Our favorite judges from popular culture
People's Court

Our favorite judges from popular culture

It’s always a good idea to use good judgment. That’s also true when it comes to the pop culture and entertainment we consume. Some of it involves, well, judges. There are real judges, fictional judges, you name it. We decided to run the gamut of judges on TV and in film to deliver a list of some of our all-time favorites. If we had a gavel, we’d bang it to call everyone to order, but hopefully, you’ll pay attention and give this a read anyway.

 
1 of 20

Judge Judy

Judge Judy
Getty Images/Getty Images for Children's Diabetes Foundation

Yes, Judy Sheindlin was a TV judge, but she was also very much a real judge. On her show “Judge Judy” she tackled real cases with a no-nonsense attitude and an abundance of colloquialisms. Her show aired from 1996 all the way until 2021. It won her not just Emmys, but a spot in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as well.

 
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Judge Wapner

Judge Wapner
Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Before there was Judge Judy, there was Judge Wapner. Joseph Wapner was the first presiding judge on “The People’s Court,” a role he held from 1981 through 1993. He became a piece of the cultural landscape forever when he was name-checked in “Rain Man.”

 
3 of 20

Judge Mills Lane

Judge Mills Lane
SCOTT NELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Mills Lane was a judge, but he was so much more. Lane may be better known as a boxing referee, and he’s actually in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He also refereed the fights on “Celebrity Death Match,” perhaps the greatest honor of them all.

 
4 of 20

Judge Joe Brown

Judge Joe Brown
Jesse Grant/WireImage

Brown one-upped Wapner and Judy by getting his full name into the name of his show. “Judge Joe Brown” aired for 15 seasons and over 3,000 episodes. Sometimes other judges were on his syndicated show that made him a wealthy man, but it was also “Judge Joe Brown.”

 
5 of 20

Lance Ito

Lance Ito
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

The judges we’ve named so far became famous for being judges on TV shows. It was all a show, and the cases usually weren’t that serious. Judge Ito, though, had fame thrust upon him. He happened to be the judge assigned to the trial of O.J. Simpson when it took over the news media, and media in general. Ito became a source of parody and humor. And yet, he never decided to become a TV judge himself.

 
6 of 20

Harry T. Stone

Harry T. Stone
NBC

We now move into the land of fiction. The court at the center of “Night Court” was presided over by the not-so-honorable Harry T. Stone. Played by Harry Anderson, Judge Stone is at the center of a sitcom that got increasingly absurd as time went on. John Larroquette may have won four Emmys for the show to Anderson’s zero, but there is no “Night Court” without Harry.

 
7 of 20

Judge Snyder

Judge Snyder
FOX

The Simpson family ends up in court quite often. Usually, it’s with Lionel Hutz as their attorney, which never bodes well. Usually presiding over cases in Springfield is Judge Snyder. Snyder seems pretty stern, but he has been known to favor the ruling of “boys will be boys” from time to time.

 
8 of 20

Phil Banks

Phil Banks
NBC

In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Will Smith moves from West Philadelphia to the titular ritzy neighborhood, where he lives with his Uncle Phil and his Aunt Vivian. How do the Banks have so much money? Well, Phil makes his living as a judge. We don’t spend much time with him as a judge, but Uncle Phil is a beloved character to many.

 
9 of 20

Judge Doom

Judge Doom
Disney, Touchstone

So far, we’ve been dealing with either likable characters or neutral individuals. Now we get to a straight-up villain. Judge Doom rules Toon Town with an iron hand in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” That dude is not afraid to use “The Dip” for his nefarious ends, which is mostly to put a highway through the town he presides over. Christopher Lloyd is having a ton of fun chewing the scenery as the (spoiler) secret toon.

 
10 of 20

Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd
Buena Vista Pictures

Simply put, he is the law. Dredd serves, literally, as judge, jury, and executioner. That’s true in the comics and in both film versions. One time he was played by Sylvester Stallone. The other time he is played by Karl Urban in an even grimier version of the story. Dredd is not a judge you want on your case.

 
11 of 20

Dolores Umbridge

Dolores Umbridge
Warner Bros.

The overarching villain of the world of “Harry Potter” is Voldemort, of course. However, there are other villains dotting the landscape, and that includes Umbridge. Granted, she’s technically the “High Inquisitor” of the Ministry of Magic, a role she is corrupt within, but that’s just a wizarding world word for a judge. She certainly counts on our list.

 
12 of 20

Claude Frollo

Claude Frollo
Disney

Frollo is both a judge and the antagonist of “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” That’s true in all the versions, including the Disney version. He’s a very religious man, or at the very least he uses religion as a means to the end in his often evil plans. In the Disney version, he’s voiced by Tony Jay, who compared his performance to Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs.”

 
13 of 20

Amy Gray

Amy Gray
CBS

Maybe you never watched “Judging Amy,” even though it aired for six seasons and 138 episodes on CBS. That title has a double meaning. Amy Gray is a judge in Hartford, Connecticut in this legal drama that falls in the same grouping as shows like “NCIS” that you know people are watching, but you don’t know any of them.

 
14 of 20

Judge Stephen Wexler

Judge Stephen Wexler
Sony

Look, is Judge Wexler in “Ghostbusters II” all that long? We can’t say he is. However, “The Hammer” makes quite the impact in his brief time on screen. Not only does he yell at the Ghostbusters, but he brings on the wrath of the Scoleri brothers, the ghosts of two guys he gave the chair.

 
15 of 20

Joseph Palmer

Joseph Palmer
Warner Bros.

Look, maybe you haven’t seen “The Judge.” Still, it’s literally called “The Judge.” How could we not include the judge from a movie called “The Judge.” That goes double when he’s played by the legendary Robert Duvall. Duvall got nominated for an Oscar for his performance, so plenty of people enjoyed his worth as Judge Palmer.

 
16 of 20

Judge Haller

Judge Haller
20th Century Fox

Speaking of Oscars, Marisa Tomei won one for her role in “My Cousin Vinny.” Joe Pesci also makes a big impact on that film. We can’t overlook the judge of the case, though. Judge Haller is a no-nonsense sort, which isn’t great for Vinny. It helps that he was played by Fred Gwynne, aka Herman Munster.

 
17 of 20

Judge Roy Bean

Judge Roy Bean
National General Pictures

Roy Bean was a real person, an Old West judge who called himself “The Only Law West of the Pecos.” He has been a character in a few movies and TV shows, though. Walter Brennan won an Oscar for playing Bean in “The Westerner,” and he was played by Paul Newman in “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.”

 
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Judge Reinhold

Judge Reinhold
Paramount

Hey, he’s a pop culture Judge! You can’t argue with that. Also, he plays a judge in one episode of “Arrested Development.” Well, Reinhold plays himself getting a TV show within the show where he is a judge. It’s called “Mock Trial with J. Reinhold.” He thought the whole “TV judge named Judge” thing was too on the nose.

 
19 of 20

Mike Judge

Mike Judge
20th Century Fox

Another person named Judge makes the list. Mike Judge has had a huge impact on pop culture. He’s responsible for “Beavis & Butthead,” “King of the Hill,” “Silicon Valley,” and more. Oh, and let’s not forget the cult classic “Office Space.”

 
20 of 20

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge
Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge could probably hit a home run with a gavel if he really wanted to. The New York Yankees slugger has been a force since he hit over 50 home runs as a rookie. By the way, some Yankees fans dress like judges in order to support Judge. It all comes together in the end.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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