129 minutes

Director: Sidney Lumet

Producer: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck

Cinematography: Andrzej Bartkowiak


Screenwriter David Mamet’s second offering of a script is so raw and powerful you’ll be left feeling affected by this film. It’s his logic and compassion that takes centre stage in this courtroom drama that takes a page out of the Karen Ann Quinlan case (the woman who was left in coma for the best part of 10 years and the centre on an ongoing right to die case in the late 70s).

Forget 12 Angry Men, A Few Good Men, and To Kill A Mockingbird. This is the quintessential courtroom drama. This is the one any aspiring lawyer should see.

For me the late 70s and early 80s were peppered with some of the best scripts Hollywood has ever seen. Network, The Godfather, The Conversation, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy. It feels like some sort of Malcolm Gladwell case study in the making. What was it about that time and place which created some of the deepest and most enduring screenplays that have ever been committed to film?

I think part of the answer is in the fact that from the mid 70s on there was an explosion of theatre playwrights and television scriptwriters that were accepted into Hollywood’s blood and allowed to cut their teeth on a new media, film. Enter David Mamet, fresh from co-forming and writing plays for the Atlantic Theater Company.

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The reason why I’m dwelling so much on the screenplay is that, beyond the expertise of Sidney Lumet’s directing and Paul Newman’s compassionate character study there remains a visceral and spellbinding script that dances you down the alleyway of all the lives affected.

On the surface The Verdict could even be a clichéd filled cast of embarrassments.

You have the bullish defence attorney with too much money and honour to lose.

You have an alcoholic prosecutor who wants to do right in the world despite being a fallen angel.

You have the prosecutor’s girlfriend who is being conflicted.

But despite all of this (or perhaps in spite of all of this) the script pieces together a film that is both bold as it is gritty. There is a reason why Richard D. Zanuck after several revisions and different scripts decided to return to Mamet’s original script.

The Verdict, quite simply, is a film that will leave you contemplating what it is to be human.

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Tips to enjoy The Verdict (1982)

  • Liked The Verdict? Try GlenGarry Glen Ross (1992) the film based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer prize winning play.
  • David Mamet ended up an accomplished director in his own right. I’d personally recommend State and Main (1998).
  • Sidney Lumet, king of the courtroom drama, has a fair few number of brilliant courtroom films to his name. Check out his canon if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching his other films.
  • Bruce Willis’s first film appearance. He can be seen in the courtroom.


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Other Links for Trivia and Info on The Verdict:

Wikipedia entry


IMDB entry


IMDB Trivia page


Rotten Tomatoes




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