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Vinny: I'm learning all this as I go along. I'm bound to fuck up a little.
Lisa: "A little?" You've been thrown in jail twice!
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A 1992 comedy film directed by Jonathan Lynn, written by Dale Launer, starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, and Fred Gwynne.

Pesci is Vinny Gambini, a rookie New York attorney who has to go to a small Alabama town to defend his wrongly accused cousin and friend, who've been accused of shooting a convenience store clerk. Hilarity and profanity ensue. Tomei plays Mona Lisa Vito, his argumentative fiancée with a highly-exaggerated New York accent; the performance got her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Despite its Fish out of Water premise and sympathetic leads, the film is notable for not depicting Southerners as hostile hicks; a fair percentage of them are actually shown to be decent, sensible folks.

Also notable for being extremely accurate on the legal side, to the point where it's often screened and dissected in law schools because it shows how some things are done both correctly and incorrectly.

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In 2017, crime novelist Richard Kelter announced he was working on a novel sequel titled Back to Brooklyn.


There have been many trope example lists that have glorified the Great American Legal System. This is not one of them:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: In his original questioning, Billy's question "I shot the clerk?" gets misinterpreted as an admission of guilt ("I shot the clerk!").
  • Ambulance Chaser: Vinny notices a man with a neck brace. He occasionally breaks from his conversation to see if he can make a slip-and-fall case out of the man's injury. He loses interest when he realizes that there's no case.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Vinny is questioning a witness during the trial about how long it took him to cook some grits. The witness originally says five minutes, but Vinny needs to prove that it took longer, so he brings up some knowledge he'd picked up earlier and asks, "So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you five minutes to cook your grits, when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?" This stuns the witness, who is eventually forced to admit that he may be mistaken about his testimony.
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  • Aside Glance: When Lisa is on the stand refusing to talk to Vinny, he asks to treat her as a hostile witness, and Lisa snarks back implying they're headed for a big fight later. Judge Haller then asks if they knew each other, and Vinny responds that Lisa is his fiancée. Haller then looks directly into the camera when he snarks, "Well, that would certainly explain the hostility."
  • Audience Surrogate: Vinny and Lisa are mostly ignorant of courtroom procedures, and have to learn as they go along, which benefits audience who are not familiar with the topic.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Lisa on the stand when ID'ing the tire tracks. Vinny is pretty good at this too, debunking the eyewitnesses' accounts by observing very minor details. It might be a reason why the two of them are together.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Vinny and Lisa spend almost every waking moment arguing with one another, but it's the cornerstone of their characters and relationship. An argument about a dripping tap rapidly becomes foreplay and the case is won when Vinny puts a furious Lisa in the witness stand to argue against Vinny's own defence strategy in public.
  • Badass Longcoat: Lisa rocks a stylish and sexy long black leather jacket/trenchcoat in a few scenes.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: The reason Vinny's supposed to fight the idiot redneck is because he stiffed Lisa when she won $200 at pool.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Lisa testifies about the tire tracks she saw at the crime scene, and says "The defense is wrong" about the theory that a car identical to the defendants was involved in the shooting, because it had to be a different make of car altogether, just similar looking.
    • After winning the case, Vinny is trying to get out of town before the judge gets the fax from the NY bar. The judge exits his chamber with a smirk and clutching a fax. When he meets Vinny just before he can get out (Vinny give out a silet Oh, Crap!), Haller congratulates him on his impressive "record" in New York. Turns out Mona had his judge friend fax Haller.
  • Behind Every Great Man: Vinny is determined to win his first court case on his own, but he'd be lost without Lisa to look after him and while Vinny made the connection himself, it's ultimately her testimony that proves the boys' innocence.
  • Blatant Lies: Everything Vinny tells Judge Haller about his legal background and why there is no record of a "Vinny Gambini" practising law in New York.
  • Blind Without 'Em: The public defender attempts to use this to discredit one of the witnesses, but fails when it turns out the glasses were just for reading. Inverted with another witness, an elderly woman who was wearing her glasses while witnessing the event; however, it's shown that her eyesight is so bad she is all but blind even with 'em.
  • Book Dumb: Vinny is a street-smart guy with a great talent for putting together and presenting an argument. He also required six tries to pass the bar exam and somehow managed to do it without understanding basic aspects of law and trial procedure (he's not completely inexperienced, but has only handled civil cases, which all settled out of court). He defends himself by saying that he barely had time to study while working in a garage.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Subverted. When Vinny puts Lisa on the stand as an automotive expert, Trotter assumes she's exaggerating her experience and asks her a very detailed question to test her knowledge. When she protests that the question is "bullshit" and a "trick question," he assumes he's caught her in a lie. Then she explains that the configuration of car he was asking about didn't actually exist, corrects his question, and answers it correctly.
  • Brooklyn Rage:
    • Vinny beats up a guy who taunted him at just the wrong moment.
    • This gem when Vinny and Lisa have a huge argument in the middle of the woods.
    Vinny: Lisa, I don't need this. I swear to God, I do not need this right now, OK? I got a judge that's just aching to throw me in jail. An idiot who wants to fight me for $200. Slaughtered pigs. Giant loud whistles. I ain't slept in five days. I got no money. A dress-code problem. And a little murder case which, in the balance, holds the lives of two innocent kids. Not to mention your biological clock, my career, your life, our marriage, and let me see, what else can we pile on? Is there any more shit we can pile on to the top of the outcome of this case?! Is it possible?
    Lisa: ...maybe it was a bad time to bring it up.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Vinny is extremely good at arguing, but very bad at knowing the law. Granted, this is only because the case he's dealing with came up before he could get the chance to arrange to sit in on trials playing out so he could pick up how courtroom procedure works.
  • Chekhov's Gun: This film is loaded with them, to the point that every tiny detail might be one, so you have to pay attention!
    • The crane shot of the boys pulling calmly out of the Sac o' Suds, not leaving tire tracks.
    • Hearing about how long grits have to boil — with the detail that these aren't the instant grits you may be familiar with, but which no self-respecting Southerner would use. These are old-fashioned hominy grits.
    • Vinny's relationship with Judge Malloy in Brooklyn.
    • Vinny mentioning that Lisa knows everything about cars.
    • Vinny's interview montage of the prosecution's witnesses shows each time he zeros in on the pertinent detail.
    • Vinny and Lisa's overly elaborate argument as to whether Lisa failed to turn off a faucet completely or if it was just broken.
    • Lisa's constant picture-snapping and hence, her photograph of the tire-marks left by the murderer's car as it fled the scene.
    • One tire spinning, the other tire motionless, when Vinny and Lisa get stuck in the mud.
  • City Mouse: Vinny and Lisa at first seem to be clueless city slickers, but their New York toughness and wiles eventually save the day.
  • Clear Their Name: Vinny travels here to help acquit his cousin of murder.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: It's a Pesci movie. What did you expect? Lisa actually manages to outdo him, to the point that Vinny complains, "What is it with you and that mouth?" To give you an idea, the movie has no nudity and no violence — but is rated R based solely on this trope's presence.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Vinny, repeatedly, especially in regard to his utter ignorance of court etiquette.
    Vinny: Your Honour, my clients...
    Judge Haller: Don't talk to me sittin' in that chair!
    Vinny: *confused* But he told me to sit here.
  • The Comically Serious: Judge Haller keeps his composure, no matter how ridiculous things get.
  • Contrived Coincidence: An in-universe example that kicks off the trial. Minutes after Stan and Bill leave a convenience store, two similar-looking men, in a similar-looking car, arrive, rob and shoot the clerk, and flee. Three separate witnesses see them arrive, and see the killers leave, but miss everything in between.
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Stan and Bill share a jail cell throughout the film.
  • Corpsing: Stan puts his head down on the table, "sobbing" as his stuttering defense lawyer presents his case. In fact, the actor was trying to hide his laughter. Didn't help that the director was corpsing behind the camera at the same time.
  • Corrupt Hick: All of the New Yorkers assume that they'll be treated unfairly because they're not Good Ol Boys, but their arrest was a genuine misunderstanding based on actual evidence, not malice. Ultimately they're treated fairly by the legal system. By the end, the sheriff helps to prove their innocence and the prosecutor and judge dismiss the charges without argument.
  • Courtroom Antic: The bulk of the movie centers around a murder trial. Notable that the antics that would get a lawyer in trouble do get a lawyer in trouble.
  • The Dead Have Names: Averted in an apparent effort to keep the tone light. The murder victim is only barely discussed and almost always referred to simply as "the clerk," even during the trial for his murder.
    • Anyone who works as a defense lawyer will tell you that this is Truth in Television, as they know referring to a victim by name will make the jury more likely to sympathize with their death and find the defendant guilty.
    • We do see that people knew and liked the victim; a very distraught lady comes in while they're photographing the body, saying "Oh my God, who would do such a thing!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Vinny, Lisa and Judge Haller have their moments of sarcastic humor, such as this:
    Vinny: "At least I'm wearing cowboy boots."
    Lisa: "Oh yeah, you blend."
    Vinny: Your honor, may I have permission to treat Miss Vito as a hostile witness?
    Lisa: Oh, you think I'm hostile now, wait 'til you see me tonight.
    Judge Haller: Excuse me, do you two know each other?
    Vinny: Yeah, she's my fiancée.
    Judge Haller: Well, that certainly explains the hostility.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film starts with Stan and Bill, showing how they got arrested for murder and armed robbery. Once Vinny and Lisa show up, Stan and Bill are largely pushed to the background.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Vinny lies to the judge about his legal experience without ever considering that the judge will actually contact the State of New York to confirm his story.
  • Dissonant Serenity: While in prison, Vinny sleeps like a baby during a riot. It helps that he hasn't had a full night's sleep in about a week.
  • Doomed New Clothes: Downplayed in that Vinny's nice suit gets eventually cleaned, but it does fall in the mud, and forces Vinny to get a costume suit as a quick replacement.
  • Double Take: Most notably Stan when Vinny walks into the courtroom wearing the bright red usher's suit, but also Judge Haller, Bill and presumably most of the court. Pretty much the reaction you'd expect in Real Life, too.
  • Dress Code: Vinny gets in trouble for not wearing a suit for the first couple of sessions.
  • Epic Fail: Vinny has one after another due to his complete ignorance of courtroom etiquette and procedures:
    • Vinny is ruled in Contempt of Court because he fails to correctly give a plea. And this was after the judge had literally spelled out exactly what he had to do.
    • Thinking the judge was only joking when he ordered him to wear a suit and tie in court gets him another night in jail.
    • And a third time when he falls asleep in court, swears during his opening statement, and has a shitty attitude.
  • Facial Dialogue: Fred Gwynne as Judge Haller provides a masterclass in these tropes throughout the film in his exasperated dealings with Vinny.
  • Fish out of Water: New Yorker in the South. He freaks out at the sound of nature, but is fine with a prison riot.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The boys initially assume that they're having the screws put on them for accidentally shoplifting a can of tuna. Subverted in that someone was murdered at the convenience store they had just left, and they're the prime suspects.
  • Foreshadowing: When Stanley meets with the public defender, the man has a very brief and mild stutter. Nothing compared to his severe breakdown in the courtroom.
  • Friendly Enemy: The prosecutor, to the point of taking Vinny hunting and leaving a standing invitation for him after Vinny leaves for New York.
  • Geeky Turn-On: An argument between Vinny and Lisa about obscure wrench knowledge quickly turns into foreplay.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Vinny is taking the case pro bono, but that still doesn't keep him from being fired after screwing up a number of times with the judge.
  • The Ghost: Judge Malloy is mentioned many times as Vinny's mentor and Lisa is seen on the phone with him, but the character is never seen or heard during the entire movie.
  • Good Ol' Boy: Discussed by Vinny: "Hey Stan, you're in Ala-fucking-bama. You come from New York. You killed a good ol' boy. There is no way this is not going to trial!"
  • Guile Hero: Vinny is very good at deductive reasoning, identifying small flaws in what most people think is an open-and-shut case, and forming coherent, logical arguments to convince people of the truth. He's also clearly a talk-first-punch-last kinda guy, despite his cantankerous demeanor.
  • Hanging Judge: Subverted. Judge Haller initially appears this way as he is quite severe and determined to run his courtroom by the book, but he's ultimately fair and honest, except for one occasion where after weeks of dealing with Vinny's antics, he lets his personal animosity get the better of him in what is ultimately a reversible error.note 
  • Hero Antagonist:
    • The prosecuting attorney is actually a really nice, honest servant of the people. He's very friendly with Vinny and even offers his cabin for Vinny and Lisa to stay in. He's also revealed to have left a lucrative private practice because he didn't like defending criminals, and dismisses the charges without argument when it becomes clear that the defendants are innocent.
    • The Judge butts heads with Vinny on a number of occasions, but he's just trying to get him to follow standard court procedures. He's completely and professionally impartialnote  otherwise.
  • Hollywood Law: While this film is for the most part very accurate when it comes to its depiction of the legal process (won an award for it, in fact), there are a few minor embellishments for the sake of the plot.
    • Vinny is licensed to practice law only in the state of New York. In order for him to be able to act as a lawyer in Alabama, a lawyer that can practice in Alabama would need to file a motion (pro hac vice, absurdly standard practice), and be a part of his legal team. But if this happened, there would be no movie.
    • Judge Haller had no legitimate reason to overrule Vinny's objection to Wilbur's testimony. While he can theoretically overrule it, the verdict would almost certainly have been overturned by a higher court simply for this reason, as this shows extreme prejudice against the defendants.
    • A real police line up does not have people that varied in size and color, and if this identification was brought up in court, it would be laughed out vehemently. Moreover, Stan and Bill would not be placed in the same line up, as this increases the probability of a false positive identification.
    • The public defender tries to prove that one of the witnesses has poor eyesight by challenging him to tell him Stan and Billy's eye color from across the room. While not against the rules, it is generally a bad idea to ask open ended questions of this sort, due to the risk of it backfiring and the witness answering correctly (as happens here). Beforehand, Stan even cites this as a reason not to go with Vinny as an attorney. Vinny himself does do this later on in the trial, but gets away with it.
    • It is justified considering Vinny's inexperience, but he had a Plan B available if Lisa refused to testify or was disallowed as an expert witness: given that Vinny is an experienced auto mechanic himself, the rules of court would have allowed himself to take the stand as an expert witness since he had no way of knowing that his own general knowledge of American automobiles would be relevant to the case.
  • How Many Fingers?: Vinny uses this on a witness to test her eyesight. He has to chastise the judge for noting the answer before the witness has a chance to say anything.
    Judge: Let the record show that Counsel is holding up two fingers.
    Vinny: Your Honor, please!
    Judge: Oh. ... Sorry.
  • I Have Brothers: This is how Lisa, who works as a hairstylist, knows virtually everything there is to know about anything related to cars. When she's up in court, she explains to everyone that her family runs an auto repair back in New York, and that her dad, her dad's brothers, and her own brothers all worked as mechanics. Lisa herself actually worked as a mechanic in the business for a while before becoming a hairstylist.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: The maroon three-piece Lounge Lizard style suit Vinny has to wear on the first day of trial, due to his proper suit falling in the mud, there being no one-hour dry cleaner, and the tailor's shop being closed. When the judge first sees Vinny in the suit, he thinks Vinny is mocking his orders to dress properly.
  • Is It Always Like This?: Vinny asks the hotel clerk if the freight train always comes through town at 5:00 in the morning. The clerk says, "No sir, it's very unusual." When the same thing happens the following morning, he goes back to the clerk and says, "Yesterday you told me that freight train hardly ever comes through here at 5:00 am." The clerk nods and replies, "I know. She's supposed to come through at ten after 4:00."
  • It Runs in the Family: As mentioned above, Lisa gained her encyclopedic knowledge of cars from her family of mechanics.
  • It's Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Stan's upset at the mispronunciation of his name. It's -steen not -st-eye-n.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Judge Haller proudly displays his Yale University diploma in his chambers. This contrasts with Vinny's school that no one's ever heard of and sounds a bit fly-by-night ("Is that an accredited school?" "...Yes"). Vinny calls it the "Brooklyn Academy of Law"; in reality, there's only one law school in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Law School. It's fairly obscure, but still well-regarded.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It was wrong of Vinny to freak out at Lisa, (which he realizes almost immediately afterwards) especially since she was just trying to help him, but he's probably right that she should be cutting him a little slack given he's literally half an hour a way from losing the case, being disbarred, and potentially being prosecuted for misrepresenting himself to the judge. Lisa staring at him coldly for being just a little bit curt with her (this was before he had yelled at her) wasn't very fair given the sheer amount of stress he was under at the time.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Judge Haller comes across as extremely cruel and unfair to Vinny and his cohorts until the final scenes of the film where he warms up to them. Justified in that he's trying to run his courtroom correctly, and Vinny keeps acting like a buffoon and not listening to his warnings.
    • Stan. He's snarky, pessimistic and uptight (though that's justified, given he and Bill are charged with murder). Aside from that, he's an everyman who is generally good friends with Bill, even demonstrates a degree of loyalty towards him.
    • Both Vinny and Lisa (especially Vinny) come across as clueless, squabbling, obnoxious city folk who look down at the locals, but are in fact very intelligent, loving, and polite when interacting with most people.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Having Vinny object to the prosecution's Surprise Witness (and for Judge Haller to admit he's correct before overruling him) serves this purpose; allowing that is one of the few violations of real-world courtroom procedure in the movie, but without it the finale wouldn't be as dramatic, so they hang a lampshade on it instead.
  • Large Ham: The prosecutor and Vinny himself. Lisa also has her moments, to the point her actress won an Oscar.
  • Mistaken Confession: There's a fine line between "I shot the clerk?" and "I shot the clerk!". Cultural intonations played for laughs.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lisa wears many flattering and eye-catching outfits throughout the film.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: This exact line is part of one of Lisa's monologues, accentuated by her stamping out the beat to illustrate.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer bizarrely refers to Vinny as the "most dangerous man in America", giving the audience the impression that he's some kind of mobster.
  • Newhart Phonecall: Bill has one early on, explaining to his mother that he and Stan have been arrested for murder.
  • Nice Guy: The prosecutor reveals himself to be this as the film progresses, as he spends the whole movie being kind and helpful to the heroes, to the point of dropping the charge without hesitation in the end.
  • No Antagonist: The judge perhaps acts as an antagonist, but there's certainly no true villain in the movie; Vinny, the judge, and the prosecutor are all looking for justice, and when it becomes clear the boys are innocent, the prosecutor immediately drops the charges.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: An in-universe example. Bill's unbelieving question "I shot the clerk?" is taken as a confession and turned into a statement of fact when it's read out in court.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The reaction of the public defender when his questioning of Mr. Tipton only serves to make the boys look more guilty.note 
    • The response of Trotter when Lisa answers his trick question perfectly.
    • Bill has a delayed reaction version when he realizes that he's been arrested for murder instead of shoplifting.
    • Bill and Stan when Lisa, on the stand, announces, "The defense is wrong." Subverted immediately when she proves that the car that drove away from the store right after the murder was a 1963 Pontiac Tempest, not their car, a '64 Buick Skylark.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Subverted. Vinny is a personal injury lawyer who gets called on for a murder trial. He goes through with it anyway (not without complaints) and he still had to fool the judge into thinking he was experienced enough for the trial despite being a completely new attorney.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Happens to the defendants twice.
    • Firstly, they think they're confessing to shoplifting, when they're being asked about a murder, which leads to the Mistaken Confession.
    • Secondly, Vinny tells Stan about their case, but Stan thinks Vinny is going to Prison Rape him free of charge.
  • One-Hit KO: How Vinny's $200 bet is ultimately resolved.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Vinny and Lisa have a very serious conversation, no snark, no arguing, about how he (a New York tough guy) is really scared about the trial, and Lisa gives him comfort and love.
  • Pet the Dog: After they win the case, Stan owns up that he shouldn't have doubted Vinny for a moment and joyfully thanks him for all his help. This is meaningful when one considers how snarky and pessimistic Stan normally is.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Vinny's fairly short (Joe Pesci's 5'4" in height), but manages to beat up a stingy redneck who was easily twice his size.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Vinny's cousin and his friend are first arrested, they end up digging themselves deeper as they answer the police's questions while simply assuming they were being arrested for shoplifting, and the police never even mention to the two why they were arrested until well into the process.
  • Prison Rape: A brief conversation about this between Stan and Bill leads to a little awkwardness for Stan when Vinny first shows up, as Stan assumes he's another inmate rather than their attorney.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    Judge: Now, the next words out of your mouth are either going to be "guilty" or "not guilty". I don't want to hear commentary, argument, or opinion. If I hear anything other than "guilty" or "not guilty", you'll be in contempt. I don't even want to hear you clear your throat. Now. How. Do. Your clients. Plead?
    Judge: No, I don't think you do. You're now in contempt of court. Would you like to go for two counts of contempt?
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Sheriff Farley, while not really a "villain," does believe the boys are guilty and repeats Bill's statement as if it was an admission of guilt, not the questioning tone actually used. Later, he confirms that the car used wasn't the guys', corroborating Lisa's testimony, without having heard it.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Lisa complaining about her biological clock inspires a bout of Brooklyn Rage from Vinny.
  • Reality Ensues: As a courtroom comedy that tries to be accurate on the legal side, this is a given:
    • Making statements to police officers without your lawyer present can easily get you charged with a crime, though in their defense, the guys thought they were discussing a shoplifting charge - a misdemeanor at worst.
    • Vinny lies about his history as an attorney (or lack thereof) to Judge Haller. Of course, Vinny, lacking any real experience, would never think he would contact the State of New York to review his history. Wrong.
    • Vinny's antics in the courtroom get him found in contempt of court, and send him directly to jail. Three times.
    • Mona Lisa mentions that having to bail Vinny out of jail is wiping out their budget.
    • Vinny comes up with a reasonable objection to the judge considering that he's had no time to interview this surprise witness and wants it thrown out. The judge understands and overrules against Vinny. Any lawyer can tell you that not every judge is fair and unbiased and can easily have a case hit a wall if the judge is an asshole.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Judge Haller is a by-the-book judge who is exasperated by Vinny's lack of courtroom etiquette, but aside from one instance, is fair and impartial when Vinny does start following proper courtroom procedures.
      • The look on his face, after Lisa's testimony that the boys' car couldn't have been the getaway vehicle, George Wilbur's confirmation of such, and Sheriff Farley's report of a similar car with the right abilities (with look-a-like drivers, and a matching murder weapon), shows him about to say, "Mr. Trotter, if you don't dismiss the charges, I will."
    • The prosecutor himself is trying to have Stan and Bill locked up, but only because he truly believes they are guilty, with all the damning evidence. When his case is completely eroded, he moves to dismiss all charges. He also invites Vinny to spend time in his cabin.
    • The sheriff believes the boys are guilty, but agrees to check out a hunch on Vinny's behalf, which leads to the real culprits being found.
  • Rule of Funny: No, Screech Owls do not sound like that, though they can be pretty loud.
  • Running Gag:
    • Vinny getting thrown in jail for contempt of court.
    • Vinny and Lisa's repeated inability to get a good night's sleep, due to the train running through town or the factory whistles or the pigs being readied for slaughter. Vinny finally feels at home while sleeping in jail during a riot.
    • The guy who keeps showing up challenging Vinny to a fight for the owed money.
    • The judge's efforts to find out Vinny's real legal background.
  • Sherlock Scan: How Lisa (and presumably Vinny) realize that the car driven by the real killers isn't of the same make as the car driven by the protagonists, simply by examining a picture of the tire marks it left.
    Lisa: Would you like me to explain it?
    Judge: So would I.
  • Shown Their Work: The film's depiction of the legal process is very accurate. The director has a law degree and insisted the courtroom scenes be how real cases are presented. The movie is ranked #3 by the American Bar Association's ranking of 25 greatest legal movies (just behind To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men, respectively). Even a court reporter is present, who sits right behind the prosecutor during several scenes scribbling on a flip-up notepad and looking very excited.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: An inversion. In this film, the Southern lawyers are better educated and far more erudite than Vinny, who is from New York City.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Surprisingly not Joe Pesci, who does swear, but not so much as you'd expect. Mona Lisa is actually the one who earns the title.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Vinny and Lisa. They seem to prefer it that way.
  • Sleep Deprivation: A recurring gag throughout the film is that City Mouse Vinny (and Lisa) can't get a good night's sleep due being unfamiliar with a noise of mostly rural small Southern town. The first two places they stay they get woken up incredibly early (by a pig farmer, and early train). The prosecution attorney loans them his cabin in the woods, but the sounds of animals keep them awake. It gets the point where the third time he's held in contempt of court, he refuses to let Lisa bail him out, hoping to finally get some rest. The scene cuts to a riot going on, with Vinny sound asleep as it reminds him of home. The next scene he's looking well-rested and chipper in court.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very far on the idealistic scale. Characters make mistakes and act like jerks sometimes (particularly Vinny), and a few are outright jerkasses (like the redneck bullies at the bar), but generally everyone is presented well. There is No Antagonist and everyone conducts the trial in good faith. The witnesses all tell the truth as they know it, and when they realize they've made a mistake, they are quick to admit it. Ditto the judge and prosecutor, to the point that the prosecutor drops all charges when it becomes apparent that the boys are innocent.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Judge Haller has a chess board in his chambers, presumably playing a long game with a friend or just studying set ups.
  • Smoking Gun:
    • Lisa's photos of the tire tracks.
    • Almost literal, but offscreen. The final nail in the coffin for the prosecution is the sheriff revealing that a gun matching the caliber that killed the clerk was found in a stolen car matching the description Lisa gave, driven by two men matching Bill and Stan's description.
  • Snobs Versus Slobs: There's a bit of this in the clash between Vinny the working-class Brooklyn mook vs. the Southern prosecutor and judge, who are genteel and well-educated.
  • Southern Gentleman: Once Mona makes it clear that she is more than just a pretty face helping out her fiancee with her extensive knowledge of automobiles, Judge Haller turns into this, almost escorting her off the stand.
  • Speech Impediment: The state defense attorney that Stan wants to hire has one. Normally it doesn't show, but when he is under pressure, he stammers with a ridiculous frequency.
  • Starter Villain: Downplayed in that the murder case is a relatively easy one with inept police practices, basic legal procedures like evidence disclosure, and obviously unreliable witnesses that an experienced defense attorney could have dealt with quickly. However, for Vinny, it is a challenge for a beginner like him who had to take the bar exam six times with he and his girlfriend's in depth knowledge of American automobiles being their special edge in that case.
  • Surprise Witness: Lisa, who was called in to rebut the Prosecutor's Surprise Witness, Mr. Wilbur.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: While a few stereotypical rednecks pop up—basically, the two guys who shouldn't play pool with a girl from Brooklyn—most of the Southerners are portrayed as honest and likable folks.
  • Tacky Tuxedo: When Vinny's good suit has to get dry cleaned, the only suit he can find in time is one of these (an old-fashioned usher's suit, in burgundy). The judge thinks Vinny is mocking him when he first sees the suit.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Brought up at the end of the movie, where Vinny briefly sulks about being unable to solve his first case himself. Lisa brings him out of it in fairly short order, though.
  • Title Drop:
    "There's a lawyer in the family!"
    "Who?"
    "My cousin Vinny!"
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Tough-as-nails, argumentative Wrench Wench Lisa who is also a fashionista hairdresser.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Bill stocks up on cans of tuna for his and Stan's trip to college.
    • Lisa mentions Chinese food when she and Vinny arrive in Alabama.
    • And, of course, Southerners love their grits (this is absolutely Truth in Television).
  • Turn the Other Fist: On the third encounter with the Big Pool Player who owes Lisa $200, Vinny is distracted and in a hurry, and waves the guy off as he, the Alabaman, taunts the New Yorker with the $200. Waves him off, waves him away, tackle. Vinny gets back up $200 richer hardly breaking his stride.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Joe Pesci isn't exactly a looker, but he's with someone as good looking as Marisa Tomei.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Lisa, who practically rocks one outfit for each scene.
  • Unishment: You'd think getting sent to jail for contempt of court would be unpleasant for Vinny, but it lets him have a good night's sleep for the first time since he came to Alabama.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: The movie's tagline, as seen on the poster above. "There have been many courtroom dramas that have glorified The Great American Legal System. This is not one of them." Nevertheless, the film gained a lot of acclaim, even from the American Bar Association, for being more fair and accurate about the American Legal System than most movies, even the more serious ones.
  • Wham Line: "No. The defense is wrong!"
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Inverted example, in which Vinny lists the many burdens that have nearly driven him to the breaking point.
    “I got a judge that’s just aching to throw me in jail. An idiot who wants to fight me for $200. Slaughtered pigs. Giant loud whistles. I ain’t slept in five days. I got no money, a dress code problem, and a little murder case, which, in the balance, holds the lives of two innocent kids. Not to mention your <<stomp, stomp, stomp>> biological clocknote . My career! Your life! Our marriage! And let me see, what else can we pile on? Is there any more shit we can pile on to the top of the outcome of this case?! Is it possible?!”
  • Wrench Wench: Lisa, whose extensive knowledge of automobiles becomes a crucial plot point later in the movie.

 
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The Stuttering Lawyer

Gibbons cannot get through his opening statement without stuttering.

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