Reprinted from The “Companion Text” to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student (West 2012) with permission of Thomson Reuters.
Question. In 2003, the American Film Institute (AFI) released its list of the top fifty heroes in movie history. How many of those top fifty movie heroes were legal professionals (lawyers or lawmakers) or common citizens who used the law to achieve progressive objectives?
Answer: C. The eight legally inclined top fifty movie heroes include, in the number one spot, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), the Southern lawyer who fought for justice in a racially charged case in the screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Mahatma Gandhi, who was trained as a lawyer, came in #21 for Gandhi (Ben Kingsley). Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), the AIDS-afflicted corporate lawyer from Philadelphia, made the list at #49. Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart)—the protagonist in the Frank Capra classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington—reached the #11 spot. Stewart played a character appointed to fill a vacancy as a U.S. Senator, where he confronted and fought political corruption. Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), a down-and-out paralegal whose sleuthing led to a class action against a toxic waste-dumping corporation in the movie of the same name, checked in at #31. At #28 we have Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) from 12 Angry Men, the lone juror who refused to vote guilty in the trial of a teenager accused of murdering his father. The final two characters were workers who became labor union activists fighting for fair, safer working conditions: Norma Rae Webster (Sally Field), from Norma Rae, at #15, and Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep), from Silkwood, at #47.