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I’ll make my case for some of filmdom’s best courtroom scenes — here’s the evidence

With the U.S. Supreme Court ready to start its new term on Monday, it seems a perfect time for some non-juried judicial movie review.

With the U.S. Supreme Court ready to start its new term on Monday, it seems a perfect time for a non-juried review of some of filmdom’s best courtroom scenes and judicial movies.

I ask a unanimous verdict — and maybe a round of applause — for the likes of some very powerful films (plus several “misdemeanor” examples of comic relief):

Three Spencer Tracy classics
Mr. Tracy is at ease in everything from romantic comedy to high drama:

“Adam’s Rib,” a charming romantic comedy with, of course, Katharine Hepburn. Exhibit A.

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“Judgment at Nuremberg,” the famed war-crimes drama. Exhibit B.

“Inherit the Wind,” Tracy’s fictionalized take on Clarence Darrow at the Scopes “monkey trial” features an emotional battle over the teaching of evolution. A masterpiece worthy of two film clips. Exhibit C-1.

And the even-more-powerful Exhibit C-2.

Three powerful military courts-martial
In order, by the film’s release date, we have:

“The Caine Mutiny,” one of many Humphrey Bogart tours de force — with another fine performance by Fred MacMurray as a classic film “cad.” Exhibit D.

“Breaker Morant,”  a Boer War tale of three Australian lieutenants made scapegoats to protect their superiors. Exhibit E.

“A Few Good Men,” the famed Jack Nicholson-Tom Cruise showdown. Exhibit F.

Three lighter courtroom confrontations

“What’s Up, Doc?” a throwback “screwball comedy” with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal and one very eccentric judge. Exhibit G.

“My Cousin Vinny,”  the captivating story of an inexperienced lawyer who “helps out” a family member in big legal trouble. (I had forgotten how much fun this film is.) Exhibit H.

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“First Monday in October,” the 1981 Walter Matthau-Jill Clayburgh comedic look at the high court’s chemistry when the first woman joins the U.S. Supreme Court. Exhibit I.

Six more courtroom cases

“Anatomy of a Murder,” the racy (for its time) Jimmy Stewart drama with the role of the judge played by famed attorney Joseph N. Welch of the Army-McCarthy hearings known for his famous “Have you no sense of decency” speech. Exhibit J.

“The Fountainhead,” Gary Cooper’s intense embodiment of Ayn Rand’s philosophy highlighted in his courtroom speech. Exhibit K.

“Miracle on 34th Street,” the Christmas classic with John Payne defending a very unusual client, Santa Claus. The movie’s unique 5-minute trailer is Exhibit L.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” just about everybody’s favorite and rated No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 10 Courtroom Dramas. Exhibit M.

“The Verdict,” a Paul Newman triumph. Exhibit N.

“Witness for the Prosecution,” director Billy Wilder’s take on the surprise-filled Agatha Christie tale, with an equally intriguing film trailer (Exhibit O).

Closing arguments: two ‘non-courtroom’ classics

“12 Angry Men,” featuring Henry Fonda and a remarkable ensemble cast outside the courtroom in a two-hour battle of wills in a claustrophobic jury room. Exhibit P.

“Scent of a Woman,” Al Pacino’s 1992 Oscar-winning role and his impassioned defense of a student who won’t “snitch” or compromise his values. Exhibit Q.

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I rest my case.