As film director Martin Scorsese once mused, “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” Perhaps the same could be said about the law: that in preparing for a trial, or crafting a lawsuit, or even analyzing a rule or regulation, it’s as much about what you include as what you do not.

This Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will once again meet to celebrate the year’s best movies, actors, screenwriters, and filmmakers. (Side note: “Maestro,” nominated for seven Oscars, was co-written by Harvard Law School alumnus Josh Singer ’01 with Bradley Cooper!)

In anticipation of the awards ceremony, Harvard Law Today asked members of the faculty for their favorite law-related movie, tv show, or character — and why.

Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor: Among my favorites and perhaps less well known than “My Cousin Vinny,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” and many others featured in posters in the WCC, is the 1942 film, “Talk of the Town.”  Wrapped inside a romantic comedy, this film brings together a law professor/Supreme Court justice nominee, a schoolteacher, and political activist/prison escapee accused of arson and murder who debate the demands of law, the demands of justice, rules, and community attitudes. Watching how they learn from one another and change their positions make it both fascinating and delightful. Director George Stevens filmed two different endings and tested them with audiences; the actors, including supporting actors are superb, and the issues remain timely and relevant!

Idriss Fofana, assistant professor of law: My favorite law-related movie is probably the Australian movie “The Castle.” The best part of the movie is this exchange. The Judge asks, “What section of the constitution has been breached?” To which the protagonist responds, “Section? What section? There is no one section. It is just the vibe of the thing. It is all part of it.” That sums up my understanding of constitutional case law.

Audrey Lee, lecturer on law: A favorite law character of mine is Diane Lockhart from “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight.” I love her character because she is smart and witty and she does everything with a sense of humor and style.

Todd D. Rakoff ’75, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law: “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957 film). Agatha Christie creates all-time courtroom (and extra-courtroom) drama. It flips, and then it flips, and then it flips again. (But it didn’t win any Oscar.)

Susannah Barton Tobin ’04, Ezra Ripley Thayer Senior Lecturer on Law: There are so many terrific movies and tv shows about the law. I’ll limit myself to three. First, the 1982 film “The Verdict” (nominated for five Oscars) features Paul Newman as a down-and-almost-out Boston attorney who takes a medical malpractice case in order to save his career. The city of Boston is itself a character, and Newman gives one of his finest performances. The 2019 film “Just Mercy” features the great Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson ’85 in the adaptation of Stevenson’s brilliant memoir about his career fighting injustices in the criminal legal system (read the book and watch the movie!). Finally, my students in Section 7 know that my comfort rewatch show is “The West Wing,” full of politics, law, and idealism about democracy and public service.

Sam Garcia, lecturer on law: My favorite law themed movie: “Lincoln Lawyer.” It is one of my favorites because my dad was a plaintiffs’ lawyer in South Texas and before that he was known for being a larger-than-life criminal defense attorney. So, the movie reminds me a lot of my dad!

Stephen Sachs, Antonin Scalia Professor of Law: “Witness for the Prosecution” — extraordinary performances by Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton. A true classic!

Molly Brady, Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and deputy dean: It’s a tie for me: I will never not laugh at Charlie Day’s character in Always Sunny in Philadelphia, who fancies himself an expert in “bird law,” and also the “Bob Loblaw” character in Arrested Development.

I. Glenn Cohen, James A. Attwood and Leslie Williams Professor of Law and deputy dean: I recently watched “Anatomy of a Fall,” the wonderful French film, and loved it. I don’t do criminal law, let alone French criminal law, but I found the questions it raised about the ways in which court proceedings are and are not good ways of reconstructing what actually happened as well as the questions of how much likability should matter to be fascinating.

As a true nerd, I also love the way in which science fiction allows us to examine legal concepts. So in my 1L reading group on bioethics on film we often watch and discuss “Minority Report” as a way into thinking about what the criminal justice system should be trying to achieve. Of course Star Trek is chock full of amazing episodes about law (The Next Generation’s “The Measure of a Man” is an excellent example). I also love how you can find interesting legal/bioethical issues even in shows that in the end turn out to “jump the shark” such as Westworld (after the great Season 1 I wrote this blog post about all the issues I found interesting). Finally, it would be a mistake not to include video games as interesting explorations of law — I think, for example, of Disco Elysium, as a relatively recent example.

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