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The Judge is a 2014 American legal drama film directed by David Dobkin.[4] The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton.[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, but criticized the formulaic nature of its script and the lack of development for its supporting characters.

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

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 (Robert Downey Jr.) is an attorney in Chicago. His hometown is a small town in Indiana, named Carlinville. His mother has died and Hank himself is being sued for divorce by his adulterous wife. He returns to Carlinville for his mother's funeral.

In Carlinville, Hank reunites with his older brother Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio), owner of a tire shop, and his younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong), who has autism. Hank's father, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) is the judge of the criminal court in town. He is losing his faculties which is demonstrated by the fact that he doesn't remember his own bailiff's name.

Hank sees his father, Judge Palmer for the first time in many years, presiding in court, from the court gallery, the day before the funeral. The morning after the funeral, Hank finds damage on his father's Cadillac, with the right front headlight and fender ruined. Joseph remembers no accident. Hank speculates his father was drinking and driving, and accuses him. Joseph reacts defensively and Hank leaves, promising never to return.

Before the airliner can lift off, Hank learns that Joseph is a suspect regarding a fatal hit and run accident. The victim is Mark Blackwell (Mark Kie), an ex-convict who had served a twenty year sentence for murder and was sentenced by Joseph himself.

Blackwell's blood is confirmed by forensics on the Cadillac and Joseph is indicted. Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton) is the prosecuting attorney and Joseph is charged with first-degree murder. Hank and Judge Palmer hire C.P. Kennedy (Dax Shepard) as their defense attorney. Kennedy's defense is less than competent, which terrifies Hank.

Out of dread, Hank is inclined to defend his father and he finds out that Joseph was undergoing chemotherapy. He is dying of terminal cancer and Judge Palmer's inability to remember either the accident or his bailiff's name is one side effect of the chemotherapy treatments.

At the trial, Judge Palmer insists on testifying, out of his own sense of ethical responsibility, and scuttles the defense by testifying that he cannot remember the accident, but believes that he probably did kill Blackwell intentionally. Judge Palmer is cleared of murder but convicted on a lesser charge and sentenced to four years confinement by Judge Warren (Ken Howard). The sentence to be served in Indiana State Prison. Hank breaks down, reduced to tears.

Seven months later, Hank is called back from Chicago once again, to Carlinville. The prosecuting attorney, Dwight Dickham, has signed off on a petition for compassionate release, so that Judge Palmer can go home to die as he is losing his battle to cancer.

Hank and Judge Palmer go fishing in a rowboat on a lake where it appears that the old animosity is gone. The judge finally dies, at peace, after complimenting Hank on his craft. The flag over the courthouse flies at half-staff in honor of Judge Joseph Palmer. Hank visits the courthouse and spins the judge's chair before it stops to face him, implying an invitation.




The film was executive produced by Steven Mnuchin. 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, Massachusetts.[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 officeEdit

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 responseEdit

The Judge received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, gave the film a rating of 48%, based on 191 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10. 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] On CinemaScore, audiences 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) and nominee(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.
  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 linksEdit