My Cousin Vinny (1992): Jonathan Lynn’s Comedy, Starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in Dubious Oscar-Winning Performance

Rather inexplicably, Marisa Tomei won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in one of the most competitive years in that category.

Scripted by Dale Launer, Jonathan Lynn’s light, frivolous comedy begins when Northern college kid Bill (Ralph Macchio) and his buddy Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) are picked up and thrown into jail in a Southern town.

At first, they are unfazed but then they are informed that they are accused of murder. With no money or friends, Bill decides to call his cousin Vinny (Joe Pesci), who has recently become a lawyer. Full of family feeling and bravado, Vinny, who has never tried a criminal case in his life, goes down to defend his trusting relative.

Pesci does his specialty as a motor-mouth, less than qualified lawyer from New York, speaking in such a thick accent that he is immediately noticeable.

A classic fish out of water, Bill arrives on the scene with his equally brassy girl, Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei). Bill is sure he’s going to be sentenced to death. His buddy Stan also lacks confidence in their legal representative.  The local judge doesn’t seem sympathetic to Vinny’s verbal shenanigans either.

However, strongly supported by Lisa, Vinny achieves the impossible, winning in the process respect from all concerned.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei

Oscar Awards: 1

Oscar Context:

The other nominees were Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Miranda Richardson.


Directed by Jonathan Lynn

Written by Dale Launer

On DVD: August 14, 2001