The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Official release poster
Directed byAaron Sorkin
Produced by
  • Stuart M. Besser
  • Matt Jackson
  • Marc Platt
  • Tyler Thompson
Written byAaron Sorkin
Music byDaniel Pemberton
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Edited byAlan Baumgarten
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • September 25, 2020 (2020-09-25) (United States)
Running time
130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[1]
Box office$104,048[2][3]

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a 2020 American historical legal drama film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The film follows the Chicago Seven, a group of anti–Vietnam War protesters charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It features an ensemble cast that includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong.

Sorkin originally wrote the screenplay in 2007, with the intent of Steven Spielberg directing the film with mostly unknown actors. After the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike and budget concerns forced Spielberg to drop out as director, Sorkin was announced as director in October 2018, and much of the cast joined that same month.[4] Filming took place in the fall of 2019 in Chicago and around New Jersey.

Originally planned for a theatrical release by Paramount Pictures, the distribution rights to the film were sold to Netflix due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was released in select theaters on September 25, 2020, and began streaming digitally on Netflix on October 16, 2020. The film received positive reviews from critics.


In August 1968, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, John Froines, and Bobby Seale begin to prepare to protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Five months later, all eight of them are arrested and are charged with trying to incite a riot. John N. Mitchell, the Attorney General appoints Tom Foran and Richard Schultz as the prosecutors, while all the defendants except Seale are represented by William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass.

Judge Julius Hoffman shows significant prejudice for the prosecution. Seale's attorney is not present and he receives help from Fred Hampton. Abbie Hoffman openly antagonizes the court. Judge Hoffman begins removing jurors who are suspected of sympathizing with the defendants due to reported threats from the Black Panther Party and gives the defendants and their attorneys multiple contempt of court charges.

Numerous undercover cops testify. One night, Hayden noticed two cops tailing Davis and attempted to let the air out of their tire, but was caught and later arrested. Abbie and others led a protest to the police station where Hayden was being kept, but turned around upon seeing the police blockade outside. When attempting to return to the park, police had taken control of the hill. A riot ensued, and the protestors attempted to claim the hill. Kunstler makes a point that none of the defendants instigated the riot.

Days later, it is reported that Fred Hampton was killed during a police raid. In retaliation to Seale continuing to speak up for his constitutional rights, Judge Hoffman has him taken to another room, beaten, and returned gagged and chained. The prosecution and defense oppose the Judge's order, and Judge Hoffman agrees with Schultz's motion of declaring Seale's case a mistrial.

The defense decide to put Ramsey Clark, Attorney General during the riots, on the stand. Judge Hoffman refuses to let the jury hear his testimony, despite Clark testifying that police instigated the riots. Dellinger reacts by punching a bailiff, resulting in his arrest.

Kunstler presents a tape implicating Hayden to the defendants, and preps Hayden for a cross examination. On the night of the riot, Davis tried to pacify cops attempting to arrest a protestor who was climbing a pole. After the police clubbed Davis' head, an enraged Hayden exclaimed, "If blood is gonna flow, then let it flow all over the city!". The defendants were eventually cornered by police, who removed their badges and proceeded to assault them. Abbie deduces that Hayden was taken out of context, claiming that the original statement would have started with, "If our blood is going to flow...", and Hayden asks him to testify.

In his testimony, Abbie reinforces that Hayden was misconstrued, and states his disdain for the U.S. government's leadership. As the trial ends, Hayden uses the closing statement by naming over 4,500 soldiers that died in the Vietnam War since the trial began, in spite of the judge's instructions and objections. This prompts many in the court to stand and cheer.


The Seven defendants

Other roles



Aaron Sorkin stated to Vanity Fair in July 2020 that he first found out about the planned film during a visit to Steven Spielberg's home in 2006, specifying that Spielberg "told me he wanted to make a movie about the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention and the trial that followed." He also added that he did not understand in which capacity Spielberg wanted him to be involved, stating, "I left not knowing what the hell he was talking about."[4]

In July 2007, Sorkin wrote the script for The Trial of the Chicago 7, based on the conspiracy trial of the so-called Chicago 7.[5] Executive producers Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes, and Laurie MacDonald collaborated on the development of Sorkin's script, with Spielberg intending to direct the film. Sacha Baron Cohen was cast as Abbie Hoffman as early as 2007,[6] while, at the time, Spielberg approached Will Smith for the role of Bobby Seale, and planned to meet with Heath Ledger about playing Tom Hayden.[7] The Writers Guild of America strike, which started in November 2007 and lasted 100 days,[8] delayed filming and the project was suspended.[9] Sorkin later continued to rewrite the script for Spielberg, and the director intended to mostly cast unknowns to keep the budget down.[10]

In 2008, Ben Stiller[11] was reported to be working with Sorkin while considering directing the film. In July 2013, it was announced that Paul Greengrass[12] would direct,[13] but he exited the project two months later when a budget could not be agreed upon,[14] and it did not move forward.

In July 2020, Vanity Fair reported that Spielberg had decided to resurrect The Trial of the Chicago 7 "a year and a half ago."[4] In October 2018, Sorkin was announced as the director of the film.[15] In December 2018, the film was put on hold due to budgetary concerns,[16] until it was revived and ready for distribution offers,[17] with Paramount Pictures initially picking up distribution rights.[18]


In October 2018, Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne joined the cast,[15][19] and in November 2018, Jonathan Majors was added as well.[20] In February 2019, Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Alex Sharp joined the cast as well, with Michael Keaton being considered for a role.[21] In August, Frank Langella and Mark Rylance were added to the cast.[18] In September, Jeremy Strong was cast, replacing Rogen.[22] In October, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II joined the cast to replace Majors, with Kelvin Harrison Jr., Keaton, William Hurt, J. C. MacKenzie, Max Adler and Ben Shenkman being added as well.[23][24][25][26][27][28] Hurt did not appear in the finished film.


Principal production was set to begin in September 2019, but began the next month in October between Chicago and New Jersey.[29][30][31] Filming in Morris County, New Jersey, took place in Hennessy Hall, affectionately known as "The Mansion," on Fairleigh Dickinson University's Florham Park campus and Hyland Hall (located within Henderson Hall) and at Santa Maria at College of Saint Elizabeth; the production also filmed in Grant Park in Chicago, and in Hudson County, New Jersey in Hoboken.[32][33] The film had a production budget of $35 million, with $11 million going towards the cast.[1]


The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Music From the Netflix Film)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedOctober 16, 2020
StudioStudio Two, Abbey Road Studios
Singles from The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Music From the Netflix Film)
  1. "Hear My Voice"
    Released: October 8, 2020

The score was written by British composer Daniel Pemberton, who also wrote the score for Aaron Sorkin's 2017 film Molly's Game.[34] The soundtrack, titled The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (Music From The Netflix Film),[35][36] was released digitally under American record label Varèse Sarabande and Universal Music Group on October 16, 2020.[37][38] The soundtrack features three original songs performed by British singer Celeste, including "Hear My Voice," which served as the lead single and was released on October 8, 2020.[39][40] The song was also submitted to the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Original Song in September 2020.[41] "Blood on the Streets" was released as a promotional single on October 15, 2020, a day before the release of both the soundtrack and film.[42] A physical CD edition of the soundtrack will be released on 20 November 2020.[43]

Recording of the soundtrack took place in Studio Two at Abbey Road Studios and was conducted by Sam Okell, with assistance from Christopher Parker and Jack Thomason.[34]

All music is composed by Daniel Pemberton. Other composers and producers are yet to be confirmed.

Original track list[38]
1."Hear My Dream" (performed by Pemberton and Celeste)1:25
2."We're Going To Chicago"6:17
3."The Trial"4:38
4."Conspiracy Office"1:12
5."My Life"1:33
6."Sequestering The Jury"1:18
7."Meet The Police"0:52
8."Take The Hill (Hear My Screams)"6:14
9."Riot Aftermath"1:40
10."Don't Stand"2:19
11."Star Witness"2:31
12."Motion Denied"3:30
13."Blood On The Streets"7:01
14."Trial Day 151"3:11
15."Stand Up (The Chicago 7)"3:41
16."Hear My Voice" (performed by Celeste)3:05
17."Take The Hill (Hear My Screams)" (performed by Celeste)3:19
Total length:53:46


The Trial of the Chicago 7 was originally scheduled by Paramount Pictures to begin a limited theatrical release on September 25, 2020, before going wide on October 16, 2020.[44][25] On June 20, 2020, due to the movie theater closures because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, it was reported Netflix was in negotiations to acquire rights to the film.[45]

On July 1, 2020, the company officially closed a $56 million deal to distribute the film.[46] It was released in select theaters on September 25, 2020, Paramount's original date, and was made available digitally on Netflix on October 16.[47][48] Although Netflix does not publicly release the box office results of its films, Deadline Hollywood reported that the film averaged about 10 people per show at the 100 theaters it was playing in its opening weekend.[49]

Upon its digital release, it was the second-most streamed film over its debut weekend, which IndieWire called "higher than usual for a more-serious entry Netflix title."[50]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 243 reviews, with an average rating of 7.79/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "An actors' showcase enlivened by its topical fact-based story, The Trial of the Chicago 7 plays squarely – and compellingly – to Aaron Sorkin's strengths."[51] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[52]

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper gave the film four out of four stars, saying, "Certain events are rearranged from the factual timelines, and yes, The Trial of the Chicago 7 exercises poetic license. This is not a documentary; it's a dramatization of events that resonates with great power while containing essential truths, and it's one of the best movies of the year."[53] Owen Gleiberman of Variety praised Cohen and Redmayne's performances and said, "Sorkin has structured The Trial of the Chicago 7 ingeniously, so that it's never about just one thing. It's about the theatrical insanity of the war in the courtroom, about how the government would stop at nothing (including flagrant attempts at jury tampering), and about the politics, at once planned and spontaneous, of how the Chicago protests unfolded."[54]

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Sorkin has made a movie that's gripping, illuminating and trenchant, as erudite as his best work and always grounded first and foremost in story and character. It's as much about the constitutional American right to protest as it is about justice, which makes it incredibly relevant to where we are today."[55] IndieWire's Eric Kohn gave the film a "B," saying Sorkin "directs his own blunt, energetic screenplay with the convictions of a storyteller fully committed to the tropes at hand," and that Sacha Baron Cohen "steals the show and transforms an otherwise stagey period piece into something far more compelling."[56]

See also


  1. ^ a b Keegan, Rebecca (September 23, 2020). "The Long Journey and Intense Urgency of Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  3. ^ "The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Ansen, David (July 22, 2020). "First Look at Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael; McClintock, Pamela (July 12, 2007). "Sorkin on 'Trial' at DreamWorks". Variety. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
  6. ^ John Harlow (December 30, 2007). "No more jokes as Borat turns war protester". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
  7. ^ "Will Smith Confirms Involvement in Spielberg's CHICAGO 7". Collider. January 15, 2008. Archived from the original on January 20, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  8. ^ Paul Greengrass in Talks for Aaron Sorkin-Penned 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' , Rebecca Ford, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 July 2013.Retrieved: April 26, 2015.
  9. ^ Nicole Sperling (February 22, 2008). "Spielberg's 'Chicago 7' delayed". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on February 26, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2008.
  10. ^ Nikki Finke (February 22, 2008). "Spielberg Delays Start Of 'Chicago 7' Due To "Uncertainty Over A SAG Strike"". LA Weekly. Retrieved February 23, 2008.
  11. ^ "Ben Stiller Might Direct Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7?!". October 22, 2008. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  12. ^ Neil Miller (August 10, 2008). "Paul Greengrass to Direct The Trial of the Chicago 7?". Film School Rejects. Retrieved August 10, 2008.
  13. ^ Finke, Nikki (July 24, 2013). "UPDATE: Scott Rudin To Produce, Paul Greengrass To Direct Aaron Sorkin's 'Chicago 7' Screenplay". Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  14. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 17, 2013). "Paul Greengrass Parts Ways With DreamWorks' 'Chicago 7' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (October 26, 2018). "Aaron Sorkin to Direct 'Trial of the Chicago 7' With Sacha Baron Cohen in Talks to Star". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 12, 2018). "Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7' Put On Pause". Deadline. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  17. ^ "Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Moving Forward After Shutdown". The Hollywood Reporter. February 1, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 29, 2019). "Paramount & Cross Creek Board Aaron Sorkin's 'Chicago 7;' Frank Langella, Mark Rylance Join Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jonathan Majors".
  19. ^ Justin Kroll (October 30, 2018). "Eddie Redmayne in Talks to Star in Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  20. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (November 26, 2018). "Jonathan Majors In Talks To Play Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale In Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7'". Deadline. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  21. ^ "Hot Berlin Pic: Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7' Adds Seth Rogen, Jonathan Majors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Heads To Market Before Summer Shoot". Deadline. February 1, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  22. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 4, 2019). "'Succession' Star Jeremy Strong Joins Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7' (EXCLUSIVE)".
  23. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 1, 2019). "Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Adds 'Aquaman's' Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (EXCLUSIVE)".
  24. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (October 14, 2019). "'The Trial Of The Chicago 7': Kelvin Harrison Jr Joins Aaron Sorkin-Helmed Feature".
  25. ^ a b N'Duka, Amanda (October 25, 2019). "Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial Of The Chicago 7' Gets October 2020 Release Date; Michael Keaton & More Board".
  26. ^ "Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Adds Michael Keaton, Sets September 2020 Release". The Hollywood Reporter.
  27. ^ Sneider, Jeff (October 28, 2019). "Exclusive: Thomas Middleditch, Max Adler Join Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7'". Collider. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  28. ^ Sneider, Jeff (October 28, 2019). "Exclusive: Thomas Middleditch, Max Adler Join Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7'". Collider. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  29. ^ Christine (September 27, 2019). "Friday, Sept. 27 Filming Locations for This is Us, Lucifer, SVU, & more!". Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  30. ^ Chitwood, Adam (August 30, 2019). "Aaron Sorkin's 'Trial of the Chicago 7' Gets New Life as Paramount Backs the Star-Studded Drama".
  31. ^ Metz, Nina. "Phoebe Waller-Bridge HBO series 'Run,' Aaron Sorkin film 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' shooting here".
  32. ^ Kiefer, Eric. "Filming For Major Movie In Hoboken Will Affect Traffic".
  33. ^ Kuperinsky, Amy (November 20, 2019). "Aaron Sorkin movie 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' filming at 2 N.J. colleges".
  34. ^ a b "Composer Daniel Pemberton on Scoring 'The Trial of The Chicago Seven'". Abbey Road Studios. October 16, 2020. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  35. ^ "The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (Music From The Netflix Film) - Album by Daniel Pemberton". Spotify. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  36. ^ "The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Music From The Netflix Film) by Daniel Pemberton". Amazon. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  37. ^ "Trial of the Chicago 7, The". Varèse Sarabande. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  38. ^ a b Smith, Sophie (October 8, 2020). "Hear Celeste's New Song For Netflix's 'The Trial Of The Chicago 7'". Universal Music Group. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  39. ^ Aswad, Jem (October 8, 2020). "Celeste Unveils Video for 'Hear My Voice,' From 'Trial of the Chicago 7' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  40. ^ Kenneally, Cerys (October 8, 2020). "Celeste releases The Trial of the Chicago 7 track "Hear My Voice"". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  41. ^ Davis, Clayton (September 22, 2020). "'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Submits Original Song for Oscars From Celeste and Composer Daniel Pemberton (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  42. ^ Kemp, Ella (October 15, 2020). "'The Trial of the Chicago 7': check out a new track from Aaron Sorkin's film". NME. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  43. ^ "The Trial of The Chicago 7 Soundtrack CD". uDiscover Music. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  44. ^ Trilby Beresford (May 1, 2020). "Latest 'Transformers' Lands 2022 Release Date". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  45. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (June 20, 2020). "Netflix Circling Big Deal For Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial Of Chicago 7'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  46. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (July 1, 2020). "Netflix Closes $50M+ Global Deal For Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial Of The Chicago 7'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  47. ^ Brueggemann, Tom (September 22, 2020). "Business as Usual? Netflix Follows 'The Irishman' Model for 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'". IndieWire. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  48. ^ Ansen, David (July 22, 2020). "First Look at Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  49. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 27, 2020). "'Tenet' Now At $41.2M In Domestic Pandemic Marketplace That Is Starving For Business & Tentpole Movies". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  50. ^ Brueggemann, Tom (October 19, 2020). "Paramount Takes 'Love and Monsters' to PVOD and It's a Hit". IndieWire. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  51. ^ "The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  52. ^ "The Trial of the Chicago 7 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  53. ^ Roeper, Richard (September 24, 2020). "'The Trial of the Chicago 7': From an infamous event, Aaron Sorkin makes an instant classic". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  54. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (September 24, 2020). "'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Review: Aaron Sorkin's Counterculture Docudrama is a Knockout — the Rare Profound Movie about the 1960s". Variety. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  55. ^ David Rooney (September 24, 2020). "'The Trial of the Chicago 7': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  56. ^ Kohn, Eric (September 25, 2020). "'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Review: Sacha Baron Cohen Transforms Sorkin's Old-School Courtroom Drama". IndieWire. Retrieved September 25, 2020.

Further reading

  • Sorkin, Aaron. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Screenplay. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020. ISBN 1982163240. OCLC 1148870502
  • Edited by Mark L. Levine, George C. McNamee and Daniel Greenberg / Foreword by Aaron Sorkin. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Official Transcript. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020. ISBN 978-1982155094. OCLC 1162494002
  • Edited with an introduction by Jon Wiener. Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Seven. Afterword by Tom Hayden and drawings by Jules Feiffer. New York: The New Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1565848337
  • Edited by Judy Clavir and John Spitzer. The Conspiracy Trial: The extended edited transcript of the trial of the Chicago Eight. Complete with motions, rulings, contempt citations, sentences and photographs. Introduction by William Kunstler and foreword by Leonard Weinglass. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1970. ISBN 0224005790. OCLC 16214206

External links


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