From ‘Time to Kill’ to ‘Self Defense’: The 10 Best Trial Movies of the 90s

There are many examples of judicial films that come to mind when we think of the most emblematic titles of this genre. Unbeatable classics such as ’12 men without mercy ‘,’ Witness for the prosecution ‘,’ The inheritance of the wind ‘,’ To kill a nightingale ‘or’ Anatomy of murder ‘along with more current but equally wonderful examples such as’ The trial of the 7 Chicago ‘,’ Story of a marriage ‘or’ Small Ax: The Mangrove ‘, among others.

The 10 best judicial films of the 90s

1 ‘Civil Action (A Civil Action)’

'Civil Action (A Civil Action)'

The director and screenwriter Steven Zaillian lavishes less than what many of us would like considering the remarkable level of a career formed by a superb miniseries (‘The Night Of’) and three great films: ‘In Search of Bobby Fischer’, the remake of ‘All the King’s Men’ and, of course, ‘Civil Action (A Civil Action)’. In the case of the latter, we are faced with one of the most powerful judicial dramas of the 90s, representing with many virtues and few errors a movie model that perfectly balances tragedy, intrigue, suspense and uncertainty maintained until the last second.

Again demonstrating his talent both behind the camera and in front of the blank sheet, Zaillian is right from the first scene, perfect for introducing us to the character of John Travolta, until the last. Fortunately, both critics and the public knew how to value it at the time, making it a success after its premiere.

Civil Action (A Civil Action) in eCartelera

two ‘Some good men’

'Some good men'

Playing it safe. Or, being more fair to the truth, making the difficult easy. With ‘Some Good Men’, Aaron Sorkin, as screenwriter of the film, turns the classic 90s thriller into first-rate judicial cinema, comparable to the best moments of the genre. In the hands of another writer, we would probably be talking about a work full of clichés and predictable twists, but Sorkin manages to keep the pace in an exemplary way. A contemporary classic that has not aged one iota and that remains today one of the most valuable films of its decade.

A Sorkin for all audiences, measured, inspired and forceful that is supported by a trident of golden interpretations formed by Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and a spectacular Tom Cruise who exudes charisma in each of his scenes. Of course, that last duel between his character and that of Nicholson remains for the history of cinema, a battle of explosive talents at the highest level that ends with a celebrated draw

Some good men in eCartelera

3 ‘JFK (Case open)’

'JFK (Case open)'

Definitive masterpiece of Oliver Stone, one of those filmmakers capable of the best, but the very best, and the worst, ‘JFK (Open Case)’ continues to shine with the same intensity three decades after its premiere as the cinematographic prodigy that it always was. With the help and admirable commitment of a very extensive and dazzling cast where we find Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon or Sissy Spacek, among many others, Stone turns the investigation into the case of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in a vibrant, exciting, fast-paced, gripping and epic cinematic exercise full of style, personality, tension and rapturous force. Everything about it works like a movie steamroller in its purest form. A full-fledged contemporary classic.

JFK (Open case) in eCartelera

4 ‘Friendship’


‘Amistad’ has always been cited as one of the most clearly failed works in Steven Spielberg’s essential professional career, but the truth is that, without being, of course, one of his many masterpieces, we are very far from the disaster always highlighted. Narrated with the brand’s mastery, including a good handful of memorable shots of the unmistakable Spielberg stamp, this film that combines historical drama and racial denunciation with enviable dexterity finds precisely in its trial scenes some of its most imposing moments, finding in the wonderful performances of Matthew McConaughey, Djimon Hounsou, Morgan Freeman and, above all, Anthony Hopkins, the perfect complement to round off a film as far from excellence as it is from failure. Minor work? Remarkable high.

Friendship in eCartelera

5 ‘Philadelphia’


The long-awaited Jonathan Demme, aware that all eyes were on his next project after sweeping the box office and awards with the sublime ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, was once again guided by his courage to face a film as devastating as’ Philadelphia ‘, one of those unforgettable court dramas in front of which it is impossible not to shed a tear. Or several.

An achievement that has even more merit since Demme constantly demonstrates absolute control over a story that, in other hands, would have fallen in a big way in the easy coup, in the search for the less subtle side to get to excite the viewer. However, the filmmaker, with the inestimable help of some plethora Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, manages the perfect balance between sensitivity and elegance, toughness and sobriety, forcefulness and simplicity. Wonderful.

Philadelphia in eCartelera

6 ‘Time to kill’

'Time to kill'

Between the underrated ‘Batman Forever’ and the lamentable ‘Batman and Robin’, Joel Schumacher He signed one of the roundest films of his irregular professional career: ‘Time to kill’. Adaptation of a novel by the essential John Grisham, we find ourselves before a judicial thriller loaded with nerve, sense of rhythm, great dialogues, charismatic characters and an especially agile camera in the combination of classic cinema and the uncontrollable fury of the 90s. Led by some notables Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Kevin Spacey, ‘Time to Kill’ found in the interpretation of a tremendous Samuel L. Jackson is another one of the many points in favor that place it as one of the best and most intense trial films of recent years.

Time to kill in eCartelera

7 ‘Legitimate defense’

'Legitimate defense'

‘Legitimate Defense’ is exactly that movie you are thinking of. A judicial drama with touches of intrigue, a little, and a discourse on morals and ethics, a lot, which works especially well within the margins of its genre. A film adaptation quite faithful to the original novel by the famous John Grisham that, supported by a great cast, constitutes another mid-level work within the professional career of the essential Francis Ford Coppola.

Legitimate defense in eCartelera

8 ‘The two faces of the truth’

'The two faces of the truth'

If we talk about nuances, of minimal gestures capable of completely disarming the viewer until making him doubt his own shadow, ‘The two faces of truth’ it continues to be one of the undisputed peaks of judicial cinema of the nineties. And most of it is to blame Edward Norton. And the fact is that the work carried out by the actor in this highly entertaining intrigue signed by Gregory Hoblit, is of an absolute delicacy, marked by a control of exquisite resources.

Of course, young Aaron’s character was already a sweet treat in Steve Shagan and Ann Biderman’s brilliant adapted script, but Norton takes it to another level, bringing layers and layers of mystery to his every look and silence and even the the way in which he intones some of his phrases. So when history reveals its latest twist to the unexpected, we completely believe it, smiling at the intelligence of an unforgettable character and discovering with fascination a total actor.

The two faces of the truth in eCartelera

9 ‘Compulsive liar’

'Compulsive liar'

A comedy directed by Tom Shadyac, one of Jim Carrey’s favorite filmmakers, ‘Liar Liar’ served to drive the actor away from the ghosts of failure that appeared for the first time in his career after the box office disaster of ‘Crazy at Home’ . Carrey was looking for a success that would counter that commercial disappointment and found it in a big way. And it is that, Starting from a budget of 45 million dollars, ‘Liar Liar’ achieved a collection of more than 300. An absolute outrage.

Even the critic, compared to other similar proposals, was quite kind to a judicial comedy that served, above all else, for Carrey to unleash his inimitable talent. He is the soul, the engine, the muscle and the absolute whirlwind of a splendid family film led by a star in full form.

Compulsive liar in eCartelera

10 ‘Legal action’

'Legal action'

Directed by Michael Apted, one of those Hollywood artisans capable of billing any type of proposal with tons of professionalism and an evident lack of artistic personality, ‘Acción judicial’ is a recital of common places, topics and comfort zones of this type of movie. And this is precisely why it works so well. Starring a wonderful Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and the always splendid Gene Hackman, this story of a father and a daughter who will learn to meet again as they fight to win a very delicate case that originated after a traffic accident presses all the necessary keys to catch and keep interested the amateur audience of the genre. It does not offer anything especially memorable except for its two main performances, which is not a small thing, but ‘Judicial action’ does not make any mistake in its way either. As simple as recommended.

In this case, we focus our gaze on a decade, that of the 90s, in which this type of cinema experienced a new golden age, offering a collection of titles that, even today, remain as infallible entertainments full of intrigue, suspense , drama, tension and even comedy in some cases. All this, of course, raised to the altars through those scenes so characteristic and celebrated in which the corresponding case takes an unexpected turn to turn the winners into losers and vice versa.

  'JFK Case open'

Even if you are not a person very fond of the genre, these ten titles that make up this special will ensure you a great time in front of the screen accompanied by casts of authentic height and stories that catch you with no option to replicate. Complex cases, misunderstood victims, lawyers in a permanent state of alert and unforgettable final climaxes. Long live the movie trials.

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