8 Memorable Portrayals of Supreme Court Justices in Film, TV

9:26 PM 12/24/2018

by Katherine Schaffstall

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas and Thurgood Marshall are just a few members of the high court to receive the big- and small-screen treatment.

HBO; Focus Features; Open Road Films/Photofest

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the subject of two movies in 2018 alone: the acclaimed, Oscar-hopeful hit documentary RBG and the biopic On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as Ginsburg, in theaters Christmas Day.

But "the Notorious RBG," as she's been dubbed, is not the only Supreme Court justice to get the big- or small-screen treatment.

From Wendell Pierce's role as Clarence Thomas in Confirmation to Chadwick Boseman's turn as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall to Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in the miniseries Nuremberg, a number of past and present members of the high court have been prominently featured in movies or TV series.

Read on to see which other Supreme Court justices have received the Hollywood treatment.

  • Sidney Poitier as Thurgood Marshall in 'Separate But Equal'

    ABC/Photofest

    The 1991 television film retells the landmark Supreme Court desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, which made it illegal for schools to be segregated by race. Poitier portrayed Thurgood Marshall, who argued the case before the Supreme Court for the plaintiffs. The film gives an inside look at the work that Marshall and his team did when researching and preparing for the case. In addition to Marshall, who later became a member of the Supreme Court, the film includes the portrayal of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, played by Richard Kiley.

  • Harry Blackmun as Joseph Story in 'Amistad'

    Dreamworks SKG

    The real-life associate justice of the Supreme Court made a cameo in the 1997 historical drama as Justice Joseph Story. Amistad, which was directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, tells the story of the 1839 revolt of Mende captives that were held on a Spanish-owned ship. A major controversy is created in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island and it is up to the courts to decide whether or not the Mende are slaves or legally free.

  • Alec Baldwin as Robert H. Jackson in 'Nuremberg'

    Alliance Atlantis Communications

    The 2000 television miniseries, which is told in two parts, recounts the war-crimes trials following the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II. Baldwin stars as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who is recruited by Samuel Rosenman (Max von Sydow) to prepare a war crimes tribunal against Nazi Party leader Hermann Goring (Brian Cox). Nuremberg received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for best miniseries.

  • The Cast of 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight'

    Courtesy of HBO

    The 2013 HBO film includes a number of Supreme Court justice characters in its main cast. Christopher Plummer stars as Justice John M. Harlan II, Frank Langella portrays Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Ed Begley Jr. plays Justice Harry Blackmun, Peter Gerety stars as Justice William J. Brennan, Barry Levinson plays Justice Potter Stewart, John Bedford Lloyd portrays Justice Byron White, Fritz Weaver plays Justice Hugo Black, Harris Yulin appears as Justice William O. Douglas and Danny Glover rounds out the cast as Justice Thurgood Marshall. Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight retells the story of the famous boxer refusing military induction during the Vietnam War. The film focuses on the Supreme Court's decision in Ali's favor.

  • Jonathon Pryce as William Rehnquist in 'Woman in Gold'

    Pryce played Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the 2015 film. Woman in Gold follows octogenarian Jewish refugee Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) as she takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes belongs to her family. After making a claim to the art restitution in Austria, the case eventually makes its way to the Supreme Court in America. The court, including Rehnquist, ruled in Altmann's favor.

  • Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas in 'Confirmation'

    Courtesy of HBO

    Pierce starred in the 2016 HBO film as then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. The film focuses on Anita Hill (Kerry Washington), who is prompted to speak about the alleged sexual harassment she experienced when working for Thomas. Following the leak of her allegations, a media frenzy ensues as Hill testifies before the Senate.

  • Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in 'Marshall'

    Open Road Films/Photofest

    The 2017 biographical legal drama begins in 1940 as NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall travels around the country to defend people of color who are wrongly accused of crimes. Marshall is hired to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), who is accused of raping his white employer, though the lawyer is not allowed to speak during the trial. The film recounts one of the most important cases of Marshall's career before he ultimately becomes the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

  • Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 'On the Basis of Sex'

    Jonathan Wenk/Focus Features

    In the biographical film, Jones stars as Ginsburg. On the Basis of Sex follows a young Ginsburg in the early years of her career as a lawyer as she teams up with her husband Marty (Armie Hammer) to fight gender inequality. The film highlights the many obstacles she encounters before she ultimately becomes a U.S. Supreme Court justice.