“I want the truth!” “You can’t handle the truth!” And so the denouement in A few Good Men starts to unfold. The truth here is that the enormous wealth of excellent courtroom dramas is very poorly represented on Netflix. Of the all time top 50 rated courtroom dramas, none – repeat none – are available to stream (the top 25 have won 31 Oscars and 85 nominations). And this is something of a shame. There are stories that end up in court, there are stories that are all about the court process and there are true stories. Invariably, they are compelling stories which lend themselves to both the small and the large screen. And, of course, what goes on in a courtroom is not always related to crime.
So what do we have? It’s notable that the courtroom drama genre is highly popular in Indian cinema and approximately half of the Netflix offering originates from there. Here is our suggestion of ten courtroom dramas from around the world currently streaming on Netflix. Let us know what you think.
Shepherds and Butchers – 2016
Directed by: Oliver Schmitz
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Garion Dowds
Running time: 1hr 46min
Shepherds and Butchers is a captivating expose of the shortcomings in the South African capital punishment system in the 1980s. Steven Coogan, better known as a comedian delivers a powerful performance as a jaded lawyer fighting an apparently hopeless defence of a prison guard.
Closed Circuit – 2013
Directed by: John Crowley
Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent
Running time: 1hr 36min
Closed Circuit is a tense but intellectually stimulating story. And it’s a story rather than any great moral message. The tension is heightened by the relationship of the ex-lover lawyers involved in the case. Arguably on the short side for this type of movie, it delivers a punch nonetheless.
Devils Knot – 2013 TV
Directed by: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola
Running time: 1hr 54min
Based on true events in West Memphis in 1993, this made for TV movie is a well cast disturbing and tragic story. The defence argument is nothing if not controversial and will always remain so. And that is what challenges you. Should the justice system be blinded by emotion?
In Defense of a Married Man -1990 TV
Directed by: Joel Oliansky
Starring: Judith Light, Michael Ontkean, Jerry Orbach
Running time: 1hr 35min
In Defense of a Married man is another mad for TV movie. The married man in question is the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend and his lawyer wife takes on his defense. The challenge she faces is proving the best argument while she is dealing with his marital betrayal.
The Eichmann Show – 2015 TV
Directed by: Paul Andrew Williams
Starring: Martin Freeman, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebecca Front
Running time: 1hr 30min
Set in Germany, this is a BBC production of the story behind the trial of the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann. This is not a courtroom drama per se but an examination the events surrounding the televisation of the trial, an idea that was far from universally popular.
The First Line 2014 TV
Directed by: Coerte Voorhees, John Voorhees
Starring: Pantelis Kodogiannis, Kassandra Voyagis, Giancarlo Giannini
Running time: 1hr 31min
The British have taken innumerable artifacts out of Greece over the years and the Greeks have long wanted them back. But for that long. For many years they showed very little interest in their cultural history. This is a fictionalized court case about the return of well documented Elgin Marbles.
The Arbitration – 2016 TV
Directed by: Niyi Akinmolayan
Starring: Lota Chukwu, Iretiola Doyle, Adesua Etomi
Running time: 1hr 40min
In the #metoo era, The Arbitration is extremely relevant. It examines the search for truth in the case of a Company CEO accused of raping a member of staff with whom he has been having an affair. There are strong shades of the excellent Disclosure from the pen of Michael Crichton.
22 July – 2018
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jonas Strand Gravli, Jon Øigarden
Running time: 2hr 23min (3 parts)
22 July is a documentary about the horrific terrorist attack on Norwegian youth on 22 July 2011. This isn’t really a courtroom drama but is a perfectly good examination of the Norwegian legal system. The actors might have been better to speak their native language with subtitles but that is a minor distraction.
Shaurya – 2008 TV
Directed by: Samar Khan
Starring: Rahul Bose, Javed Jaffrey, Minissha Lamba
Running time: 2hr 29min
Described as an Indian remake of A Few Good Men (it isn’t really as the localisation removes so many elements of the original) Shaurya is the story of an army lawyer digging far deeper into a case than his superior would like. The acting and the dialogues are appealing.
A War – 2015
Directed by: Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Søren Malling
Running time: 1hr 55min
It is easy to forget how wide international involvement in Afghanistan was. The quite superb Pilou Asbæk plays a Danis squad commander accused of civilian murder while trying to save his men. Military justice is never uni-dimensional and the tensions in his home life make for a powerful piece of work that well deserved it’s Oscar nomination.