Million Dollar Case Themes That You Can Steal

Bigger text (+)Smaller text (-)
Translate this Page!

Million Dollar Case Themes That You Can Steal
by Elliott Wilcox

Your case theme can have a major impact on the jury. When you develop a powerful case theme, you give the jurors a lens through which they will view the evidence in your case. For example, in a rape case, one side might frame the case as the story of "a controlling man who refused to take ´No´ for an answer and forcibly raped a young woman" while the other side says the case is about "a woman overcome by remorse and regret after a consensual one night stand."

Depending on which case theme the jurors adopt, they will start looking for evidence that supports that viewpoint. That´s why it´s so important to invest time developing your themes. The better your theme "hooks" the jurors, the more likely you are to win.

Unfortunately, many trial lawyers never create strong themes for their cases. They know they´re supposed to use themes, but they have no idea how to develop them, or even where to start looking for ideas, and so they never use them. In this article, you´ll discover a great resource for developing case themes.

If you go to the movies on a regular basis, you probably see dozens of movie posters every year advertising the upcoming attractions. Using splashy graphics, powerful images, and the draw of seeing your favorite celebrity, Hollywood does its best to grab your attention, spark your interest, and arouse your desire to go see the movie. In addition to the imagery, however, they also use another powerful technique to promote the movie. That technique is the use of a tagline.

A tagline is simply a short phrase or two that helps explain the movie. A good tagline will resonate with the moviegoer, sticking in his head even after he walks away from the poster, and subtly push him to go see the movie. Every once in a while, however, someone writes a great tagline, and it jumps to the forefront of our collective conscience. Here are a few examples of great taglines:

  • "In space, no one can hear you scream." (Alien)
  • "You´ll believe a man can fly." (Superman)
  • "We are not alone." (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

These types of taglines don´t write themselves. Every year, Hollywood spends millions and millions of dollars promoting their films, hiring some of the best copywriters available to develop great taglines. That´s great news for you, because you can develop some of these taglines into incredibly powerful case themes, without having to spend millions of dollars developing them.

In this article, you´ll find dozens of different taglines taken from movie posters and promotional pieces. Read through them (or, better yet, read them aloud) while thinking about your case. They´re not arranged in any particular order, and they´re not necessarily the best (or the worst) movies ever created, but they´ll serve as a great jumping-off point for writing your own themes.

  • "The first casualty of war is innocence." (Platoon)
  • "With great power comes great responsibility." (Spiderman)
  • "Revenge is a dish best served cold." (Kill Bill)
  • "Get ready to root for the bad guy." (Payback)
  • "If Nancy doesn´t wake up screaming, she won´t wake up at all." (Nightmare on Elm St.)
  • "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven." (A Clockwork Orange)
  • "If you can´t be famous... Be infamous." (Chicago)
  • "His whole life was a million-to-one shot." (Rocky)
  • "His triumph changed the world forever." (Gandhi)
  • "This time he´s fighting for his life." (First Blood)
  • "He´s having the worst day of his life... over, and over..." (Groundhog Day)
  • "It was the Deltas against the rules... the rules lost!" (Animal House)
  • "There´s everything you´ve ever known about adventure, and then there´s The Abyss." (The Abyss)
  • "The snobs against the slobs." (Caddyshack)
  • "Every man dies. Not every man really lives." (Braveheart)
  • "If adventure has a name... It must be Indiana Jones." (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)
  • "Get in. Get out. Get even." (The Italian Job)
  • "Just because they serve you doesn´t mean they like you." (Clerks)
  • "Somewhere, somehow, someone´s going to pay." (Commando)
    [Feel the alliteration? Can you use similar repetitive word sounds?]
  • "The truth is out there." (The X-Files)
  • "There are degrees of truth." (Basic)
  • "Lie. Cheat. Steal. Rinse. Repeat." (Matchstick Men)
  • "Four friends made a mistake that changed their lives forever." (Sleepers)
  • "When friendship runs deeper than blood." (Sleepers)
  • "Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing." (Quiz Show)
  • "When he said ´I do,´ he never said what he did." (True Lies)
  • "Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free." (Shawshank Redemption)
  • "Seen from a distance, it´s perfect." (Life as a House)
  • "Not that it matters, but most of it is true." (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
  • "Their only crime was curiosity." (Hackers)
  • "His story will touch you, even though he can´t." (Edward Scissorhands)
  • "There´s a good reason some talent remains undiscovered." (Waiting for Guffman)
  • "Everybody loved him... Everybody disappeared." (Jerry Maguire)
  • "He was never in time for his classes... He wasn´t in time for his dinner... Then one day he wasn´t in his time at all." (Back to the Future)
    [Do you feel the power of the "3-peat"? Is there a phrase you could repeat occasionally throughout your opening?]
  • "Don´t answer the phone. Don´t open the door. Don´t try to escape." (Scream)
  • "No one stays at the top forever." (Casino)
  • "It´s a hot summer. Ned Racine is waiting for something special to happen. And when it does... He won´t be ready for the consequences." (Body Heat)
  • "Freedom is not given. It is our right at birth. But there are some moments when it must be taken." (Amistad)
  • "United by hate, divided by truth." (American History X)
  • "An outrageous story of greed, lust and vanity in America." (Bonfire of the Vanities)
  • "In the heat of passion two things can happen. The second is murder." (The Postman Always Rings Twice)
  • "Every dream has a price." (Wall St.)
  • "It´s not who he is underneath but what he does that defines him." (Batman Begins)
  • "He didn´t come looking for trouble, but trouble came looking for him." (El Mariachi)
  • "He´s out to prove he´s got nothing to prove." (Napoleon Dynamite)

Here are some more taglines pulled from lawyer movies:

  • "The truth can be adjusted." (Michael Clayton)
  • "Justice has its price." (A Civil Action)
  • "Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real." (Primal Fear)
  • "There have been many courtroom dramas that have glorified The Great American Legal System. This is not one of them." (My Cousin Vinny)
  • "Power can be murder to resist." (The Firm)
  • "They made him an offer he should have refused." (The Firm)
  • "A district attorney out for a conviction. A new lawyer out of her league. A young boy who knew too much." (The Client)
  • "No one would take on his case... until one man was willing to take on the system." (Philadelphia)
  • "In the heart of the nation´s capital, in a courthouse of the U.S. government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth." (A Few Good Men)
  • "This man needs the best lawyer in town. But the problem is... he is the best lawyer in town." (...And Justice for All)
  • "Sometimes it´s dangerous to presume." (Presumed Innocent)
  • "Some people would kill for love." (Presumed Innocent)
  • "The story of what four men did to a girl... And what the town did to them!" (Town Without Pity)
  • "Some people will do anything for money." (The Fortune Cookie)
  • "Some people will do anything for $249,000.92." (The Fortune Cookie)
    [The first phrase is a common theme that all of your jurors have heard before, but the second phrase is more specific. Does it feel more powerful hearing the actual number?]
  • "Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in." (The Candidate)
  • "There are two sides of this mystery. Murder...And Passion." (Jagged Edge)
  • "An act of love, or an act of murder?" (Body of Evidence)
  • "This is the murder weapon. Her name is Rebecca." (Body of Evidence)
  • "They locked him up. They crushed his spirit. But they couldn´t hide the truth." (Murder in the First)
  • "You may not like what he does, but are you prepared to give up his right to do it?" (People vs. Larry Flynt)
  • "In a world of lies, nothing is more dangerous than the Truth." (Shadow of Doubt)
  • "The first scream was for help. The second is for justice." (The Accused)
  • "Suppose you picked up this morning´s newspaper and your life was a front page headline... And everything they said was accurate... But none of it was true." (Absence of Malice)
    [This is obviously an improper Golden Rule argument, but you could re-write it to focus the attention on your client]
  • "On the other side of drinks, dinner and a one night stand, lies a terrifying love story." (Fatal Attraction)
  • "Trials are too important to be decided by juries." (The Runaway Jury)
    [PLEASE don´t use this one in court!!!]

Taglines, catch-phrases, and themes have a powerful persuasive effect in the courtroom. Invest some time developing your case theme, and then try it out in public. Don´t just tell your colleagues and assistants about the theme. Share the theme with your friends and family. Ask the checkout clerk at the grocery store what she thinks about it. Ask your mechanic if the theme makes sense to him. Tell it to your bartender or the person on the barstool next to you. The important point is to refine your theme until it captures the essence of your case, giving the jurors a compelling lens through which to view the trial. Continue refining your theme, and you´ll soon become the most persuasive trial lawyer in the courtroom!

What do you think? Let me know whether you liked the article, whether you want more articles on this topic, or if you´d prefer to learn about something completely different by: posting a quick comment here

You can, as long as you include the following blurb with it:
Elliott Wilcox publishes Trial Tips Newsletter.
Sign up today for your free subscription and a copy of his special reports:
"How to Successfully Make & Meet Objections" and "The Ten Critical Mistakes Trial Lawyers Make (and how to avoid them) at

NOTICE: Elliott Wilcox is not affiliated with Freedom School.
NOTICE: If anything in this presentation is found to be in error a good faith effort will be made to correct it in timely fashion upon notification.
       Specialty Areas

All the powers in the universe seem to favor the person who has confidence.
More & Other Information - Resource Pages
Admiralty related items Belligerent Claimant
BondsAttention Signing the Constitution Away
Citizenship / nationality related itemsEducation
Jerry KirkAware
JurisdictionLaw related items
Lewis MohrLuis Ewing
MoneyOath related items
Reading MaterialReading Room
StuffTax matters
Travel related
AntiShyster MagazineVideo
NOTICE: The information on this page was brought to you by people who paid this website forward so that someone such as you might also profit by having access to it. If you care to do so also please feel encouraged to KEEP THIS SITE GOING by making a donation today. Thank you. Make donation with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

Freedom-School is not affiliated with the links on this page - unless otherwise stated.
This enterprise collectively is known and generally presented as "" - "we," "us" or "our" are other expressions of used throughout. "You" is in reference to the user / visitor.

This is the fine print that so important. Freedom School and other information served is so for educational purposes only, no liability expressed or assumed for use.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.
Freedom School does not consent to or condone unlawful action.
Freedom School advocates and encourages one and all to adhere to, support and
defend all Law which is particularly applicable.
Information is intended for [those] men and women who are not "US CITIZENS" or "TAXPAYERS" - continued use, reference or citing indicates voluntary and informed compliance. Support is not offered.

Freedom School is a free speech site, non-commercial enterprise and operation as
there is no charge for things presented. site relies on this memorandum and others in support of this philosophy and operation.

The noteworthy failure of [the] government or any alleged agency thereof to at any time rebut anything appearing on this website constitutes a legal admission of the fidelity and accuracy of the materials presented, which are offered in good faith and prepared as such by Freedom School and any and all [third] parties affiliated or otherwise. THIS IS AN ELECTRONIC AGREEMENT AND IS A LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACT, EQUIVALENT TO A SIGNED, WRITTEN CONTRACT BETWEEN PARTIES - If the government, or anyone else, wants to assert that any of the religious and/or political statements appearing on this website are not factual or otherwise in error, then they as the moving party have the burden of proof, and they must responsively meet that burden of proof under the Administrative Procedures Act 5 U.S.C. § 556(d) and under the due process clauses found in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments to the national Constitution BEFORE there will be response to any summons, questions, or unsubstantiated and slanderous accusations. Attempts at calling presented claims "frivolous" without specifically rebutting the particular claim, or claims, deemed "frivolous" will be in deed be "frivolous" and prima facie evidence that shall be used accordingly. Hey guys, if anything on this site is found to be in error a good faith effort will be made to correct it in timely fashion upon notification. is not responsible for content of any linked website or material.
In addition, users may not use to engage in, facilitate or further unlawful conduct;
use the service in any way, or manner, that harms us or anyone connected with us or whose work is presented;
damage, disable, overburden, or impair the service (or the network(s) connected to the site)
or interfere with anyone's use and enjoyment of the website.

All claims to be settled on the land - Austin, Travis county Texas, united States of America, using Texas Common Law.
All parts of this contract apply to the maximum extent permitted by law. A court may hold that we cannot enforce a part of this contract as written. If this happens, then you and we will replace that part with terms that most closely match the intent of the part that we cannot enforce. The rest of this contract will not change. This is the entire contract between you and us regarding your use of the service. It supersedes any prior contract or statements regarding your use of the site. If there exists some manner of thing missing we do not forfeit our right to that thing as
we reserve all rights.
We may assign, or modify, alter, change this contract, in whole or in part, at any time with or without notice to you. You may not assign this contract, or any part of it, to any other person. Any attempt by you to do so is void. You may not transfer to anyone else, either temporarily or permanently, any rights to use the site or material contained within.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS: While we do not automatically collect personally identifiable information about you when you visit the site, we do collect non-identifying and aggregate information that we use to improve our Web site design and our online presence.
Visitors to this site who have Javascript enabled are tracked using Google Analytics. The type of information that Google Analytics collects about you includes data like: the type of Web browser you are using; the type of operating system you are using; your screen resolution; the version of Flash you may be using; your network location and IP address (this can include geographic data like the country, city and state you are in); your Internet connection speed; the time of your visit to the site; the pages you visit on the site; the amount of time you spend on each page of the site and referring site information. In addition to the reports we receive using Google Analytics data, the data is shared with Google. For more information on Google's privacy policies, visit:
Here is Google´s description of how Google Analytics works and how you can disable it: "Google Analytics collects information anonymously, and much like examining footprints in sand, it reports website trends without identifying individual visitors. Analytics uses its own cookie to track visitor interactions. The cookie is used to store information, such as what time the current visit occurred, whether the visitor has been to the site before, and what site referred the visitor to the web page. Google Analytics customers can view a variety of reports about how visitors interact with their website so they can improve their website and how people find it. A different cookie is used for each website, and visitors are not tracked across multiple sites. Analytics requires that all websites that use it must update their privacy policy to include a notice that fully discloses the use of Analytics. To disable this type of cookie, some browsers will indicate when a cookie is being sent and allow you to decline cookies on a case-by-case basis."

Presentation Copyright© 2007, 2023
All Rights Reserved