While the majority of attorneys on television (save Law & Order) serve a comedic purpose while on screen, the famous film attorneys bring drama to the audiences. Some of the lawyer portrayals have been the best performances that an actor has had during their careers. Attorneys have the lives of their clients in the palm of their hand, and any mistake could directly affect the outcome in a terrible way. When this tension is captured on film, it makes for some of the best cinema available. Here are some of the top attorneys to ever grace the silver screen.

1. Atticus Finch

Portrayed by film legend Gregory Peck, Atticus left a lasting impression on anybody that has watched the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. The way that he conducted himself in a calm, yet serious manner exemplified the ‘strong silent type’ in a way that has rarely been matched by other actors playing attorneys since then, and it has been nearly fifty years.

2. Andrew Beckett

Then name of the character may not jump out at you immediately, but the movie Philadelphia had one of Tom Hanks’s best performances to date. In the film, Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a homosexual lawyer who has been diagnosed with AIDS. Beckett tries to hide his diagnosis from his fellow attorneys, but after being fired, he believes that his disease had leaked somehow and files a lawsuit. Beckett is a very memorable character, and this is a very powerful movie. Philadelphia won three academy awards when it came out in 1993.

3. Vincent Gambini

On a lighter note, Vincent Gambini, portrayed by Joe Pesci in the movie My Cousin Vinny, was one of the funniest attorneys to ever make it on screen. Released in 1992, My Cousin Vinny had several critically acclaimed performances. Marisa Tomei won the Best Supporting Actress academy award for her role as Lisa, Vinny’s girlfriend. Vincent Gambini will be remembered for years to come as a trouble-making, hilarious example of a popular lawyer.

4. Mitch McDeere

One of Tom Cruise’s better roles. Mitch was one of the attorneys in the movie The Firm. In the movie, he realizes that his law firm is representing people that are involved in organized crime, and that other people that have found this out faced some terrible repercussions. The Firm was based on a popular John Grisham novel, which may have been one of the reasons why the movie was such a huge success. The Firm made $150 million in the United States alone, and $270 million worldwide.

Many of the best dramatic performances have been portrayals of attorneys. There’s something about the courtroom setting, along with lawyers putting their lives on the line in the pursuit of justice that makes for great movies. Actors have made a career for themselves by playing these difficult roles because not all actors can pull it off. It takes a certain kind of actor to play a good attorney.