The Judge (2014 film)

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The Judge
The Judge 2014 film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Dobkin
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Nick Schenk
  • David Dobkin
Produced by
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited byMark Livolsi
Music byThomas Newman
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • September 4, 2014 (2014-09-04) (TIFF)
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) (United States)
Running time
142 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$45–50 million[2][3]
Box office$84.4 million[3]

The Judge is a 2014 American legal drama film directed by David Dobkin.[4] The film stars Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall with Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton in supporting roles.[4] The film was released in the United States on October 10, 2014. It received mixed reviews; critics praised the performances of Duvall and Downey as well as Thomas Newman's score while criticizing the formulaic nature of its script and the lack of development for its supporting characters.

Duvall received multiple award nominations for his performance as Judge Joseph Palmer, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor. Thomas Newman also received a Satellite Award nomination for Best Original Score.


Hank Palmer is a successful attorney in Chicago. When Hank receives news his mother has just died, the judge grants his case a continuance. Before returning to his hometown of Carlinville, Indiana to attend the funeral, Hank argues with his neglected, unfaithful wife, Lisa, whom he is divorcing.

In Carlinville, Hank reunites with his older brother, Glen, a tire shop owner, and his mentally disabled younger brother Dale. Hank's estranged father is Judge Joseph Palmer of Carlinville's criminal court, who he merely calls "Judge." The two have been estranged due to the Judge's harsh treatment of his son in light of his youthful indiscretions, including a car accident when Hank was seventeen that had ruined Glen's future MLB career and resulted in his father sending Hank to juvenile detention rather than the recommended community service or otherwise helping his son.

From the courtroom gallery, Hank discreetly watches his father presiding a case. During the proceedings, the Judge seems momentarily confused when he is unable to recall his long-time bailiff's name. The morning after the funeral, Hank notices the Judge's Cadillac has the right-front headlight and fender damaged and accuses his father, a recovered alcoholic, of driving intoxicated. The Judge reacts defensively, having no memory of an accident. Hank's strained family relationship is further complicated by his former girlfriend, Sam Powell. He comes to believe her college-student daughter Carla, that he had earlier flirted with, may be his daughter. Sam reveals Glen is Carla's father, having briefly slept with him after breaking up with Hank.

The next day, after arguing with his father, Hank vows never to return to Carlinville and leaves for the airport. Just before Hank's flight takes off, Glen calls to say their father is a suspect in a fatal hit and run accident. The victim, Mark Blackwell, is a recently released ex-convict whom Judge had sentenced to twenty years in prison for a murder that he had committed after the Judge had earlier given Blackwell a light sentence for shooting up the victim's house.

Judge is indicted after police forensics confirm Blackwell's blood is on the Judge's Cadillac. He is charged with second-degree murder. C.P. Kennedy is hired as the Judge's defense attorney. When his defense proves ineffective, Hank takes over as lead counsel. While preparing for trial, Hank learns his father is undergoing chemotherapy for terminal cancer. The Judge's inability to remember the accident or previously recall his bailiff's name may be a side effect of chemotherapy. During this time, Hank's daughter, Lauren, arrives for a short visit, meeting her grandfather for the first time and bonding with him.

At the trial, Judge, honor-bound to his ethical responsibility, insists on testifying. He scuttles his own defense by testifying he is unable to remember the accident, but believes he may have intentionally killed Blackwell. Hank pushes the Judge until he reveals that he had previously given Blackwell a lighter sentence, the biggest mistake of his career, because Blackwell's circumstances had reminded the Judge of Hank and he'd seen the troubled son that the Judge had refused to help in the young man. Judge is convicted on a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in the Indiana State Prison.

Seven months later, Hank returns to Carlinville. Judge has been granted a compassionate release, allowing him to die at home. Fishing on a lake, Hank and Judge appear to have buried their mutual animosity. After praising Hank as a lawyer, the Judge suddenly and peacefully dies on the boat. The courthouse flag flies at half-staff to honor Judge. Hank visits the courthouse and spins his father's chair; it stops, facing him, indicating he is the next Judge.




The script was originally written by Nick Schenk. In March 2011, the script was to be rewritten by David Seidler.[5] In April 2013, Bill Dubuque was enlisted to rewrite it.[6] The casting of Robert Duvall, Vincent D'Onofrio,[7] Vera Farmiga,[8] and Dax Shepard was reported in March 2013.[9] The studios had expressed an interest in Jack Nicholson playing Joseph, but Nicholson turned down the role and it was given to Duvall.[10][11][12] Meester joined the cast in April 2013.[13]


Principal photography started on May 31, 2013 in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.[14] Shooting also took place in Attleboro, Belmont, Dedham, Sunderland, and Waltham, Massachusetts. Scenes also were filmed in Pennsylvania and Worcester Regional Airport and the city of Worcester itself.[15][16] The film is set in the fictional town of Carlinville, Indiana.[17]


On February 27, 2014, Thomas Newman was hired to compose the music for the film.[18] WaterTower Music released a soundtrack album on October 7, 2014.[19] The film's closing titles feature Willie Nelson's version of the Coldplay song "The Scientist", and Bon Iver's song "Holocene" is also featured prominently in the film.


The film was shown at the opening night of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 4, 2014.[20] It was premiered in Los Angeles on October 1, 2014 at the Beverly Hills' Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[21] The film was released on October 10, 2014 in the United States.[22]

Box office[edit]

The Judge grossed $47.1 million in North America and $37.3 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $84.4 million, against a budget of $50 million.[3]

In North America, the film grossed $13.1 million in its opening weekend from 3,003 theaters (a per theater average of $4,368), finishing 5th at the box office. The biggest markets in other territories were Russia, Italy and Mexico, where the film grossed $4.4 million, $2.99 million and $2.84 million, respectively.[23]

Critical response[edit]

The Judge received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, gave the film a rating of 49%, based on 198 reviews, with an average rating of 5.59/10. The site's consensus reads: "Solidly cast and beautifully filmed but thoroughly clichéd, The Judge seems destined to preside over a large jurisdiction of the basic cable afternoon-viewing circuit."[24] Metacritic gave the film a score of 48 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[25] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[26]

Film critic Richard Roeper gave the film a "C" rating, saying that it was "surprising how little we care about these characters."[27]

Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent wrote, "For all its contrivances and occasional lapses into On Golden Pond-style mawkishness, this is a richly crafted yarn that boasts barnstorming, if very showy performances from Duvall and Downey Jr."[28] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave a mixed to positive review, writing, "There are plenty of emotional fireworks in this big, soupy but entertaining picture, which is obvious Oscar bait."[29] Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty gave the film a "B" rating, and stated, "I don't expect The Judge to usher in a new era of legal thrillers, but I'm happy to see Downey leave the Marvel universe and Baker Street behind."[30]


List of awards and nominations
Year Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
2014 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Score – Feature Film Thomas Newman Nominated
Mill Valley Film Festival Best U.S. Feature Film The Judge (David Dobkin) 2nd Place
Heartland Film Festival Truly Moving Picture Won
18th Hollywood Film Awards Supporting Actor of the Year Robert Duvall Won
87th Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
72nd Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
21st Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
20th Critics' Choice Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
19th Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
Best Original Score Thomas Newman Nominated


  1. ^ "THE JUDGE (15)". Warner Bros. British Board of Film Classification. August 22, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  2. ^ FilmL.A. (May 28, 2015). "2014 Feature Film Study" (PDF). FilmL.A. Feature Film Study: 20. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "The Judge (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "The Judge". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "WB taps David Seidler for 'The Judge'". Variety. March 23, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  6. ^ Fleming, Mike (April 4, 2012). "Warner Bros 'The Judge' Collars Scribe Bill Dubuque To Script Robert Downey Jr-Starrer". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  7. ^ "Vincent D'Onofrio Joins Warner Bros' 'The Judge'". Deadline Hollywood. March 14, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 20, 2013). "Vera Farmiga Sets Sights on 'The Judge'". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  9. ^ Yamato, Jen (March 20, 2013). "Dax Shepard Joins WB's 'The Judge'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  10. ^ Kit, Borys (November 13, 2012). "Jack Nicholson Courted to Play Robert Downey Jr.'s Father". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (March 13, 2013). "Robert Duvall Joins Robert Downey Jr. in 'The Judge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  12. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 15, 2013). "Billy Bob Thornton to Prosecute Robert Duvall in 'The Judge' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (April 3, 2013). "'Gossip Girl' Star Leighton Meester Joins Robert Downey Jr. in 'The Judge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  14. ^ Broncaccio, Diane (May 30, 2013). "Shooting for Robert Downey Jr. film 'The Judge' starts Friday in Shelburne Falls". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  15. ^ Christine (June 6, 2013). "Updated filming locations for 'The Judge', starring Robert Downey Jr., in Shelburne Falls, MA". On Location Vacations. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  16. ^ "Robert Downey Jr. and crew from 'The Judge' make stop at Smiarowski Farm Stand in Sunderland". June 12, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  17. ^ Contrada, Fred (June 6, 2011). "Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D'Onofrio in Shelburne Falls as village is transformed into movie set for 'The Judge'". Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  18. ^ "Thomas Newman to Score 'The Judge' and James Brown Biopic 'Get On Up'". Film Music Reporter. February 27, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  19. ^ "'The Judge' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. September 26, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  20. ^ Pond, Steve (July 25, 2014). "Robert Downey Jr. Drama 'The Judge' to Open Toronto Film Festival". TheWrap. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  21. ^ McNary, Dave (October 2, 2014). "Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall Celebrate at 'The Judge' L.A. Premiere". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  22. ^ McClintock, Pamela (July 31, 2013). "Robert Downey Jr.'s 'The Judge' Gets a Fall 2014 Release". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
  23. ^ "The Judge – International Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  24. ^ "The Judge (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  25. ^ "The Judge Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  26. ^ Bowles, Scott (October 13, 2014). "Monday Box Office: 'Gone Girl' Cements Week 2 Crown, Next Faces Pitt's 'Fury'". Deadline Hollywood.
  27. ^ Roeper, Richard. "The Judge (2014)". Richard Roeper & The Movies. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  28. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (October 16, 2014). "The Judge, film review: Hot-shot actors Duvall and Downey Jr make a compelling case". The Independent. Archived from the original on June 18, 2022.
  29. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (October 16, 2014). "The Judge review – part family drama, part courtroom gripper". The Guardian.
  30. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (October 16, 2014). "Movies – The Judge". Entertainment Weekly.

External links[edit]