With their high stakes and explorations of right and wrong, good and evil, and the gray areas in between, it’s no wonder legal dramas have been television staples since practically the beginning of the medium, or that some remain among the longest-running television shows of all time.
Later this month, CBS will make its latest contribution to the genre with So Help Me Todd (Sept. 29). Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden stars as a type-A attorney who hires her son Todd, a down-on-his-luck private investigator, to work at her firm in an attempt to get his life back on track. In honor of the show’s upcoming premiere, we rounded up some of the best legal dramas to grace the silver screen. See if you don’t get hooked on one, two, or maybe all of them.
Better Call Saul (2015-2022)
Critics and many viewers agree that this Breaking Bad spin-off/sequel/prequel eclipsed the series that originated its complicated main character, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). Saul follows Jimmy’s evolution from reformed Chicago con man into “Saul Goodman,” a corrupt Albuquerque criminal defense lawyer who becomes increasingly entangled in the city’s seedy underworld.
Peak legal drama: The legal battle between Jimmy and his lawyer brother, Chuck, comes to a head in “Chicanery” (Season 3, Episode 5), when Chuck and Jimmy face each other in court as Chuck attempts to get Jimmy disbarred.
Watch it: Better Call Saul, on Netflix
The Good Wife (2009-2016)
This CBS series follows Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), who returns to work as a defense attorney after a sex and political corruption scandal sends her husband, a state’s attorney, to prison. Its serialized storytelling, its sharp handling of social media and tech in politics and the law, and Margulies’ powerful acting made the series a standout (and earned her two Primetime Emmy Awards).
Peak legal drama: “Hail Mary” (Season 6, Episode 11) is high on action and suspense, as Alicia’s colleagues work to exonerate one of their own, while Alicia faces a pivotal moment in her own burgeoning political career.
Watch it: The Good Wife, on Paramount+