Here come de judge

This season’s crop of reality-TV judges have a lot of work to do on the bench if they want to measure up to some of pop culture’s most compelling judges

Judge Reinhold, Arrested Development (2006)

In a great skewering of his name, Reinhold appears as a judge for a mock trial. Best piece of dialogue: While talking about all the money Judge Judy made last year, Reinhold says, “I never even heard of the guy.” –Ken Miller

Judge Chamberlain Haller, My Cousin Vinny (1992)

An incredibly average comedy, to be sure, but Fred Gwynne created an indelible movie moment with his attempt to interpret the thick Bronx accent of the lawyer in his courtroom. “Yutes?” Words to live by. –KM


More on Reality-TV Judges
Judging the judges (9/25/08)
Why I can't stand Judge Judy (9/25/08)

Judge Dredd, Judge Dredd (1995)

All right, it’s possibly the most risible movie of Sylvester Stallone’s career (and that’s saying quite a bit), but don’t we all wish for a judge who grabs the nearest high-powered firearm and wails, “I am the law”? Court TV might still be around today. –KM

Judge Harold T. Stone, Night Court (1984-1992)

Harry Anderson’s goofy, magic-performing, Mel Tormé-loving judge wasn’t much like any other jurist on TV. He presided over low-stakes cases involving petty theft, prostitution and other minor crimes, and did it all with an easygoing disposition that proved justice could come with a smile. –Josh Bell

Judge Milo O’Shea, The Verdict (1982)

David Mamet’s great courtroom drama has one of cinema’s most corrupt magistrates, who, in the middle of a high-stakes medical malpractice suit, begins questioning a witness, in effect helping to scupper Paul Newman’s case. You don’t mess with Butch Cassidy, man. –KM

Judge Benjamin Caulfield, The Star Chamber (1983)

I was going to go with Michael Douglas as conflicted Superior Court Judge Steve Hardin—who joins a sinister cabal of fellow judges called the Star Chamber, which metes out its own justice when the justice system fails. But the more riveting judge is Hal Holbrook’s Benjamin Caulfield. Hardin’s friend and mentor, the elder judge made his pact with the devil a long time ago, and is thus more fun to watch.–T.R. Witcher

Judge Ernst Janning, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Spencer Tracy, as retired Judge Dan Haywood, comes to preside over the trial of four German judges at Nuremberg, accused of perverting the German legal system to support the horrors of the Nazi regime. At the center is Burt Lancaster’s Ernst Janning, the German judge whose confession reveals how good men can so willingly abet evil. –TRW

Judge Robert Sanders, Boston Legal (2005–present)

It’s a toss-up between actors Shelley Berman and Henry Gibson, who also plays a judge on BL, but Berman’s eternally baffled delivery, usually followed by an “I am the decider,” has us bemoaning where we’ll get our laughs when Bush is no longer in office. –KM

The Judge, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973)

Flip Wilson introduced him on Laugh-In, Sammy Davis Jr. made him famous, but the originator of the famous comedy sketch which set the standard for the satirical skewering of pompous courtrooms was created by comedian David “Pigmeat” Markham. He gave us Laugh-In’s most famous line (and the headline for our list).-TRW


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