It’s a safe bet that when Edward Pola and George Wyle wrote “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” they weren’t enrolled in law school.
December is a stressful time for law students. The end of the semester is fast approaching, and most law students are in the midst of studying for final exams.
But even law students need to take a break for the holidays. With that in mind, here are the top holiday movies for current and prospective law students.
We suspect most premises liability attorneys close their eyes when watching Home Alone. The 1990 Christmas comedy film stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin, a precocious eight-year-old boy who is forced to defend his home against two bumbling burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
Law students in Illinois may be quick to point out that Kevin didn’t owe the trespassers a duty to warn them about the dangerous conditions of his home. However, Kevin did owe the trespassers a duty to refrain from willful and wanton conduct that would endanger their safety.
We’re glad John Hughes, who wrote Home Alone, didn’t decide to spend the second half of the movie documenting Kevin’s attempts to defend himself against a personal injury lawsuit.
Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street is a 1947 Christmas classic starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. Law students will likely be entertained by the role of Fred Gailey, played by John Payne, the idealistic lawyer who helps a Macy’s department store Santa Claus prove in trial that he is the genuine St. Nicholas.
The Case for Christmas
The Case for Christmas clearly draws its inspiration from Miracle on 34th Street. The rom-com, featuring Dean Cain, tells the story of Michael Sherman, a recent law school graduate who reluctantly agrees to defend Kris Kringle, a potentially-psychotic man who maintains he’s the real Santa Claus.
Ice Harvest, starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, is set in Wichita, Kansas, on a cold Christmas Eve. The story follows Charlie, a mob attorney who embezzles money from his boss. With his life on the line, icy roads postpone his getaway. Law school ethics professors would be wise to play this film for their students to show what not to do as an attorney.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying: “I liked the movie for the quirky way it pursues humor through the drifts of greed, lust, booze, betrayal and spectacularly complicated ways to die.”
Gremlins is a 1984 horror-comedy film starring Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo, a strange creature who is given to a young man as a pet. The creature soon spawns other creatures who begin wreaking havoc in a wintery town on Christmas Eve.
The film will likely make law students think about strict liability laws when it comes to animals who injure others.
Remember the Night
Remember the Night is a 1940 film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. In the film, Lee Leander is arrested for stealing a bracelet from a jewelry store in New York City. The assistant district attorney, John Sargeant, is assigned to prosecute her. The trial is set to begin just before Christmas, and John must travel from Indiana to New York City to handle the case. After he arrives in the city, he manages to get the trial postponed out of fear that the jury will be filled with holiday spirit.
In a twist of fate fit for a romantic Christmas movie, John learns that Lee is also from Indiana and offers to drive her home to her parents’ house for the holidays.
The Angel of Pennsylvania Avenue
The Angel of Pennsylvania Avenue is the last film directed by award-winning director Robert Ellis Miller before his death in 2017. The film takes place during the Great Depression and features an unemployed man from Detroit who is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. The man’s three children travel 1,000 miles to the White House to convince President Herbert Hoover to let their father come home for Christmas.
A Simple Plan
Is possession really 9/10ths of the law?
In A Simple Plan, two brothers (played by Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) and their friend discover four million dollars in a plane that crashed in the snowy Minnesota woods. The three decide to keep the money, ensuring that things go very badly for them. You’re going to need a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate to watch this wintery noir.
Most law students remember learning about the intentional tort of false imprisonment in their first year of law school.
No film depicts the concept of false imprisonment better than Misery. The suspenseful film, based on the novel by Stephen King, takes place during a snowstorm.
Novelist Paul Sheldon (played by James Caan) is rescued after a car crash by former nurse Annie Wilkes (played by Kathy Bates). Annie claims to be Paul’s biggest fan and brings him to her remote cabin in order to nurse him back to health. Annie becomes increasingly controlling and violent, forcing Paul to devise a way to escape.
Dreams of a Life
Joyce Vincent died in her bedroom above a shopping mall in North London, surrounded by Christmas presents she had been wrapping. Her body wasn’t discovered until two years later.
Dreams of a Life is a documentary film that tells Joyce’s story and attempts to resolve the unanswered questions surrounding her death. The film also confronts issues such as loneliness, which impacts far too many people around the holidays.
Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Leonardi Dicaprio. The film is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a famous con artist who, among other things, forged a transcript from Harvard and passed the bar exam (after the third try).
What makes this a Christmas movie? Frank was arrested in a dramatic scene on Christmas Eve in 1969.
If you enjoyed this list, here are some other ways to entertain yourself as a law student: