Movies On The Radio: 'You Can't Handle The Truth!' The Appeal Of The Legal Drama

Jan 29, 2014

Tom Cruise (left) and Jack Nicholson (right)
Credit Official Movie Poster via Wikipedia

For many moviegoers, Jack Nicholson's famous line in A Few Good Men is one of the most memorable courtroom scenes ever.

"You can’t handle the truth! …Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom...  I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it."

Other legal dramas have been blockbusters in the theater as well.  On The State of Things, host Frank Stasio talked with Marsha Gordon, professor of film studies at North Carolina State University and Laura Boyes, film curator at the North Carolina Museum of Art, about the appeal of legal drama.

And you weighed in with your favorites. Top on many lists is the closing argument in the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird:

Some listeners learned important lessons about civic responsibility from the 1957 drama, 12 Angry Men.

Not all of the courtroom drama on the silver screen is serious. In Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon's character uses her knowledge of beauty products to elicit an on-the-stand confession.

And many listeners listed the comedic testimony of Mona Lisa Vito, played by Marisa Tomei, in My Cousin Vinny as their favorite.

Next month, Gordon and Boyes will return to discuss unconventional love stories in film. Do you have a favorite? Send us an email ( with your name, city and favorite movie scene. Tweet us at @state_of_things or use the hashtag #sotmovie. Your suggestion may be included in the show.