Do you feel the adrenaline rushing when you see attorneys striving for justice in a legal show? Or does the tension of the courtroom keep you on the edge of your seat? If the answer is yes to either or both of these questions, then you are at the right place. Whether you are a law enthusiast, a legal drama fan, or simply passionate about good storytelling, legal drama shows can be one of the most satisfying entertainment experiences.
A good courtroom drama with high-octane narratives and powerful characters has the power to bring you the most cinematic moments that you could hope for. Some of them could perhaps even make you want to be a part of the legal system. So, it’s no wonder that there’s an overwhelming number of legal TV series available, and too many to choose from. But we are here to help and we’re bringing you this handy guide to make that choice easier.
From real-life events and well-researched documentaries to fascinating fiction, these are the best legal drama shows available to binge-watch on Netflix right now. Here, you will find everything from the simplest to the most nerve-wracking cases, each entertaining in its own way. Now, approach the bench, counsel.
Editor’s note: This article was updated September 2022 to include Partner Track.
House of Cards (2013-2018)
Created by: Beau Willimon
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Kristen Connolly, Mahershela Ali, Rachel Bronsnahan
Understandably, you may be hesitant about watching a Kevin Spacey series right now considering his crimes. However, Spacey’s involvement shouldn’t overshadow the fact that House of Cards changed television forever. The first major Netflix original series raised the game with its production value, and the first two episodes were helmed by none other than David Fincher. House of Cards essentially started the binge-watching phenomenon. Although the show dipped in quality over time, the first two seasons are among the most riveting political television ever created. We also got one of the greatest female characters in recent memory: Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood. — Liam Gaughan
Partner Track (2022)
Developed by: Georgia Lee
Cast: Arden Cho, Alexandra Turshen, Bradley Gibson, Dominic Sherwood
Based on the 2013 novel by Helen Wan, Partner Track follows a young, idealistic lawyer named Ingrid (Arden Cho), who will do anything to make partner at her firm, including skipping holidays, blowing off her boyfriend, and not getting involved in confrontations at work. There are just two little problems: a casually racist coworker (Nolan Gerard Funk) who’s also vying for the position and a new addition to the team (Dominic Sherwood) who she has a past with. The show combines steamy romance with real-life issues like microaggressions – both of which set it apart for the genre. – Taylor Gates
The Lincoln Lawyer (2022-present)
Creator: Ted Humphrey, David E. Kelley
Cast: Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Neve Campbell, Becki Newton
From the men behind so many of the best legal dramas on television, David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal) and Ted Humphrey (The Good Wife), comes The Lincoln Lawyer – a cleverly written legal drama erupting with action, mystery, and even some comedy. Based on Michael Connelly’s novels of the same name, The Lincoln Lawyer’spremise is simple: He’s a lawyer who practices law out of his Lincoln Town Car. But the story becomes quite more intricate as it unfolds. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Murder on the Orient Express) takes on the lead role previously occupied by Matthew McConaughey in the film adaptation, starring alongside the incredible Neve Campbell (Scream) and underrated Becki Newton (Ugly Betty). – Yael Tygiel
Created by: Donald P. Bellisario
Starring: Mark Harmon, David McCallum, Sean Murray, Brian Dietzen, Rocky Carroll
Criminal dramas and procedurals are a dime a dozen these days, but few make it past a handful of seasons, and even fewer manage to maintain the level of quality as NCIS, currently in its nineteenth season. Following the titular Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the show is a contemporary of shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and is arguably the most charming of television’s most famous dramas. Despite numerous cast shake-ups in recent years, the series remains a primetime staple, one of the few police procedurals still airing that remains firmly within the “bad guy of the week” formula popularized in the early 2000s. As the third longest-running scripted, non-animated series currently airing in the US, the show has spawned numerous spinoffs, including NCIS: New Orleans and the newer NCIS: Hawaii, but there’s nothing quite like the panache of the original, helmed, up until recently, by the stoic and dependable Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), and its clear commitment to tying up its loose ends with a smile. —Maggie Boccella
Creator: Joe Penhall
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv
The FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit, currently a part of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, is well-known by fans of crime dramas, featuring prominently in various shows of the genre. Mindhunter tells the fictionalized story of a group of BSU agents tasked with investigating serial killers between the late 70s and early 80s to solve the ever-growing number of cases that defied the traditional police approach. Often praised for the accuracy with which it portrays infamous murderers such as Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), Mindhunter goes beyond the usual procedural structure, that focuses almost exclusively on the crimes themselves, to allow its mains characters time to shine and present viewers with their own stories. It’s a moving and thrilling series, that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, wondering what will the next development be, whether officers Ford (Groff) and Tench (McCallany) next interview with Kemper, on the crimes they are currently investigating, or on officer Tench’s attempt at figuring out his quiet six-year-old son. — Elisa Guimarães
The Trial (2019-present)
Creator: Alessandro Fabbri
Cast: Vittoria Puccini, Francesco Scianna, Camilla Filippi, Simone Colombari, Maurizio Lastrico, Allesandro Averone, and Michele Morrone
A teenage murder victim, a public prosecutor that links back to her, a lawyer who sees this as a career-making case, and a suspect who might be innocent. Sounds like a typical legal plot, right? But there’s more to The Trial than what meets the eye. Titled Il Processo in Italian, the legal thriller series follows the above characters involved in the murder of a teenage girl. It shines a light on how this one incident affects the lives of everyone involved as they search for the truth, wait for the verdict, and walk on eggshells in the meantime.
The eight-part series features intense courtroom drama set on an archetypal whodunnit premise, exposing the audience to the Italian judicial system. At the same time, with its intriguing narrative and intense storytelling, the series keeps you hooked all along. What makes it more nuanced are the characters who touch upon the smaller societal and legal issues that matter to all. If you are in the mood for something classic in the legal genre but told differently, then The Trial is a must-watch.
When They See Us (2019)
Creator: Ava DuVernay
Cast: Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Jovan Adepo, Chris Chalk, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury, Aunjanue Ellis, Vera Farmiga, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, and Michael K. Williams
Sometimes, a story feels so important that even though it’s heartbreaking, it must be told and heard. When They See Us is a story like that. When five teens from Harlem, Kevin Richardson (Asante Blackk), Antron McCray (Caleel Harris), Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse), Korey Wise (Jharrel Jerome), and Raymond Santana (Marquis Rodriguez), are falsely accused of a brutal assault on a jogger in Central Park, their lives become a nightmare. The limited series follows the real-life story of these five people, from discovery by the police to an extended courtroom trial.
The limited series is based on events that happened in 1989 in New York City’s Central Park. The show narrates the events and the experiences of these teenage boys and spotlights the biases of the justice system.
When They See Us received widespread critical acclaim on its release and was nominated for a host of awards, winning a Peabody and an Emmy Award. With an ensemble cast, a pressing social issue, and positive reviews, this is a show that you don’t want to miss.
The Confession Tapes (2017-present)
Creator: Kelly Loudenberg
An insightful true-crime documentary series, The Confession Tapes investigates various criminal cases where people convicted of murder reveal that their confessions were coerced or even false. Each episode dives into alternative perspectives to a case and how there could be other circumstances to the same events.
The two-season limited docuseries features expert interactions and interviews on false confessions, criminal law, criminal psychology, and judicial proceedings. Immensely appreciated and positively rated, this show might give you an opportunity to find out about many court cases across the United States that were never brought to light by the media, or at least the truth behind those cases. The Confession Tapes was first released on Netflix in 2017 and ended in 2019.
Tokyo Trial (2016)
Directors: Pieter Verhoeff and Rob W. King
Cast: Marcel Hensema, Jonathan Hyde, Paul Freeman, Stephen McHattie, Julian Wadham, Irrfan Khan, and Michael Ironside
If you love history, courtroom drama, or true crime, then this is a show that covers all and is sure to keep you glued all through. The four-part historical legal drama is based on the real-life events of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (aka the Tokyo War Crime Tribunal), which was created to try the war criminals of the Empire of Japan after World War II.
The plot of Tokyo Trial focuses on 11 judges from the Allied Forces who are appointed to pass judgment on 28 Japanese leaders and political personalities, including Prime Ministers, foreign ministers, and the military, for waging a brutal war against China and committing numerous atrocities during the Second World War. The series explores the interactions between the judges and their approaches towards the suspects, arriving at a verdict over the course of two and half years, that changes the fate of both Japan in particular and Asia as a whole. Tokyo Trial was highly acclaimed by critics and nominated for the 2017 Emmy Awards.
Creator: Andri Óttarsson and Þorleifur Örn Arnarsson
Cast: Magnús Jónsson, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, Jóhanna Vigdís Arnardóttir, Elma Stefanía Ágústsdóttir, Bergur Þór Ingólfsson, Birna Rún Eiríksdóttir, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Þorsteinn Bachmann, and Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir
If you want to explore Scandinavian legal drama, then Case might fit your bill. It’s intense, dark, thrilling, and could be a good experience if you’re interested in Icelandic thrillers.
The case is about Logi Traustason (Magnús Jónsson), a young and smart lawyer whose life seems to be on a downhill path, owing to his recklessness and self-destructive nature. But he seeks redemption by finding new purposes and helping detective Gabriela (Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir) solve the murder of a teenage ballerina. But is redemption ever as easy as one expects? As events take a sinister turn, Logi discovers that there are more dark forces at play than he expected. But he is determined to uncover the truth and to redeem himself, even if it means defying authority. The award-winning legal-crime-drama was titled Réttur in Icelandic, translated as “Right”. The series was renamed as Case and The Court for English language markets.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020)
Creator: Brian Knappenberger
Cast: Jon Hatami, Scott Andrew Yang, and Jackie Lacey
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is an American true-crime documentary about the murder of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. The six-part miniseries follows the real-life events surrounding a little boy, Gabriel, from Palmdale, California, who was abused and tortured for months, which resulted in his death. His mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were charged and convicted for a list of crimes including first-degree murder with special circumstances of torture.
The docuseries features interviews with a few Los Angeles Times journalists, the attorneys at the trial Jon Hatami and Scott Andrew Yang, and LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, among other people involved in the case. Though the show has heavily disturbing content, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez has been critically acclaimed for bringing such a horrific incident into the light.
Creator: Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman, and Michael Chabon
Cast: Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever
Even the best people in law and order can make horrible mistakes. Unbelievableproves this over and over. It is the story of Marie Adler, an 18-year- old girl who reports being raped by a masked intruder who broke into her house. But instead of getting justice, she is accused of lying and victimized by detectives who claim she’s making false allegations. And so, she recants her statement. Eventually, two female detectives decide to follow all the pieces of evidence and uncover the truth so that they can bring justice to Marie.
The Netflix original miniseries is based on a 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning news story by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and their book A False Report. The show focuses on Marie and her experiences with the police, courts, judges, and jury over eight episodes. The award-winning series earned many rave reviews and critical acclaim.
The Innocent Man (2018)
Creator: Ross M. Dinerstein and Clay Tweel
Cast: John Grisham
Are you a John Grisham fan? Have you seen all (or most) movies based on his novels? Then you might want to add The Innocent Man to your list. The documentary series is centered on two horrific murders committed in Ada, Oklahoma in the 1980s. Ronald Keith Williamson, a minor league basketball player was charged with the rape and murder of Debra Sue « Debbie » Carter. Ronald’s friend Dennis Fritz was also convicted as an accessory. While Dennis was given a life sentence, Ronald was sentenced to death. 11 years later, further investigation of DNA evidence proved both of them innocent.
The Netflix original miniseries is an adaptation of John Grisham’s only non-fiction book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, based on the same real-life events. Spread across six episodes, the series features interviews with the victims’ family and friends, the local residents of Ada, lawyers and prosecutors involved in the case, and journalists. It also uses archival tapes and photos, as well as interactions with Grisham himself.
Creator: William Finklestein and Walter Parkes
Cast: Mansoor Alfeeli, Khalifa al Bhri, Fatima Al Taei, Malak Al Khalidi, Neven Madi, and Mohammed Al-Amiri
Most people don’t really know what to expect when it comes to shows from the Middle East, do they? So, here’s something unexpected from that part of the world.
Justice is a legal drama series that revolves around Farah (Fatima Al Taei), a young woman who studied law in the United States and goes back to her hometown of Abu Dhabi. She wants to practice law on her own with her newly earned international degree but her father, a successful attorney of the city, has other plans for her. The story follows the challenges Farah faces in her professional and personal life, her family’s delicate dynamics, and her struggle to make it on her own as a successful lawyer.
The series has been co-created by veterans of TV and film, who have worked on popular shows and movies like Law & Order, Men in Black, and Minority Report, among others. Although the story might not seem drastically different from standard legal dramas, Justice gives insight into the life, lifestyle, and family relationships from a part of the world that is still quite underrepresented.
Trial 4 (2020)
Creator: Remy Burkel
Cast: Sean Ellis, Rosemary Scapicchio, Edward McNelley, Marie Jackie Ellis, Jillise McDonough, William C. Dwyer, Kevin Cullen, David Murray, and David Duncan
Trial 4 is a true-crime documentary based on the real-life story of Sean K. Ellis, who was wrongfully convicted of a murder of a Boston Police detective in 1993. The story follows Sean K. Ellis (played by himself) and his trial for the murder of police officer John J. Mulligan. Director and creator Remy Burkel narrates the events through his interactions with Ellis, several officers at the Boston PD, and Ellis’s attorney Rosemary Scapicchio. Through interviews, archival footage, and animated scenes, the series explores all the details of the case and Ellis’ road to exoneration that lasted 22 years and four trials.
A compelling story of corruption, legal loopholes, and a young man’s determination to fight for his freedom, is definitely something worth spending eight hours for. The Netflix original mini-series has eight episodes. So, don’t miss it!
The Staircase (2004)
Creator: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Cast: Michael Peterson, David Rudolf, Ron Guerette, Tom Maher, Bill Peterson, Freda Black, Jim Hardin, and Arthur Holland
The Staircase is a French-American television miniseries that documents the trial of American novelist Michael Peterson (played by himself), who was convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson. In 2001, Michael reported that his wife had an accident but on further investigation, he became the prime suspect and was arrested for murder. Later, he was granted a new trial owing to misleading testimony.
The Netflix original docuseries is based on real-life events, beginning with Michael’s arrest and moving on to the trial proceedings and the final verdict. The true-story courtroom drama gives you an inside look at a high-profile murder trial and explores the bends and cracks of the current justice system. A winner of the 2005 Peabody Award, The Staircase is spread across 13 episodes, using re-enactment of the trial, interviews, archived footage and photos, and Michael Peterson’s media interactions to tell its story.
Creators: Chang Tae-You and Kim Ru-ri
Cast: Kim Hye-soo, Ju Ji-hoon, Lee Geung-young, Kim Ho-jung, Park Soo-young, Oh Yoon-hong, Han Joon-woo, Moon Ye-won, Jung Dong-geun, Hwang Bo-ra, Kim Ji-in, and Jeon Seok-ho
Hyena is another thrilling legal K-drama that is worth a watch. It is the story of two ambitious rival lawyers, Jung Geum-ja (Kim Hye-soo) and Yoon Hee-Jae (Ju Ji-hoon) who work at Song & Kim, a law firm that represents the crème-de-la-crème of South Korea. Jung and Yoon are both extremely competitive and ambitious, but each with their own legal arsenal. Jung is a daring soul who would not stop at the boundaries of ethics, emotions, law, and justice, and would do anything to succeed. With her whatever-it-takes attitude, sharp mind, and strong survival instincts, Jung can tear her competitor down at any point. Yoon, on the other hand, is Jung’s extreme opposite. He is an elite lawyer, who is brilliant, egotistical, and confident, and believes in himself. But he cannot always keep up with Jung’s slick nature and gets outsmarted by her. Yet, he will never let anything stand in the way of his ambition.
As the title suggests, the series portrays the metaphorical animalistic nature of the rival lawyers, to keep their heads up in the dog-eat-dog world of the legal system. Hyena only has one season with 16 episodes.
Making A Murderer (2015-2018)
Creators: Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos
Making A Murderer is a true-crime documentary that tells the story of two men – Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were both convicted of crimes that they might not have committed. Steven, a man from Wisconsin, was accused of sexual assault and attempted murder, for which he served 18 years in prison. Brendan was charged as an accessory. The limited series reveals in detail all the events of the real-life cases, the two men’s struggle to prove themselves innocent, and their fight for freedom.
Filmed over 13 years, the docuseries features members of the Avery family, victims and their families, defense lawyers, judges, prosecution, private investigators, and law enforcement. Spread across two parts with 10 episodes each, this documentary is dark, intense, and provocative at its best.
The Innocence Files (2020)
Directors: Roger Ross Williams, Jed Rothstein, Sarah Dowland, Liz Garbus, Alex Gibney, and Andy Grieve
Cast: Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck, Michael West, Gary Wells, Levon Brooks, Kennedy Brewer, Adam Freeman, Richard Souviron, and Gloria Williams
The Innocence Files follows untold and personal stories of people who were wrongfully convicted and how the verdict not only affected their lives but also their families. The true-crime documentary is based on the work of the Innocence Project. The project is an initiative to exonerate and help individuals who have been falsely charged with crimes they didn’t commit. The series explores eight such cases of the Innocence Project that they have uncovered and overturned.
Creators: Skye Borgman, Garrett Bradley, Yance Ford, Brian McGinn, Sierra Pettengill, and Tony Yacenda
It’s a generally accepted fact that media is a powerful social tool, perhaps the most powerful one. This show is standing proof. Trial by Media is a true-crime documentary series that features some of the most dramatic court cases of the recent past and examines how mainstream media had an impact on their verdicts.
Legal drama in real life, this Netflix original series focuses on famous cases that were brought to trial between 1980 and 2000. All of these cases were in some way or the other affected by their media coverage, which decided the fate of both defendants and plaintiffs. The docuseries uses interviews, real footage, news archives, and stills to explore the incidents and how the court reached its verdicts on each of them.