And Justice for All (1979): Starring Al Pacino in Oscar-Nominated Peformance

Columbia (Malton Films)

Al Pacino, then at the height of his career as a result of “The Godfather” films, plays Arthur Kirkland, a lawyer whose morals are tested when he is asked to defend a judge charged with a dreadful crime.

When we first meet him, Arthur is a young lawyer full of passion and righteousness, dealing with an antiquated and unjust tribunal, coping with a partner on the verge of a nervous breakdown, caring for an ill grandfather–and trying to save a fledgling relationship.

However, Arthur is thrown for an even greater loop when he is forced to defend Henry T. Fleming (John Forsythe), a judge guilty of sadistically raping and beating a woman. Despite his deep dislike of the judge, Arthur must represent him in court or risk being debarred. He has no choice but to carefully navigate his way within the corrupt legal system without losing his morals, sense of worth or beliefs.

Made three years after the landmark political chronicle “All the President’s Men,” “And Justice for All” at first suggests a similar critique of the legal system. But director Norman Jewison can’t find the right balance between a serious critique of the legal system and a satirical comedy, veering between these two tones to some dubious results.

The vet supporting cast is good, especially Jack Warden and Lee Strasberg.

This was stage actress Christine Lahti’s most promising screen debut.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Actor: Al Pacino
Screenplay (Original): Valerie Curtin, Barry Levinson

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

In 1979, Dustin Hoffman won the Best Actor for “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” and Steve Tesich the Original Screenplay for the comedy “Breaking Away.”


Produced and directed by Norman Jewison.
Screenplay: Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin
Running Time: 119 minutes


Al Pacino
Jack Warden
Christine Lahti
Jeffrey Tambor
Lee Strassburg
John Forsythe