While watching a fine production of The Merchant of Venice at the Stratford Festival this week, I was stuck by the fact that it is probably the oldest courtroom dramas ever written. Surely it is the most compelling; with Shylock poised with his knife ready to cut off a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Portia’s Quality of Mercy speech is something school children should memorize. The manner in which we show mercy to others is how mercy will be given to us is a lesson we should all realize.
It made me start to think of other great courtroom dramas; such as Witness For the Prosecution (1957) with Charles Laughton. The story and dialogue move along well and Agatha Christie has a great surprise ending.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) with Gregory Peck about a white lawyer in the deep south defending a black man against rape while under the eyes of his young children.
Presumed Innocent (1990) with Harrison Ford and a strong cast has a DA on trial for murder. Just because some of the movie was shot in Windsor did not bias my opinion.
My all-time favorite Australian movie is Breaker Morant (1980) with Edward Woodward. Based on true events, three Aussies are put on trial by the British military during the Boer War.
Paths of Glory (1957) with Kirk Douglas in Stanley Kubrick's anti-war film. Three French soldiers are put on trial for cowardice during The Great War.
One of my personal favorites (not only for the courtroom drama) is A Man For All Seasons (1966) with Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More who was put on trial and executed under Henry VIII.
Other more contemporary movies such as JFK (1991), A Few Good Men (1992), A Time to Kill (1996) also make the list.