My Cousin Vinny
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My Cousin Vinny is a 1992 American comedy film directed by Jonathan Lynn, and written by Dale Launer, who also produced with Paul Schiff. The film stars Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei, Mitchell Whitfield, Lane Smith, Bruce McGill, and Fred Gwynne (in his final film appearance). The film was distributed by 20th Century Fox and released on March 13, 1992.

Two young New Yorkers traveling through rural Alabama are arrested and put on trial for a murder they did not commit, and a cousin, Vinny Gambini, a lawyer who had only recently passed the bar exam after five unsuccessful attempts, defends them. Much of the humor comes from the fish-out-of-water interaction between the brash Italian-American New Yorkers (Vinny and his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito) and the more reserved Southern townspeople. The principal location of filming was Monticello, Georgia.

My Cousin Vinny was a critical and financial success, with Pesci, Gwynne, and Tomei praised for their performances. Tomei won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Attorneys have also lauded the film for its accurate depiction of criminal procedure and trial strategy.


Driving through Alabama in their metallic mint-green 1964 Buick Skylark convertible, Bill Gambini and Stan Rothenstein, college students from New York who just got scholarships to UCLA, shop at a Sac-O-Suds convenience store and accidentally shoplift a can of tuna. After they leave, the store clerk is robbed and killed, and Bill and Stan are arrested for the murder. Due to circumstantial evidence and a confession to the shoplifting that is misconstrued as one to the shooting, Bill is charged with first-degree murder, and Stan as an accessory. Bill s mother reminds him there is an attorney in the family: his cousin Vinny Gambini. Vinny travels to Alabama, accompanied by his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito. Although willing to take the case, Vinny is a personal injury lawyer from Brooklyn, newly admitted to the bar and with no trial experience.

Vinny manages to fool the trial judge, Chamberlain Haller, that he is experienced enough for the case. His ignorance of basic courtroom procedures and dress code, and his abrasive attitude, cause the judge to repeatedly hold him in contempt. Much to his clients consternation, Vinny does not cross-examine any of the witnesses in the preliminary hearing. Except for lack of a murder weapon, it appears that the district attorney, Jim Trotter III, has a strong case. After Vinny s poor showing at the hearing, Stan fires him and uses the public defender, John Gibbons, and nearly convinces Bill to do the same. But in questioning the first witness, the public defender turns out to be extremely nervous, with a severe stutter, and his line of questioning actually assists the prosecution s case.

Despite his missteps, Vinny makes up for his inexperience with an aggressive and perceptive questioning style. When he cross-examines the first witness, he uses his newfound knowledge of the cooking time of grits to force him to admit that his perception of time may have been inaccurate, meaning he cannot corroborate the prosecution s timeline, and Bill and Stan s faith is restored. Stan fires the public defender and rehires Vinny, who proceeds to discredit the next two witnesses by questioning their ability to make a positive identification due to obstructions in their sightline and impaired vision.

On the trial s third day, Trotter produces a surprise witness, FBI analyst George Wilbur. Vinny immediately objects to the witness as Trotter failed to inform him properly ahead of time, but Haller overrules the objection. Wilbur testifies that the pattern and chemical analysis of the tire marks left at the crime scene are identical to the tires on Bill s Buick; in cross-examination Wilbur admits the tires on Bill s car are the most popular tires in America. Haller orders a lunch recess after Wilbur s testimony. Vinny asks for a full day s continuance to properly prepare for cross-examination, but Haller denies the request. With only the lunch recess to prepare and unable to come up with a strong line of questioning, Vinny lashes out at Lisa, but then realizes that one of her photos holds the key to the case: the flat and even tire marks going over the curb reveal that Bill s car could not have been used for the getaway.

After requesting a records search from the local sheriff, Vinny drags an angry Lisa into court to testify as an expert witness, since she comes from a family of auto mechanics and has an encyclopedic knowledge of cars. During Vinny s questioning, Lisa testifies that only a car with an independent rear suspension and Positraction could have made the tire marks, which rules out Bill s 1964 Buick Skylark. One model of car with these features is the similar-looking 1963 Pontiac Tempest, and because both Buick and Pontiac are owned by GM, the Pontiac Tempest was also available in metallic mint-green. Vinny recalls Wilbur, who confirms this information, effectively discrediting his own testimony. He then recalls the local sheriff, who testifies that two men who fit Bill and Stan s descriptions were just arrested in Georgia for driving a stolen metallic mint green Pontiac Tempest equipped with the same tires as Bill s car, and were in possession of a .357 magnum revolver which was the gun of the same caliber used to kill the clerk. After Vinny rests for the defense, Trotter dismisses all charges. The judge congratulates Vinny and, as they drive away, Vinny and Lisa bicker about their wedding plans.


  • Joe Pesci as Vinny Gambini
  • Ralph Macchio as Bill Gambini
  • Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito
  • Mitchell Whitfield as Stan Rothenstein
  • Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain Haller
  • Lane Smith as Jim Trotter III
  • Austin Pendleton as John Gibbons
  • Bruce McGill as Sheriff Dean Farley
  • Maury Chaykin as Sam Tipton
  • Paulene Myers as Constance Riley
  • Raynor Scheine as Ernie Crane
  • James Rebhorn as George Wilbur
  • Chris Ellis as J.T.
  • Michael Simpson as Neckbrace
  • Lou Walker as Grits Cook
  • Kenny Jones as Jimmy Willis


Screenwriter Dale Launer came up with the idea for My Cousin Vinny as a college student, after hearing about a lawyer who had finally passed the bar after their 13th attempt. Launer thought it would be funny to have someone traveling through the Southern United States run into legal trouble and end up being represented by that type of lawyer. Launer did not develop the concept until after he had written a few successful screenplays including Ruthless People and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He was inspired by the comedy of Sam Kinison, particularly his approach with hecklers, in developing Vinny, and he based the relationship between Vinny and his fiancée on two dating friends who would argue frequently. Launer also took a road trip through the south in which he got stuck in the mud and had repairs to fix his car, which became part of the script. He met an assistant district attorney who became the basis of the character of Jim Trotter, including casting Lane Smith for the role. He spent several sessions with an attorney to review the process of legal trials, and learned from him that much of criminal court proceedings aren t taught in law school but come from practice, which worked well to serve for Vinny s character.

For casting, the studio originally wanted Andrew Dice Clay for Vinny, but this did not work out. Other considerations included Danny DeVito, Peter Falk, Robert De Niro, and Jim Belushi, but save for De Niro, none of these were the Italian American they were looking for. They eventually went with Joe Pesci, who had just finished Lethal Weapon 2 and was finishing filming in Goodfellas, and was an ideal choice for the role. For Mona Lisa, they had approached Lorraine Bracco and Carole Davis, but both had passed. Director Jonathan Lynn auditioned several other actresses without luck, but found Marisa Tomei when he was invited to the set of Oscar by John Landis, where Tomei had a minor part. While Fox wanted an actress with more fame, they agreed to Tomei. Ben Stiller and Will Smith were considered for the roles of Bill and Stan, but in both cases, there was concern related to the incarceration of a Jewish and Black person in the South, and went with Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield instead.

Exterior filming was done near the town of Greensboro, Georgia, as to keep the film authentic to the South; the courthouse scenes were shot in a set in Covington, Georgia, the same set used for In the Heat of the Night.


My Cousin Vinny was released in the United States on March 13, 1992.


Box office

With a budget of $11 million, My Cousin Vinny was more successful than anticipated, grossing $52,929,168 domestically and $11,159,384 internationally, bringing its overall worldwide total to $64,088,552.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 87%, based on 60 reviews. The site s consensus reads, The deft comic interplay between Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei helps to elevate My Cousin Vinny s predictable script, and the result is a sharp, hilarious courtroom comedy. On Metacritic the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on reviews from 23 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of A- on an A+ to F scale.

Roger Ebert of The Chicago-Sun Times gave My Cousin Vinny 2.5 stars out of a possible 4. He declared that despite Macchio s co-star billing the actor was given little to do, and the film seemed adrift until lightning strikes with the final courtroom scenes when Gwynne, Pesci and Tomei all gave humorous performances.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei Nominated
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Won
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Joe Pesci Won
Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Marisa Tomei Nominated
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Fred Gwynne Nominated
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role Marisa Tomei Won
Best Original Screenplay Dale Launer Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei Nominated
Most Promising Actress Marisa Tomei (also for Chaplin) Won
MTV Movie Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Marisa Tomei Won
Best Comedic Performance Joe Pesci Nominated

Continuing reputation

Despite the good-but-not-great reviews at time of release, My Cousin Vinny is generally considered to have held up as one of the most remembered and watched movies of 1992. The movie performed well in home video sales and rentals (originally VHS, and eventually DVD) and received frequent play on cable television. The film s catchier quotes became well-known as well.

One element that aged somewhat awkwardly was Austin Pendleton s role as a stuttering and ineffective public defender. Pendleton suffered from stuttering in his childhood before overcoming it, and did not enjoy dredging up bad memories from his teenage years during filming, nor being associated in the public eye with the character afterward. He said that he felt the role nearly ended his career in a 2022 interview, and after receiving angry letters from stutterers, said he regretted agreeing to perform the role at all. Casting director David Rubin said that Pendleton s scenes, while funny, probably would have been changed significantly in a newer movie.

Legal accuracy

Director Jonathan Lynn has a law degree from Cambridge University, and lawyers have praised the accuracy of My Cousin Vinny s depiction of courtroom procedure and trial strategy, with one stating that he movie is close to reality even in its details. Part of why the film has such staying power among lawyers is because, unlike, say, A Few Good Men, everything that happens in the movie could happen—and often does happen—at trial . One legal textbook discusses the film in detail as an entertaining extremely helpful introduction to the art of presenting expert witnesses at trial for both beginning experts and litigators ; furthermore, criminal defenders, law professors, and other lawyers use the film to demonstrate rules of evidence, voir dire, relevance, and cross examination.

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge Richard Posner praised My Cousin Vinny as being:

particularly rich in practice tips: how a criminal defense lawyer must stand his ground against a hostile judge, even at the cost of exasperating the judge, because the lawyer s primary audience is the jury, not the judge; how cross-examination on peripheral matters can sow serious doubts about a witness s credibility; how props can be used effectively in cross-examination (the tape measure that demolishes one of the prosecution s eyewitnesses); how to voir dire, examine, and cross-examine expert witnesses; the importance of the Brady doctrine … how to dress for a trial; contrasting methods of conducting a jury trial; and more.

In Ten Things Every Trial Lawyer Could Learn From Vincent La Guardia Gambini , District of South Carolina judge Joseph F. Anderson praised Vinny s courtroom methods as a textbook example of Irving Younger s Ten Commandments of Cross-Examination , and wrote that the film predicted Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael (1999) s ruling on the Daubert standard. He concluded that Lynn and scriptwriter Dale Launer have given our profession a wonderful teaching tool while producing a gem of a movie that gives the public at large renewed faith in the common law trial and the adversarial system as the best way to determine the truth and achieve justice . In a 2019 decision Merrick Garland, then the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, wrote In 1992, Vincent Gambini taught a master class in cross-examination. , and further extensively quoted from a cross-examination scene in the film.

John Marshall Law School professor Alberto Bernabe wrote that Vinny is terrible at the things we do teach in law school, but very good at the things we don t :

interview clients, to gather facts, to prepare a theory of a case, to negotiate, to know when to ask a question and when to remain quiet, to cross examine a witness forcefully (but with charm) in order to expose the weaknesses in their testimony

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited My Cousin Vinny as an example of the principle that a client can choose his own lawyer, but United States Senator John Kennedy told District Court nominee Matthew S. Petersen that having seen the film did not qualify one to be a federal judge during a disastrous 2017 hearing when Petersen could not answer basic legal questions. The authors of Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (2006) gave the film its highest rating along with several films based on real trials, such as Judgment at Nuremberg and Breaker Morant. In 2008 the ABA Journal ranked the film #3 on its list of the 25 Greatest Legal Movies , and in 2010 ranked Pesci s character as #12 on its list of The 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers (Who Are Not Atticus Finch) .

Lynn, an opponent of capital punishment, believes that the film expresses an anti-death penalty message without preaching to people , and demonstrates the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. Lawyers find the film appealing, according to the director, because there aren t any bad guys , with the judge, prosecutor, and Vinny all seeking justice. Lynn stated that both he and Launer attempted to accurately depict the legal process in Vinny, favorably comparing it to Trial and Error, for which he could not make what he believed were necessary changes.


Proposed film

In an interview on March 14, 2012, the film s screenwriter, Dale Launer, talked about a sequel he had written involving Vinny Gambini practicing law in England. Marisa Tomei dropped out. The studio hired another screenwriter to rework the script without Tomei s character. Eventually, the project was shelved.

Novel series

In 2017, author Lawrence Kelter began a My Cousin Vinny novel series with Back to Brooklyn, which is intended to be in the spirit of The Thin Man series. With the setting updated to contemporary times, the series depicts the further cases of Vinny Gambini with Mona Lisa operating as his investigator. After additionally writing a novelization of My Cousin Vinny alongside the first sequel, a third book, titled Wing and a Prayer, was published in August 2020.


Pesci reprised the Vinny Gambini character for his 1998 album Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You, which contains the song Yo, Cousin Vinny . The album cover portrays Pesci in a red suit similar to the usher suit he wore in the film.

Year 1992
ReleaseDate 1992-03-13
RuntimeMins 120
RuntimeStr 2h
Plot Two New Yorkers accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college call in the help of one of their cousins, a loudmouth lawyer with no trial experience.
Awards Won 1 Oscar, 5 wins & 6 nominations total
Directors Jonathan Lynn
Writers Dale Launer
Stars Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio
Produced by Dale Launer,Paul Schiff
Music by Randy Edelman
Cinematography by Peter Deming
Film Editing by Tony Lombardo,Stephen E. Rivkin
Casting By David Rubin
Production Design by Victoria Paul
Art Direction by Michael Rizzo,Rando Schmook
Set Decoration by Michael Seirton
Costume Design by Carol Wood
Makeup Department Roseanne Griffith,James Sarzotti,Anthony Sorrentino,Carmen Willis
Production Management Leslie A. Leitner,Mary McLaglen
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Frank Capra III,Jeffrey Wetzel
Art Department Bob Baker,Emilio Biasucci,Cheri Candido,Howard J. Clark,Jeff Cleary,Michael S. Day,Ron Edwards,Carl Kyle F.,Andrés Gutiérrez,Betsy Holland,Jackie Johnson,Tony Kupersmith,Lisa Lawes,George A. Lee,Alba Leone,Scott E. Lowes,Alisa Lumbreras,Patrick McCartin,Joseph Ott,James F. Oñate,Fernando Paulete,Bob Renna,Burges Richardson,Angela Riserbato,Julia Starr Sanford,Larry C. Shepard,James T. Short,Michael P. Short,Stuart Skrien,Lee Smith,Terry J. Smith,Wendy Smith,Brian Stultz,Carlton W. Thompson Jr.,David Tupper,James Whiting,Jeff Wuesthoff,Karen Young,Tony Zupa,Woody Thompson
Sound Department Robert J. Anderson Jr.,Gregg Barbanell,David Behle,Odin Benitez,Gaston Biraben,C.T.W.,Pud Cusack,Robert Fitzgerald,Jeremy J. Gordon,Douglas Greenfield,Kevin Hearst,Alfred G. Heath,Michael Hilkene,Ken J. Johnson,Jack Keller,Eric Lindemann,Robert J. Litt,Sarah Monat,Frank A. Montaño,Whit Norris,Mark Rathaus,Greg P. Russell,Wolf Schmidt,Thomas W. Small,Mark A. Tracy,Elliot Tyson,James Bryan,Richard Dwan Jr.,John Soukup
Special Effects by Dick Cross
Stunts Roy Farfel,Gene Hartline
Camera and Electrical Department Robert Adams,Glenn Ballard,Allen Barnwell,Peter Bennett Beal,Leonard Bishop,Lucius Bonneson,Scott Browner,Steve Cohagan,R.L. Critters,Ben Glass,Kevin Hamm,Kimman Harmon,Amy Hobby,Darryl Humber,Jerry Lee,Scott Porterfield,Michael E. Satrazemis,William J. Taylor,Chip Turner,Dudley J. Voll,Rick A. West,Daniel Aguar,Scott Browner,Robert K. Feldmann,Jeff Funderburk,Larry McConkey,Greg Morse
Casting Department Shay Griffin,Barbara Harris,Len Hunt,Rachel Minster,Debra Zane,Kenneth Chamitoff
Costume and Wardrobe Department Robin Keller,Daryl Kerrigan,Ann Miller
Editorial Department Sharma Bennett,Gary Burritt,Tina Elfstrand,Adam C. Frank,Christopher Kroll,Mike Milliken,Steve Schoenberg
Location Management Scott Elias,J. Bradley Smith
Music Department Elton Ahi,François Blaignan,Gustavo Borner,Kathy Durning,Dino Herrmann,Jill Meyers,Cybele O’Brien,Joel Sill,Scott Stambler,Tom Boyd,Randy Edelman,Ralph Ferraro,Jim Hoffman,Irl Sanders,James Thatcher
Script and Continuity Department Susan Bierbaum
Transportation Department C.P. ‘Pop’ Cook,Fredna Cook,Ray Cook,Sandra Cook,Neil Edwards,Scott Edwards,Bob Foster,William Gillespie,Billy Harris,Michael Horton,Chris Johnson,Joel Key,Cecil Little,Fred Pope Jr.,Martha Pruette,Ron Pruette,Ted Robinson,Oranz Walker
Additional Crew James Brandon,Randi Chernov,Michael Day,Tina Elfstrand,Jon Fitzgerald,Chris Furia,Nicole Furia,Susan Genard,Julie Hartley,Bryan Hudson,Doug Knoll,Adena Lazan,Patrick McDill,Elizabeth Morin,Liz Schlick,Sarah Shields,L. David Silva,Susan Steinlauf-Pascal,Linda Ann Upton,Albert B. Cooper IV,Riley Kathryn Ellis,Rodney Liber
Thanks Len Levine
Genres Comedy, Crime
Companies Twentieth Century Fox, Peter V. Miller Investment Corp., Dale Launer Production
Countries USA
Languages English
ContentRating R
ImDbRating 7.6
ImDbRatingVotes 124352
MetacriticRating 68
Keywords lawyer,trial,italian american,alabama,jail