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Law, Lawyers & Popular Culture Collections  

Last Updated: Apr 22, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Introducing the DVD Collection


The Law, Lawyers & Popular Culture DVD Collection, informally known as Lex Populi, consists of feature films and documentaries in all genres. However, for a DVD to be included in the collection, it must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Contains a significant trial scene;
  • Has a lawyer as a significant character;
  • Focuses on a current legal “hot topic;”
  • Explores a socio-legal theme; or,
  • Depicts a story about the law, legal systems, or legal education.


To find a movie by title, click on the alphabetical tabs from the drop-down menu bar.

You also can search the InfoHawk Catalog by title, keyword, or subject.

Adobe Acrobat PDF document Instructions for searching the "Law Film, Law, Lawyers & Popular Culture" DVD collection.


Circulation of the DVD collection is limited to members of the law school community (law students, faculty, and staff). Users may borrow up to three DVDs at one time, for a period of seven days. DVDs are checked out from Special Services in Room 130. When leaving the library, users must have circulation staff hand the DVDs around the security gate. DVDs must be returned only to the Circulation Desk or Special Services in Room 130.


InfoHawk Catalog


Life Behind Bars

In America, the 1960s and the 1970s were a time of protests and civil rights, so perhaps it is not coincidental that movies from this era often depict themes of wrongful punishment and anti-establishment. A prisoner, the antithesis of someone considered righteous and just, becomes the unsuspecting, sympathetic hero in several classic films.

Cool Hand Luke scene

Cool Hand Luke (1967), starring Paul Newman, is famous for its cast and script. It forever will be remembered for the iconic quote, “What we got here is a failure to communicate.” Luke is sentenced to a chain gang. Whatever it takes, the prison captain is determined to squelch Luke’s rebellious, haughty nature and get his “mind right.” Luke is just as determined to free himself of tyranny and oppression.

Punishment Park, (1971) is a pseudo-documentary reflecting the political turmoil and frustrations fueled by the civil rights and anti-war movements. The film speculates what might happen if the President enforces The Internal Security Act of 1950, 64 Stat. 987 (Public Law 81-831) (ProQuest Congressional) The Act, which was written during the McCarthy era and became law despite President Truman’s veto, gives the President of the United States the right to suspend the traditional judicial system in the event of a “national emergency.” Also referred to as the McCarran Act, it allowed for political prisoners to be held in concentration camps rather than conventional prisons. In Punishment Park, a group of left-wing dissidents are offered a choice either to serve a long prison sentence or to cross 53 miles of desert with little food or water. If the prisoners can complete the hike in three days, they will be allowed to go free. It soon becomes evident that the odds are stacked against them.

Papillon (1973) is based on the autobiography by Henri Charriere. Steve McQueen portrays the lead character who is wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in a notorioius French penal colony. Dustin Hoffman plays a fellow prisoner who hires Papillon as his bodyguard. When Papillon protects Dega from a sadistic guard, Papillon is sentenced to solitary confinement living in darkness for two years eating insects to survive.


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The Andersonville Trial
Synopsis: Explores the moral dilemma of responsibility for the prison camp in Andersonville, Ga., where 14,000 Union soldiers lost their lives during the Civil War. - WorldCat
Release: 1970
Genre: Television/TV Movie Drama
Cast: Cameron Mitchell William Shatner Jack Cassidy

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The Chamber
Synopsis: A young man fresh out of law school tries to win a reprieve for his racist grandfather who is on death row. -
Release: 1996
Genre: Drama Thriller
Cast: Chris O'Donnell Gene Hackman Faye Dunaway
Director: James Foley
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Circumstantial Evidence
Synopsis: A reporter sets out to provide how unreliable circumstantial evidence is by faking a murder and then taking the rap for it. However, the "fake" murder victim turns out to be really dead. -
Release: 1935
Genre: Drama
Cast: Chick Chandler Shirley Grey Arthur Vinton
Director: Charles Lamont

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Synopsis: While fighting for a woman who sits on death row, a lawyer happens upon new information which brings into question the motives of a man associated with her client. -
Release: 2004
Genre: Drama Thriller
Actors: Connie Nielson Aidan Quinn Kelly Preston
Director: Bille August
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Cool Hand Luke
ISBN: 9780790731506
Synoopsis: A man refuses to conform to life in a rural prison. -
Release: 1967
Genre: Drama Crime
Actors: Paul Newman George Kennedy Strother Martin
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
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Dead Man Walking
Synopsis: A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim's families. -
Release: 1996
Genre: Drama Crime
Cast: Susan Sarandon Sean Penn Robert Prosky
Director: Tim Robbins

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The Exonerated
Synopsis: Based on true events, the story of the lives of six exonerated survivors of death row.
Release: 2005
Genre: Television/TV Movie Drama
Cast: Susan Sarandon Aidan Quinn Danny Glover
Director: Bob Balaban

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Guilt By Association
Synopsis: Life is good for Susan, her two children and new boyfriend Russell. But life abruptly changes when she discovers her perfect boyfriend is a drug dealer. Realising the danger this could bring to her family she tells him to leave. Suddenly her house is raided and Susan is arrested as a co-conspirator in Russell's drug business. Her situation goes from bad to worse when she finds herself behind bars with violent criminals. How will she ever prove her innocence when the system seems against her? Guilt By Association is a disturbing story based on true events.
Release: 2002
Genre: Drama
Cast: Mercedes Ruehl Alberta Watson Alex Carter
Director: Graeme Campbell

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Synopsis: World War I is over. Johnny has come marching home. But there's little fanfare and no meaningful work for one war vet. There's only the desperate life of an unjustly convicted fugitive. Twice he is sentenced to a chain gang. Twice he escapes. They can put his hands and feet in irons, but not his will to be free. - WorldCat
Release: 1932
Genre: Crime Drama
Cast: Paul Muni Glenda Farrell Helen Vinson
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
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I Want to Live!
Synopsis Arrested for fatally beating an elderly widow, Barbara Graham at first goads the police, refusing to answer their questions. But when an alleged accomplice turns state's evidence, Graham insists that she is innocent. Condemned by the press and the public, Graham is found guilty of murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber. With her execution date getting near, Graham desperately attempts to expose the truth and save her life against all odds. - WorldCat
Release: 1958
Genre: Biography Crime Drama
Cast: Susan Hayward Simon Oakland Virginia Vincent
Director: Robert Wise

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In the Name of the Father
Synopsis: Man's coerced confession to an IRA bombing he didn't do imprisons his father as well; a British lawyer helps fight for their freedom. -
Release: 1993
Genre: Drama Biography
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis Pete Postlethwaite Alison Crosbie
Director: Jim Sheridan

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Last Dance
Synopsis: Upon taking a new job, young lawyer Rick Hayes is assigned to the clemency case of Cindy Liggett, a woman convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. As Hayes investigates the background for her case, the two begin to form a deep friendship, while all the while the date for her execution draws nearer. -
Release: 1996
Genre: Drama Thriller
Cast: Sharon Stone Rob Morrow Randy Quaid
Director: Bruce Beresford

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The Life of David Gale
Synopsis: A man against capital punishment is accused of murdering a fellow activist and is sent to death row. -
Release: 2003
Genre: Drama Crime Thriller
Cast: Kevin Spacey Kate Winslet Laura Linney
Director: Alan Parker
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Mario's Story
Release: 2006
Genre: Documentary
Features: Ian Graham Janet Harris Mario Rocha
Director: Jeff Werner

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Midnight Express
Synopsis: Billy Hayes is caught attempting to smuggle drugs out of Turkey. The Turkish courts decide to make an example of him, sentencing him to more than 30 years in prison. Hayes has two opportunities for release: the appeals made by his lawyer, his family, and the American government, or the "Midnight Express." -
Release: 1978
Genre: Drama Crime Biography
Cast: Brad Davis Irene Miracle Bo Hopkins
Director: Alan Parker
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Synopsis: A juror in a murder trial, after voting to convict, has second thoughts and begins to investigate on his own before the execution.
Release: 1930
Genre: Crime Thriller Mystery
Cast: Herbert Marshall Norah Baring Phyllis Konstam
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

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Murder in the First
Synopsis: An eager and idealistic young attorney defends an Alcatraz prisoner accused of murdering a fellow inmate. The extenuating circumstances: his client had just spent over three years in solitary confinement. -
Release: 1995
Genre: Drama Thriller
Cast: Christian Slater Kevin Bacon Gary Oldman
Director: Marc Rocco
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Punishment Park
Synopsis: A pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types across the desert in a type of capture the flag game.
Release: 1971
Genre: Drama Thriller War
Cast: Patrick Boland Kent Foreman Carmen Argenziano
Director: Peter Watkins

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Reckless Indifference
Release: 2000
Genre: Documentary Crime
Cast: Robert Derham Alan M. Dershowitz Dick Detrich
Director: William Gazecki

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Return to Paradise
Synopsis: Two friends must choose whether to help a third friend who was arrested in Malaysia for drug possession. -
Release: 1998
Genre: Drama Romance Thriller
Cast: Vince Vaughn Anne Heche Joaquin Phoenix
Director: Joseph Ruben
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Reversible Errors
Synopsis: A corporate lawyer's interest in a decade-old murder case is piqued by a new confession that could clear the convicted killer, who sits on death row. -
Release: 2004
Genre: Television/TV Movie Drama Crime
Cast: William H. Macy Tom Selleck Monica Potter
Director: Mike Robe

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The Shawshank Redemption
Synopsis: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
Release: 1994
Genre: Drama Crime
Actors: Tim Robbins Morgan Freeman Bob Gunton
Director: Frank Darabont
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Sullivan's Travels
Synopsis: A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about Life which gives him a rude awakening. -
Release: 1941
Genre: Drama Comedy Adventure
Actors: Joel McCrea Veronica Lake Robert Warwick
Director: Preston Sturges

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The Wrong Man
Synopsis: The first Hitchcock film based on a true story.
Release: 1956
Genre: Drama Crime Film-Noir
Cast: Henry Fonda Vera Miles Anthony Quayle
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
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