I have been using John Grisham's, The Rainmaker as a required assignment pretty much since it became available on DVD in the late 1990's. The movie raises important issues about the legal system and the legal profession that I simply do not have time to cover in detail in class. In that sense, this movie truly has worked for me as an extension of the classroom, allowing students to learn from an entertaining medium in a comfortable setting (their own dorm room or place of their own choosing). Although the setting of the movie may be starting to look a bit dated (Rudy talks on a cell phone that looks like the receiver of a backpack radio from a WWII movie) the issues that the movie raises about the legal system and the legal profession are relevant and provocative.
A summary of the movie plot may be found here. Reviews may be found here and here. A complete transcription (good for double checking student quotes) may be found here. Be careful to distinguish the move from a 1956 movie with Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn entitled simply, "The Rainmaker."
I post "Guided Viewing Questions" for students to read prior to watching the movie on their own ( please e-mail me for a copy if you like). I place a DVD of the movie on library reserve, but our library also has acquired rights to stream the movie free to students' laptops. In the worst case scenario, students can rent a showing from Amazon for $2.99 to watch on line. I encourage students to watch the movie with other classmates. My hope is that they will spontaneously discuss this movie with their friends, as they would any movie that was watched for entertainment purposes, alone. On an appointed day, I post a question or choice of questions from the Guided Viewing list for students to answer on line. Responses are limited to 500 words. This assignment consistently produces many comments that start, "I never realized that . . ." or "I never thought about how . . ." That is what I was aiming for.
John Grisham's, The Rainmaker trailer:
Dek Shifflet (Danny DeVito) on legal ethics after "signing up" a hospital patient to a contingent fee agreement: