The Sunday Giveaway: Two Tickets to Murder in the First at 59E59!

I love a courtroom drama.

Who doesn’t?

A Few Good Men (which I’ll be doing on Broadway), 12 Angry Men . . . Law & Order.

59E59  has a new courtroom drama on their docket right now . . . Murder in the First, the stage adaptation of the 1995 film by Dan Gordon about a case that some say led to the closing of Alcatraz.  Christian Slater starred in that film . . . and I’m happy to say you’re better off here, because this production has the one and only Chad Kimball leading the company.

And one of you is headed to the east side for free!

Here’s how you win:

What’s your favorite courtroom drama?  Enter it below in the comments and I’ll pick a winner.  Bonus points if you tell me WHY you think courtroom dramas are so popular.

This court is adjourned!


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



– Read the latest ‘full disclosure’ update on Godspell here.


  • Letty says:

    A Few Good Men-Nothing compares to Tom Cruise berating Jack Nicholson about ordering a code red. And “you can’t handle the truth” has become a common catchphrase. We love courtroom drama because our culture loves to bring the big guys down. On tv/movies it is usually the powerful big guy or despicable person who is on trial. Nothing captivates us like embarrassing and punishing them for their transgressions. My 2 cents.

  • Abubakr Ali says:

    The Crucible. Hundred Percent, The Crucible. Courtroom drama where it is less so about life and death, but about one’s identity, name, and honor. I think people love them because of how the tension is created. Every word a person says can be used against them, so the audience is forced to listen extra closely, which creates such a great tension on stage and for the audience.

  • raellen says:

    I am big fan of the courtroom scenes in Philiadelphia starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks…so heartbreaking and do groundbreaking in terms of bringing awareness to the AIDS epidemic.

  • Kim says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird because it is one of my favorite books!

  • Cari C. says:

    I love the crucible. I liked it so much because the courtroom drama was so hysterical. people were doing everything in their power to keep their lives even if it ment selling out a loved one to the court system. Everyone became more and more fabricated as the trials went on. People were willing to do anything. I think people love courtroom drama because they love to listen and talk about the problems of another person. they love to weigh in on the topic and give their opinion. there is nothing more compelling to a person then a juicy story. people want to be a part of something thats bigger than them.

  • Margo Louison says:

    My favorite is ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’. It’s beautifully acted and the drama is very intense. In the courtroom, Meryl Streep’s lawyer successfully smears the responsible Dad we saw Hoffman become, painting him as a reckless cad. The moral of the movie is no one is really a winner in the legal system that only amplifies the bitterness that tears families apart. I think court room dramas are successful because they have built in drama – one side must oppose the other and there is always a winner. In drama we try to find conflict and opposing goals, this genre of storytelling has this naturally.

  • Beth D says:

    Hm…I like a lot of courtroom-related dramas – wow, there are a lot when you think about it! It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I guess I’ll say Suspect with Cher, where Dennis Quaid gets into the act being a sneaky juror and John Mahoney is the (spoiler alert lol).

    I think the genre’s so successful for many reasons: there’s always conflict, there can be surprise that flip everything upside down in one sentence, and there’s usually a mystery/detective work – who did what, really?– and suspense – “how will this turn out?” — Plus, there’s chances for writers and actors to really go all out either with biting banter or big monologues (David Kelley shows), and often times, our society’s or our own ideals/policies are on trial indirectly making us think and even choose a side.

  • Betty says:

    I love Judge Judy! Can’t get much more dramatic than that!

  • Randi says:

    Twelve Angry Men!

  • Yavanna says:

    I love A Few Good Men. The tension builds slowly as you get further and further drawn in to the story. The payoff comes through and I think pretty much everyone is left with the same look as Tom Cruise after he asks “Did you order the code red?!” and Jack Nicholson yells “You’re damn right I did!!” Brilliant writing – equally brilliant acting. We like to see the truth unfold in front of us and we love that “ah-ha!” moment when we either figure it out or have a surprise twist. Ultimately, I think we like courtroom dramas because we believe in the process of right coming to light and guilt being punished.

  • Ido says:

    12 Angry Men

  • Joe Buonadonna says:

    Few Good Men!! Also can’t beat the shocking twist in Primal Fear

  • John says:

    “A Few Good Men” is my favorite – you have Tom Cruise, you have Jack Nicholson and you have a great script. It’s perfect. Why do we like courtroom dramas? Because we can relate to one side or the other and we like to predict the outcome. The magic in “A Few Good Men” was keeping the audience in suspense as to how Tom Cruise’s character was going to best Jack’s character. And the outcome was not only surprising but satisfactory.

  • Justin says:

    Primal Fear – Edward Norton was unbelievable as both roles (you felt bad for him one moment and then saw him as a stone cold killer the other moment) I think people love court room dramas because we see these types of crimes in the media and can’t always follow it all the way through from the crime to the verdict. People are obsessed at why people could commit such heinous crimes and want to know more about the person and why they possibly did the act.

  • Bruce Barnard says:

    A Time To Kill — it was Grisham’s first novel; rejected and picked up for a small print run; released and then both movie and stage versions followed. In the movie version, there’s no doubt this was one of Samuel L. Jackson’s best works. We often identify with courtroom drama’s because for most the courtroom only exists in our imagination – having never been tried!

  • Jonathan Parker says:

    12 Angry Men

  • Rebecca says:

    My favorite court room drama is Law and Order SVU! I love it because it is interesting and you get to see the inner workings o the human brain and the inner working of the NYC police department even if it is a little bit streched. I think that court room dramas are popular amongst audiences because we get too see something that is thrilling to us and something we really don’t want to happen to us or the people we love. Plus they are functioning as mystery as well because we get to solve the problem with the cops and lawyers as it seems to be happening. I just love courtroom tv.

  • Matthew says:

    I LOVE the courtroom speech given my Kevin Costner’s character (name escapes me now) in Oliver Stone’s JFK. While misguided, the character genuinely loves his dead president and his country. He passionately asks people to question the status quo and stand up for what they believe. It’s one of Cosner’s great moments on screen.

  • 12 Angry Men is one of my favorite courtroom dramas.
    Reginald Rose (my cousin’s brother-in-law) is one of America’s greatest playwrights.

    I think courtroom dramas, on TV, in film, or in the theater, are so popular because the problem is always resolved in a limited amount of time. Also, writing and directing and acting are often excellent.

  • Brian Weiner says:

    As cliche as it sounds, I love 12 Angry Jurors. It consistently works, is relevant despite its countless productions, and it speaks well to young actors (particularly for high school performers). I think the courtroom dramas are so popular because the plot usually extends to moral dilemmas that man must face, raising greater questions than the “crime” of the plot. Great question! Bravo!

  • Miriam says:

    My favorite was LA LAW!

  • Arthur Raphael says:

    “The Crucible” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” – Two courtrooms that scintillate with social meaning and dark commentary. All generations must both of these important darmas.
    Now send me some tickets! 😉

  • Larry Segall says:

    Love Caine Mutiny

  • Philip says:

    Witness for the Prosecution (the Billy Wilder movie version). You know Leonard Vole is guilty, but you don’t want him to be. Marlene Dietrich is unrecognizable (at least she was unrecognizable by me) as the witness. I think one of the great appeals of the skillful courtroom drama is experiencing the process by which truth emerges as if we were members of a jury.

  • Raechel says:

    The Crucible. Witch hunts past and present make compelling theatre.

  • Kim says:

    A Very British Sex Scandal – based on a true story and trial of Peter Wildeblood in the Lord Montague case that to a reconsideration of, and the eventual decriminilisation of homosexuality in Great Britain. A show that intertwines drama and documentary in an awesome way – that’s the attraction of courtroom dramas!

  • Margaret Rojahn says:

    Kramer Vs. Kramer is my favorite. Probably because it deals with the custody battle issue, which is something that I can understand more than murder or something extreme.
    I think they’re so popular because our culture is fascinated with the negative aspects of society. It reminds us of why we have the social constraints we do. We get to hear about what people do and how they’re punished and we feel vindicated, even though we have little to no stake in them.

  • Pam says:

    Though not a typical courtroom, “Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Still haunts me. Love it. And “The Ballad of Emmett Till,” with its heartbreaking trial scene.

    Courtrooms, by their nature are extraordinarily theatrical. Who doesn’t love a battle between good vs. evil? It’s often made better when the line between them is a tad blurry, challenging our perceptions and making us question our own beliefs and ideals.

  • The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.
    A mutiny….a navy court martial with so many reputations and lives at stake….junior officer vs. top brass….handsome men in uniform…the intricacies of a military court…..what more could you ask?
    You ask why we are so drawn to courtroom dramas? Simple….we get to play along, the audience silently participates as jury. In many of these plays,the situations and characters are drawn from authentic, real life cases , which makes it even more meaningful and compelling to an audience.

  • Joe Laub says:

    My favorite courtroom drama would be either Perry Mason with Raymond Burr or To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck. Great stories and great performances!

  • AuntieF says:

    I am a theater fan, but my favorite courtroom drama was a TV drama. The Defenders with EG Marshall and Robert Reed. I was very young – maybe 11 years old and I believed that was the true way that courtrooms were run! Young and impressionable!

  • virginia vanderbilt says:

    For me it’s “And Justice for All” with Al Pacino. I think the court room scenes in this movie bring the court system into the unpleasant reality. I find myself having flash backs to these scenes when I’m in the court house.

  • Kerry Zukus says:

    “Twelve Angry Men” is the “Death of a Salesman” of courtroom dramas; the Everest against which all others are measured. Courtroom dramas force audiences to wonder, “Is there justice in the world?” and playwrights have answered in greatly varying manners over the centuries.

  • David Rigano says:

    If I may offer two less-than-traditional choices: The Pillowman and Murder on the Orient Express.

    The Pillowman is more of an interrogation room drama than courtroom, though a man is tried, sentenced and executed withing the course of the show. And Murder on the Orient Express presents a very different kind of courtroom where a unique brand of justice is served.

  • EllenFD says:

    My favorite film courtroom drama is THE VERDICT. Paul Newman as the desperate, shady lawyer who unexpectedly finds redemption–what’s not to love?
    Stage courtroom drama is 12 ANGRY MEN. All that tension in a claustrophobic atmosphere, as the portrait of each juror is finely detailed. Brilliant.
    People like courtroom dramas because they show what’s behind our facades; it’s the lifting of the veil of secrecy and finding the truth that is so cathartic. We experience it vicariously through such entertainments.

  • Kelly Shoemaker says:

    I have to go with a TV courtroom drama for this…USA Network’s wonderful “Suits.” Great writing, interesting cases, and a talented (and super attractive…haha) cast makes this one of my must-see TV shows of the summer.

  • burt says:

    nothing compares to sammy davis jr’s “here comes the judge!”

  • Brendan Noble says:

    It would depend on if it was a staged court room drama, or television.

    Staged would have to be Race, however on television, Boston Legal which trumps any stage court room drama I’ve seen.

    The reason being is that James Spader as Alan Shore, established a character that was not only someone who I inspired to be more like, but also made me pursue acting more than I already had. There were moments on that show, especially when they made closing arguments that were so emotionally intense that it felt as if you were right there in the court room. I guess that’s also why I enjoyed Race, since James Spader was also in that production.

  • Christine Lightcap says:

    Witness to the Prosecution and The Crucible. Sorry. Tie.

  • The Client, The Rain Maker, and A Time to Kill are all written by John Grisham. This writer practiced law in Mississippi. He writes from factual experience. Courtroom dramas are so popular because the relate to true life. The Good Wife is another example of courtroom drama. It is my favorite TV Show because the lead character Alicia (Julianna Margulies) is believable in her role. They use fiction that could relate to anyone of us watching the show.

  • John says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird. This classic embodies what a public defender should be.It treats racism and tolerance in a profound way.

  • Christine Connallon says:

    I have to agree with The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. LOVED it on Broadway. There is nothing more compelling or intense than a courtroom drama.

  • Dave says:

    Agree that Boston Legal, or its predecessor The Practice were compelling. In fact, David E Kelly’s earlier show Picket Fences did masterful scenes with the courtroom – he’s a brilliant courtroom writer.

    But for movies, surprised no-one’s mentioned The Runaway Jury.

  • Michael Orzechowski says:

    The Night Of January the 16th by Ayn Rand (from her Four Plays collection) was one of the few actual courtroom dramas I really enjoyed. And when I say “courtroom” I mean “courtroom”. The whole play takes place in, as far as I remember, one scene, in a courtroom. That is, to me, a serious project to put on for the actors.

  • Rhonda says:

    12 Angry Men is the best because it truly shows how the justice system can and cannot work. It also shows how one person can truly make a difference.

  • Todd says:

    Witness for the Prosecution – a wonderful courtroom drama filled with classic Agatha Christie plot twists and a great surprise character switch (or is is a double switch) at the end!

  • Liz Wollman says:

    “The Accused”. Gripping, well-acted, highly relevant and impressively even-handed for such a tough subject.

  • Barbara Ross says:

    A Time to Kill is one of my favorite court room dramas but also my favorite Grisham Book. It depicts racism, hate and shows justice in the end. It also shows all the dirty tricks that prejudice can cause one to committ.

  • Jax says:

    The Practice! The Practice features the most incredible cast that a law series could hope for. Lara Flynn Boyle and Dylan McDermott were awesome in this show. It had brilliant writing, excellent directing, fantastic filming, and most of all: the best acting ensemble ever in a television series. I loved that it focused on defense attorneys and not DAs for once – very refreshing! All throughout the series, moral dilemmas took their toll on the characters. Some episodes me reconsider my views on some of the controversial issues in society. The cross-over episodes with other David E. Kelley shows like Boston Public and Ally McBeal were an added bonus.

  • john weiler says:

    The Caine Mutiny Court Marshall….especially the movie, “The Caine Mutiny”, when Humphrey Bogart gives one of his most intense performances.

  • ECP says:

    On stage, I have a soft spot for “The Crucible,” “Inherit the Wind,” and “The Man in the Glass Booth.” Thrilling moments in each. But a far-from-perfect drama from the late 60s, “Nuts” sticks with me. Stunning lead performance, and subject matter was perhaps a bit ahead of its time. (Even turned into a questionable vehicle for Barbra Streisand it had moments.)
    Courtroom drama appeal? You get to be judge and jury minus all the hassles of reporting for jury duty.

  • Rick Reynolds says:

    “Witness for the Prosecution” is my favorite. I think courtroom dramas appeal because most are puzzles which are solved within the confines of the courtroom (the Perry Mason effect). We may be taken outside the courtroom for exposition, but the answer will usually come in the courtroom – and puzzle-solvers want a definite solution.

  • Linda says:

    Legally Blonde. One reason people like courtroom dramas is to hear a good argument. People can live vicariously taking different roles from criminal to lawyer.

  • David F says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird. Who cannot remember cheering for the underdog and then watching the verdict go against him. Gregory Peck’s expression knowing his best was not good enough, and his departure from the courtroom, the gallery standing and saying there goes Mr. Finch with overwelming respect. Courtroom dramas are popular because we all have the underlying fear we will be accused of something we didn’t do and will have to go to prison for it. I think this is why TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD strikes that chord because innocent Tom is destroyed by evil.

  • Arnold Kuperstein says:

    A FEW GOOD MEN which worked wonderfully on stage as well as the cinema. A FEW GOOD MEN tried out at the Kennedy Center and I knew Broadway was in line for a hit. Court room dramas work because you can become emotionally involved with the characters and want justice to triumph!

  • Nick V says:

    Denzel Washington in PHILADELPHIA is breath taking.

  • Lisa Weiss says:

    Defending Your Life, what could be more dramatic, then when Albert Brooks’ character, Daniel must defend his actual life. That is the ultimate courtroom drama.

  • Tom DiMaggio says:

    MURDER IN THE FIRST. Outstanding performances, gripping story. Can’t wait to see Chad Kimball’s powerful performance.

  • Angela says:

    Philadelphia would be one of my favs. The suspense of knowing but not knowing, guilty or not guilty…that’s why courtroom dramas are loved.

  • As you and your readers point out, there are so many great courtroom dramas. My personal favorite, though, is PARADE. When I first heard and subsequently saw this production, I was blown away. The story of the only known Jew to be lynched on American soil is so powerful and is told so beautifully and hauntingly by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry. From simple moments like Leo singing “Sh’ma” to the sweeping, grand choral numbers like “Old Red Hills of Home”, it immediately pulls you into a terrible and lesser known moment in our history, one fueled by politics, hatred and discrimination. I think the reason that courtroom dramas are so loved is because people love having someone to root for. You are immediately invested in by the dynamics of the courtroom that lead to an outcome for that character that may or may not be known.

  • Caitlin C says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is the quintessential gentleman and man of honor. I think courtroom dramas do appeal for the “ambulance chaser” voyeurs of society, though, who like to witness this sort of happening without dealing with the real-life angst of repercussions.

    (As a longtime fan of Chad Kimball, I would LOVE to see this show!!)

  • Jay says:

    “The Verdict.” David Mamet’s script seethes with aspiration of justice in our legal system. Paul Newman as Frank Galvin is a masterclass in performance. Hearing him say the following monologue sends goosebumps to my toes every time: “In my religion, they say, “Act as if ye had faith… and faith will be given to you.” If… if we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves. And act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.”

    Courtroom dramas are so popular because it is a tangible literary device to create conflict universally understood by most as compelling.

  • Paula Rubin says:

    I’ve been hooked on court room dramas since OJ’s live court room drama and since then have watched the TV court room dramas with avid interest because I believe they’re a take on the real thing.

  • Jo-Ann says:

    “Inherit the Wind” is my favorite courtroom drama. I think they are popular because they tend to convey a great deal of passion and emotion under retrained conditions. This tends to create a tension into which the audience is drawn.

  • Ellen Orchid says:

    “My Cousin Vinnie” is my favorite courtroom drama and is probably one of the funniest movies ever conceived and made. It is my go-to movie when I need to have a good belly laugh. Joe Pesce as the would-be lawyer from Brooklyn and the glorious Marisa Tomei as his girlfriend are just sublime together. Joe Pesce goes to the South (where his persona doesn’t “blend” in very well) to defend his cousins who were falsely arrested for armed robbery. Fred Gwynne as the judge who keeps finding Vinny to be “in contempt” is a scream. The Brooklyn vs the South class of styles is hilarious. Please check this out if you haven’t seen it. Marisa’s testimony at the end is priceless. Austin Pendleton does a great job as the other attorney.

    I think we love courtroom dramas because we have a primal need for there to be justice in life (and when you get older you see there is not much justice, and the law works very slowly); I think we also love the intellectual exercise of putting together the facts of the case. Plus, it’s fun and entertaining to see the two sides oppose each other and dig for the truth. There’s a lot of drama inherent in a trial: conflict, surprise, tension, protocal and catharsis. Check out “My Cousin Vinny”.

  • Jennifer J says:

    Not really a ‘courtroom’ but certainly a ‘who’s guilty’…”Oleanna”!

    I know of productions where couples who attended broke up because of the different sides they took watching that show.

  • Shannon D. says:

    I love love love the original “12 Angry Men”!!!
    On the small screen, it’s definitely SVU.
    I think they are so popular because they are so realistic and it can “happen to you”. In an age of non-sensical reality tv, court room dramas give the audience that tiny bit of reality tv, without all the stupidy. Plus, you never never know “who did it” or what the verdict will truely be until that very end! It’s probably the only outlet for true suspense now-a-days… and I believe many people really miss that quality of tv and movies. Come on, if Perry Mason, Columbo or Murder She Wrote were still on, trust me, people would be watching! 🙂

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