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The 5 Most Realistic Corporate Law Movies

By Andrew Lu on September 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A list of the top corporate law movies was recently released and not surprisingly in just about every movie the corporations and their legal departments were the bad guys.

It's easy to make the large conglomerate the antagonist in a movie against a young protagonist like Julia Roberts or a determined solo attorney like John Travolta.

But how accurate are these portrayals and are companies really as evil as the corporate law movies would like you to believe? Here's a top five list as compiled by Inside Counsel:

  1. Erin Brockovich. Probably the best mainstream law movie ever made. Erin Brockovich highlighted a young woman's determination to make a case against energy giant PG&E. The movie is notable for the fact that Brockovich was just an ordinary person with no formal legal training, but a lot of determination. So how realistic is Erin Brockovich? Well, it's based on a true story and the real-life Erin Brockovich is still keeping up the good fight.
  2. A Civil Action. A very similar story to that of Erin Brockovich pitting a small time lawyer against a corporate giant. This time, the star of the movie was the attorney, Jan Schlichtmann, who built the case against Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace for contaminating a town's water supply which caused leukemia in several children. Also similar to Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action is based on a true story.
  3. Michael Clayton.. Another movie of a renegade lawyer uncovering a conglomerate's attempts to hide the dangers of its products. This movie is not directly based on a true story, but it probably provides one of the most accurate depictions of the grind of being a corporate attorney and the depths that some attorneys will go to, to protect their employer and their jobs.
  4. The Informant! Because a comedy had to make the list. Again, this movie is based on a true story and gives the story of a bumbling whistleblower who uncovers a price-fixing scheme.
  5. The Social Network. This movie is not a traditional law movie as it provides the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. However, the story is told in the setting of a lawsuit, brought by those bitter and allegedly burned by Zuckerberg.

Unlike movies involving other professions like archaeologists or doctors, it appears that most of the good corporate law movies are based on true stories. While the real-life actors may not look quite as nice as Julia Roberts or George Clooney, the underlying stories are generally pretty accurate and give you some idea of the legal actions that some of the largest corporations face.

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