After just a few weeks of learning a new, homebound way of living during a pandemic, people were already joking about reaching the end of Netflix—as we now know, there was a whole lot of TV and movie watching in our collective future.
For cinephiles, the past year has been the aphoristic blessing and curse: watch brand new titles from home, but find yourself yearning for the sticky floors caked in overpriced movie-theater foodstuff. Oddly enough for legal professionals, the past year has resulted in a plethora of movies, series, and shows based on the law, the people who practice it, and the lives affected by it.
Here are a few of the top recommended things to view, compiled by the WSBA’s resident silver-and small-screen buffs.
Mangrove (Amazon Prime)
One of the titles of the Small Axe series, this movie deftly handles the topic of police brutality and a court system which targets people of color. Notably, the story takes place outside the United States, providing a lens on the impacts to West Indian residents in the U.K. Its stellar cast helps to celebrate and bring light to West Indian culture.
On the Basis of Sex (multiple streaming services)
The death of lauded legal scholar and feminist icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was perhaps not surprising given her years of waning heath, but it hit hard nonetheless. This dramatized account of the late-justice’s life and career was originally released in early 2019, but even now it is well worth watching the excellent portrayal of a young “RBG” and her humanity.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men), this film is inspired by the true story of anti-Vietnam War protestors charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. This legal drama largely takes place in the courtroom, interspersed by flashbacks of events that led to the charges. Throughout the film, the accused—most notably Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen)—are further galvanized and unified by the injustices and biases laid bare for all to see throughout the trial, including an appalling moment in which the leader of the Black Panthers is held in contempt. This was an incredible moment in time and an incredible, yet imperfect in many ways, moment in legal history.
Amend: The Fight For America (Netflix)
A short Netflix series about the importance and influence of the 14th Amendment, Amend provides an overview that will be fascinating for both lawyers and non-legal experts alike. It reminds lawyers about the importance of the 14th Amendment and shows the public how critical constitutional equal protection is. The film brings in both celebrities to dramatize historical documents and events, as well as voices of the people who actually participated in key 14th Amendment court cases.
United States v. Billie Holiday (Hulu)
Led by a remarkable first-time performance from Andra Day as the iconic singer Billie Holiday, this film covers the final years of Holiday’s life. It depicts the government’s and courts’ criminalization of drug users as the disguise for a war on BIPOC communities and shows how our systems have failed to provide help to those with substance addictions, all told through a part of Holiday’s life that few likely know much about.
By WSBA staff