Movies - Home Page
Z" List of Law-Related Movies
Movies Organized by
Substantive Law Subject
Court Martial Movies
(2016). Directed by Ava DuVernay. This
documentary, nominated for best documentary in
2016 by the Academy Awards and by the same
film-maker of Selma,
takes its title from the
13th Amendment of the US Constitution,
which abolished slavery. By focusing on the
disproportionate amount of African-Americans
(and other people of color) in US jails, the
film discusses US history following the
abolishment of slavery and the extent to which
the exception in the 13th amendment for
"punishment for crime" has substituted the
initial form of abolished slavery into one
that has seen Jim Crow laws, segregation, and
mass incarceration as a new form of slavery.
The movie has a
very high approval rating on Rotten
Tomatoes, hovering in the 97% range.
(2012). Directed by Michael Apted. This
documentary, which has followed the lives of a
group of British students every 7 years,
provides an update on the subjects, now at age
56. Three of the students who were part of the
original group are lawyers who provide
interesting insights on life and societal
class. Read Roger Ebert's online review
(4 out of 4 stars).
(2013). Directed and written by Freida Lee
Mock. Read Geoff Pevere's review here (from The Globe
& Mail). This documentary recounts
the story and testimony of Anita Hill
regarding her allegations of sexual harassment
against then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence
Thomas, her then supervisor at the time.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!
(2011). Directed by Fredrik Gertten. An
excellent movie that documents the
film-maker's battle with the Dole Company who
filed suit to ban the launch of his earlier
movie (Banana's!) on the
plight of Nicaraguan workers who alleged that
the company was using a banned pesticide on
its crop that caused sterility.
the Friedmans (2003). Directed by Andrew
Jarecki. A captivating documentary of a high
school teacher, his wife and their three sons
and their involvement in the criminal justice
system when the father and youngest son are
charged with sexual crimes involving children.
The movie's tagline – "Who do you believe?" –
is reflected in the questions raised by the
director regarding the prosecution and defence
of the accused. Read Roger
Ebert's online review (3.5 out of 4 stars).
The Case Against 8
(2014). Director by Ben Cotner and Ryan White.
This documentary tells the story of the fight to
overturn California's Proposition 8 and the
court battle in Perry v Schwarzenegger.
The Central Park Five
(2012). Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and
David McMahon. This documentary tells the
stories of five young black men who in 1989
were charged and convicted of a grisly rape in
Central Park, New York, despite their claims
of innocence based on what were alleged false
confessions. Read Roger Ebert's online review
(3.5 out of 4 stars).
(2014). Directed by Laura Poitras. This
documentary, which won the Academy Award for
Best Documentary in 2014, tells the story of
Edward Snowden and his whistle-blowing of what
he regarded as illegal or excessive
wiretapping by the NSA. The movie raises
issues of privacy, national security,
whistle-blowing, and state immunity.
(2103). Written and directed by Geoff D'Eon.
This Canadian-produced documentary explores
knock-off brand goods and their impact on
society and culture.
(2014). Directed by Joseph Sorge. This
documentary discusses the challenges facing
litigants in family-related litigation in the
US court system.
The Fear of 13
(2015). Directed by David Sington. This
documentary tells the story of death row
inmate Nick Yarris, who at one point in his
incarceration, requests that his death penalty
be carried out despite the possibility that he
is innocent of the crime he is charged with
(no more details provided to avoid spoiler
(2015). Documentary directed by Bryan Carberry
and Clay Tweel about John Wood and Shannon
Whisnant. This documentary tells the bizarre
story of John Wood attempting to recover his
amputed leg that was inadvertenly purchased by
Shannon Whisnant when he bought a BBQ in which
the amputed leg was being stored. Although
lawyers and the legal system do not play a
dominant role, the movie does raise issues of
property law and the maxim "finders keepers."
The movie has a 98% rating on Rotten
(2010). Directed by Stanley Nelson. This is
a historical documentary made to mark the
50th anniversary of the "freedom riders" who
were civil rights activists who would ride
buses and occupy bus terminals to protest
discriminatory segregationist laws aimed
up Tomorrow (2011). Directed
by Michael Collins. This documentary tells the
story of the criminal prosecution in the
Philippines of Paco and six other young men
for the alleged rape and murder of two women.
It portrays a criminal justice system rife
with corruption and injustice. The film has a
100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sparrow (2016). Directed by
Nanfu Wang. This documentary tells the story
Haiyan, known as the Hooligan Sparrow,
relating to her efforts to expose the alleged
abuse of six elementary school girls in China
by their principal.
(2011). Directed by Susan Saladoff. This
documentary, based in part on the spilled hot
coffee lawsuit in Liebeck v Macdonald's
Restaurants, discusses the need for
tort reform in the United States.
Am Not Your Negro. Directed
by Raoul Peck, narrated by Samuel L Jackson,
and based on the James Baldwin unfinished
This House. This documentary, as
noted on its
Wikipedia entry, "explores the history
of racism in the United States through
Baldwin's reminiscences of civil rights
leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin
Luther King, Jr." It was nominated for best
documentary in 2016 by the Academy Awards. The
movie has a
very high approval rating on Rotten
Tomatoes, hovering the 98% range.
Will be Murdered (2013).
This documentary, directed by Justin Webster,
tells the story of Rodrigo Rosenberg, a
Guatemalan lawyer, who predicted his own
murder, suggesting by video that if he was
found murdered that he was killed by the
President. This fascinating film documents a
number of conspiracy theory twists and turns.
at Oglala (1992). A
documentary narrated by Robert Redford and
directed by Roger Apted. Tells the story of
Leonard Pelletier who was, some say,
wrongfully convicted of the murder of two FBI
agents on the Pine Ridge reservation in South
Dakota. Read Roger
Ebert's review (3 out of 4 stars).
Kids for Cash
(2013). Directed by Robert May. This
documentary tells the story of the "kids for cash scandal"
involving private juvenile jails and
allegations against two judges who were
alleged to have received payments from these
private facilities for sentencing young
offenders to those institutions.
(2017). This short documentary, available on Netflix Canada,
tells the story of Juan Catalan, convicted for a
murder he says he didn't commit in Los Angeles
and the efforts of his lawyer, Todd Melnik. If
you have not heard of the "long shot" involved
in his defence, I have intentionally not
described what happens. Essential viewing.
The Loving Story
(2011). Directed by Nancy Buirski. This
documentary discusses the ground-breaking
decision in Loving v Virginia
(1967), 388 US 1, that struck down as
discriminatory laws prohibiting inter-racial
marriage. Read the review here from The
Making a Murderer
(2015, 2018). This 10-episode
documentary with a 10-episode second season
released in 2018 (and both available on Netflix Canada),
tells the story of Steven Avery, and his fight
within the Wisconsin judicial system regarding
his wrongful conviction for rape and his fight
with the police officers who put in him jail
(note: this summary is brief to avoid
including spoiler alerts). A compelling story.
Made in America (2016).
Directed by Ezra Edelman. This documentary,
which runs close to 8 hours long, recounts the
well-documented OJ Simpson trial by putting
the trial into the context of race relations
and police-citizen interactions in Los Angeles
in light of the Rodney King beating and other
events. The documentary has a
Rotten Tomatoes rating in the high 90% range.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at
Robin Hood Hills (1996). A documentary by Joe
Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky about the
prosecution of 3 teenagers in Arkansas for the
brutal murder of 3 young boys. The movie
raises doubts about the guilt of the accused
and the criminal justice system in general.
Read the original New York Times
Paradise Lost 2: The Revelations (2001). A follow-up
documentary to the 1996 film (immediately
above) that follows the appeals of the three
accused. Read Roger Ebert's 3 star review
Paradise Lost 3:
Purgatory (2011). Directed by Joe
Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The third and
final documentary in this alleged wrongful
conviction of the West Memphis Three that
documents a more recent appeal based on new
DNA evidence and other facts not previously
available. Read Roger Ebert's online review
(3.5 out of 4 stars).
Percy Schmeiser: David
versus Monsanto (2009).
Directed by Bertram Verhaag. This documentary
tells the story of Saskatchewan farmer Percy
Schmeiser and his wife Louise who were accused
by Monsato of infringing their patent for
genetically-modified canola seed that had
drifted onto thr Scheiser farm, resulting in
litigation that ultimately culminated in the
Supreme Court of Canada decision in Monsanto Canada Inc v
Schmeiser,  1 SCR 902.
Portrait of Wally
(2012). Directed by Andrew Shea. This
documentary tells the story of a painting
(entitled "Portrait of Wally") by Austrian
painter Egon Schiele that was stolen by Nazis
during their occupation of Austria from its
owner, Lea Bondi Jaray, a Jewish art gallery
owner. The movie raises legal and moral issues
surrounding art ownership as a court battle
ensues between the Austrian art dealer who
acquired the painting after the war and the
heirs of its original owners. Read a review of
the film here from the Hollywood
Terms and Conditions
May Apply (2013). Directed
by Cullen Hoback. This documentary discusses
the use of online "click" agreements regarding
user's privacy and other contractual rights.
Thin Blue Line (1988).
Documentary, directed by Errol Morris. A
gripping documentary of the tale of two men
involved in the murder of a police officer in
Texas where one of the men ends up on Death
Row for the murder when, in retrospect, it
appears he may have been railroaded for the
crime. Read Roger
Ebert's review (3.5 out of 4 stars).
An Unreal Dream: The
Michael Morton Story
(2013). Directed by Al Reinert and John
Dean. This award-winning documentary tells
the true-life story of Michael Morton's
struggle to prove his innocence in the
murder of his wife through the use of DNA
evidence and the help of his lawyers, John
Raley (of Texas) and Nina Morrison (of the
Read the Variety review here.
(2016). Directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse
Steinberg. Although this documentary, about Anthony
Weiner, is more about political science
than law, it is included here because of its
insider look into the political process and
the fall of a politician.
of Memphis (2012). Directed by Amy Berg.
Like the Paradise Lost documentaries discussed
above, this film documents the ordeal of the West
Memphis Three. Read Roger Ebert's online review
(4 out of 4 stars).
Witness (2016). Directed by
James Solomon. This documentary follows William
Genovese, the brother of Kitty
Genovese, as he seeks to better understand
his sister's death in Queen's, New York, in
1964, a crime made famous by so-called
"bystander apathy" where it was alleged over 30
persons witnessed or heard the crime being
committed but failed to get involved. It has a
Rotten Tomatoes rating in the 90% range.