Features and Columns · Movies

The Delicate Art of the Courtroom Scene

Let’s take this to court.
My Cousin Vinny courtroom scenes
Twentieth Century Fox
By  · Published on September 1st, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores courtroom scenes.


The verdict is in: courtroom scenes rule.

Whether it’s the expert testimony of Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny, Elle Woods teasing out a perm-related confession in Legally Blonde, or Col. Jessup blowing up on the witness stand in A Few Good Men, courtroom scenes are hotbeds of drama, tension, and high stakes storytelling.

Courtroom scenes are also a great technical test in terms of staging. While different courtroom scenes have different dramatic needs, all courtroom scenes face the same obstacle. Namely: how to manage a big space full of a lot of characters with wildly different motivations. Spatially, courtrooms are vast, static arenas.

Complicating matters, most audiences come to courtroom scenes with expectations of the legal song and dance. There’s an established order of proceedings, etiquette, and report that must be balanced with the narrative and visual needs of the story. So that’s the challenge for filmmakers: if the camera can be anywhere, and everywhere is interesting, what do you focus on?

That’s the question at hand in the following video essay from Now You See It. With so many perspectives to explore, how does one convey a focused emotional and spatial understanding of the courtroom? Furthermore: how to convey that understanding without breaking immersion and respecting continuity?

Watch “How To Film a Courtroom Scene“:


Who made this?

This video essay comes courtesy of Now You See It, a YouTube channel dedicated to film analysis searching for meaning in unexpected places. You can follow Now You See It on YouTube and check out their back catalog here. Now You See It is run by Virginia-based software engineer Jack Nugent, whom you can follow on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).