 movie lawyers of all time list, you cry! It’s a crime! Well, back by popular demand, here are 10 more movie lawyers we love to love and love to hate.
- Vincent Gambini – My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Who says movies about lawyers and movies lawyers have to be so serious all the time? This hilarious film tells the tale of the brash attorney, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, who travels to Beechum County accompanied by his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) to defend two young New Yorkers (one, his cousin) on trial for murder. Having only passed the bar exam 6 weeks prior to his first courtroom foray, Vinny Gambini is a step up on Suits’ Mike Ross. Gambini actually went to law school. But the comparisons stop there. Lacking knowledge of even the simplest of courtroom procedures, Gambini is regularly found in contempt of court but his punchy opening address, “Uh, everything that guy just said is bullshit” is on the tips of all advocates’ tongues even if they’re not game enough to admit it. So for those lawyers out there running their first trial, thinking “Am I really cut out for this?”, just remember: you can’t be any worse than Vinny Gambini.
- Dennis Denuto – The Castle
The small town lawyer who takes on the High Court to save his home, his ‘castle’, will always be etched in our hearts and memories. Well, at least in the hearts of Aussies and a few Kiwis here and there as the humour doesn’t necessarily translate well further abroad. Most sole practitioners and old school lawyers no doubt identify with the scene where Denuto dictates into his dictaphone and then swivels around in his chair, presses play and types up the transcript himself. The photocopier problems alone are enough to get him on this list. And who hasn’t wanted to tell the Judge it’s the “vibe of the thing?”
Denuto: “In summing up, it’s the constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe, and…no that’s it…it’s the vibe. I rest my case.”
Denuto: “I cleaned that tray 3 fuckin’ times! F3… F3… What the fuck is that!”
- Kelly McGillis – The Accused
Kathryn Murphy is the brave, determined DA who reluctantly takes on the case of rape victim, Sarah Tobias, played brilliantly by Jodie Foster in an Oscar winning performance. Kelly McGillis’s Murphy is passionate and defiant and isn’t going to let gang rape go unprosecuted on her watch: “I am going to try this case and you’re not going to stop me.” Now, don’t we all wish we could say that to our superior?
D.A. Paul Rudolph: “I see. You wanna spend my money to put a bunch of spectators on trial – a trial that you’ll lose – because you owe her? No! You don’t get to use this office to pay your debts!
Kathryn Murphy: I am going to try this case and you are not going to stop me.
D.A. Paul Rudolph: Kathryn, you’re an ace. You’ve got a great future. Don’t put it in jeopardy.
Kathryn Murphy: What are you going to do, fire me? Go right ahead. My first case will be a civil suit against the rapists, the solicitors, the Bar and the State. I will show that Sarah Tobias ended up in a hospital bed because this office sold her out. I will personally subpoena your records, put you on the witness stand and cross-examine you about every single sleazy plea-bargain this office has ever made.”
- Regina ‘Reggie’ Love – The Client (1994)
The sassy, southern lawyer with the good heart, Regina Love is my fourth pick. Susan Sarandon perfects the portrayal of a world-weary, recovering alcoholic who earns the trust of her young client, a boy who reminds her of the fact that she’s lost custody of her own children. Tough on the outside, marshmallow in the middle, it’s Reggie Love and Mark Sway against the murky world of corrupt gangsters and politicians. There’s a bit of classic, cliché Grisham in here but I love it that Sarandon smiles with her eyes and isn’t afraid to confront the authorities – that definitely wins my vote (along with the Southern accent, there’s just something about it!).
Reggie: [upon seeing Mark’s Led Zeppelin t-shirt] You like Led Zeppelin?
Mark: Yeah. Do YOU like Led Zeppelin?
Reggie: Oh, sure. They were a great band.
Reggie: I bet you’ve never even heard of Led Zeppelin. I bet you’re just one of them grown ups who just pretends to like really cool bands just to get close to little punks like me.
Reggie: Well, I think we’ve covered just about everything…
Mark: Ok, what’s you’re favorite Led Zeppelin song?
Reggie: um… Moby Dick, live version. Bitchin’ drum solo.
- Fred Gailey – Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Lawyers get a pretty bad rap at times so this one’s a fuzzy, feel good pick for the true believers. The charming lawyer who defends Santa Claus and argues he is real, Fred Gailey is a lawyer with faith, heart and principles and a believer in the magic of Christmas (hellooo Christmas tragics out there, and yes I’m one of them!). Devoid of the weary cynicism of other hardened film attorneys, Gailey takes a little old man and proves to the world that Santa exists. And he’s a fairly dapper dresser at that, winning him extra brownie points.
Fred Gailey: “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
Fred Gailey: “Someday you’re going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn’t work. And when you do, don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.”
- John Milton – Devil’s Advocate
This movie takes the phrase “selling your soul to the devil” quite literally resulting in a chilling performance from Al Pacino as the Devil himself. Cloaked in the guise of a ruthless, big city lawyer, Milton attempts to recruit the ambitious, young legal star from Florida, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), to join the dark side and trade his soul in return for supernatural courtroom prowess. In typical Pacino style, Milton is cunning, seductive, gleeful and even endearing at times, which is quite a feat for the Devil. OK, so he’s not your typical lawyer but he has some of the best lawyer/devil lines in movie history.
John Milton: “Vanity, definitely my favourite sin.”
John Milton: “Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He’s a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. Ahaha. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He’s laughin’ His sick, fuckin’ ass off! He’s a tight-ass! He’s a SADIST! He’s an absentee landlord! Worship that? NEVER!”
- Jan Schlichtmann – Civil Action
John Travolta plays the tenacious Jan Schlichtmann, a senior partner of a Boston plaintiff lawyers’ firm, whose anger drives his firm headlong into a David and Goliath legal battle, which highlights the dangers of seeking ‘moral’ rather than ‘practical’ or ‘commercial’ justice. Schlichtmann is outplayed and outwitted by the capable corporate lawyer Jerome Facher, resulting in one of the best movie lawyer lines: “Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses and a hanging judge all put together. There is absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.”
Schlichtmann: “The lawyer who shares his client’s pain, in my opinion, does his client such a grave disservice, he should have his license to practice law taken away. It clouds his judgment. And that’s as beneficial to his client as a doctor who recoils at the sight of blood.”
- Arthur Kirkland – And Justice for All (1979)
“You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order!” screams Arthur Kirkland, a hot-headed renegade lawyer unravelling before the courtroom as he witnesses the decay of the principles of the judicial system. Kirkland’s here because he once punched a judge and he believes in justice although, whilst his moral stance is admirable, you probably shouldn’t sell your client out like Kirkland did. If a client confesses, probably best not to declare it to the court as part of his or her defence. Bowing out is the only way to go.
Kirkland: “My client, the honorable Henry T. Fleming, should go right to fucking jail! The son of a bitch is guilty!”
- Fletcher Reede – Liar, Liar (1997)
A conniving, greedy lawyer who takes on the cases other lawyers won’t has to tell the truth for one whole day – how hard can that be? More about the uncomfortable situation Jim Carrey’s Fletcher Reede finds himself in than the law itself, fast track, positively immoral attorney, Reede gives us awkward, cringe worthy comedy in spades. Granted, you have to be a bit of a Jim Carrey fan to get into this one but the line “I’ve had better” slipped Fletcher Reede into 9th position for me.
Office Worker: Hey, Fletcher, how’s it hanging?
Fletcher: [groans] Short, shrivelled, and always to the left.
Fletcher: Your honor, I object!
Fletcher: Because it’s devastating to my case!
Fletcher: Good call!
- Mickey Haller – The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
“Let’s roll, Earl.” Yep, he’s got the suave lawyer thing down pat, old McConaughey. As low-rent defence attorney, Mickey Haller, it’s the swagger, the aviators, the ‘Not Guilty’ licence plate, and the wheeling and dealing with brown paper bags from his long black Lincoln that reels us in to this legal thriller. In the midst of this backstreet lawyering, Haller lands the case of a lifetime when he’s hired to defend rich kid, Louis Roulet (played by Ryan Philippe) who plays him like a fiddle and he ends up in the fight of his life. As noted on SBS, Matthew McConaughey is the personification of how modern society sees its lawmen: spirited, morally-centred, buffed and well-tanned. What’s your take on the typical ‘lawyer’?
Eddie Vogel: How’s it hanging, counselor?
Mick Haller: A little to the left.
What do you think of Part II’s cast of lawyers?