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My Cousin Vinny

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Dale Launer
Paul Schiff
Written by Dale Launer
Starring Joe Pesci
Marisa Tomei
Ralph Macchio
Mitchell Whitfield
Lane Smith
Austin Pendleton
and Fred Gwynne
Editing by Stephen E. Rivkin
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date(s) March 13, 1992
Running time 120 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11,000,000
Gross revenue $64,088,552

My Cousin Vinny is a 1992 comedy film written by Dale Launer, and directed by Jonathan Lynn, starring Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio and Marisa Tomei, and featuring Fred Gwynne in his final role. The film deals with two young New Yorkers traveling through rural Alabama who are put on trial for a murder they did not commit, and the comic attempts of a cousin, Vincent Gambini, a newly minted lawyer, to defend them.

Much of the humor comes from the contrasting personalities of the brash Italian American Vinny and his fiancee Mona Lisa, and the more somber Southern townspeople. Pesci and Tomei received vast critical praise for their performances, and Tomei won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Additionally, Gwynne, who had long been typecast due to his role as Herman Munster in the television show The Munsters, received critical acclaim for his performance as the candidly human Judge Chamberlain Haller.

The cast also included Mitchell Whitfield, Lane Smith and Bruce McGill.

Despite being a comedy, the film also touches on some rather serious subjects such as perjury, contempt of court, mistrials and bias.

In the August 2008 edition of the American Bar Association Journal, My Cousin Vinny was rated #3 in their cover story listing of "The 25 Greatest Legal Movies", after To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men.[1]



While driving through the fictional Beechum County, Alabama, on their way to visit UCLA, New Yorkers William "Billy" Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and his friend Stanley "Stan" Rothenstein (Mitchell Whitfield) accidentally forget to pay for a can of tuna after stopping at a convenience store. After they leave the store, the clerk is shot and killed in a robbery that happens off-screen, and Billy and Stan, who match the descriptions of the murderers given by witnesses, are then pulled over and detained in connection with the murder. Due to circumstantial evidence and a series of miscommunications based on the boys' assumption that they have merely been detained for shoplifting, Billy ends up being charged with murder, and Stan is charged as an accessory.

The pair call Billy's mother, who tells her son that there is an attorney in the family, Billy's cousin, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Joe Pesci), who travels to Beechum County accompanied by his fiancee, Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei). Unfortunately, after meeting with Billy and Stan at the state prison where the guys are held, although Vinny is willing to take their case, he tells them that he is a neophyte personal injury lawyer from Brooklyn, New York, newly admitted to the bar (after six attempts to pass the bar exam), with no trial experience whatsoever.

Although Vinny manages to fool the uptight and conservative trial judge, Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne), about being experienced enough to take the case, his ignorance of basic court procedures during his first day at the preliminary hearing, and his inadvertent abrasive, disrespectful attitude towards the judge gets him into trouble immediately. Haller holds him in contempt of court and sends him to jail. The following day, much to his clients' consternation, Vinny, due to his inexperience, does not even bother to cross-examine any of the witnesses in the probable cause hearing, partly because the D.A., Jim Trotter III (Lane Smith) has not bothered to disclose his evidence to Vinny. As their claims go unquestioned, it appears that the prosecution has an airtight case that will inevitably lead to a conviction at the trial. After Vinny's poor showing at the hearing, Billy and Stan decide to fire him and use the public defender John Gibbons (Austin Pendleton), but Vinny then realizes that Trotter is mandated by law to furnish his evidence to Vinny, which he immediately does after Vinny makes a request. Vinny then asks Billy and Stan for a chance to question one witness to prove himself, and if that fails to shake the prosecution, he will return home and the pair can stick with Gibbons.

The trial then opens with Vinny representing his cousin and Gibbons representing Stan. Despite some further missteps, including wearing an old-style long-tailed, red tuxedo to court (Judge Haller appears in shock that Vinny is mocking Alabama men, until Vinny explains that his suit fell in the mud and holds Haller to his own rules that he needs to appear in court in a suit made out of cloth) and sleeping through the opening statement made by Trotter, Vinny shows that he can make up for his ignorance and inexperience with an aggressive, perceptive questioning style. While Gibbons stutters through a line of ill-prepared questions that appear to bolster the case against the boys, Vinny quickly and comprehensively discredits the testimony of the first witness. Billy's faith is rewarded, and Stan yells out in court that he wants to retain Vinny after all, firing Gibbons.

On the second day of the trial, Vinny's cross-examinations of the two remaining eyewitnesses are similarly effective, but Trotter produces a surprise witness: George Wilbur (James Rebhorn), an FBI analyst who did not appear at the probable cause hearing but who testifies that his chemical analysis of the tire marks left at the crime scene shows that they are identical to the tires on Billy's Buick Skylark. Allowed only a brief recess to prepare his cross-examination and unable to come up with a particularly strong line of questions, Vinny becomes frustrated and sarcastically taunts Lisa about the apparent uselessness of her wide-angle photographs of the tire tracks of the crime scene. She storms out, leaving Vinny alone. Moments later he later realizes that that photo actually holds the key to the case: the flat and even tire marks reveal that Billy's car could not have been used for the getaway. Vinny needs Lisa, an expert in automobiles, to testify to this. He forcibly drags her into court, and during Vinny's questioning, they patch up their differences.

Lisa proves Vinny's theory correct, as the pictures show that the getaway car had to have both a limited-slip differential (posi-traction) and an independent rear suspension, and Lisa testifies that only two General Motors cars of similar vintage to Billy's Skylark offered both of these features and had the power to make such tire marks: the Chevrolet Corvette (which, due to its well-known body shape, would not be mistaken for any other car) and the Pontiac Tempest (which is similar in body styling to Billy's Skylark and was also available in the same metallic green color). Vinny then recalls the FBI analyst, who concurs with Lisa that Billy's car did not produce the tracks. Next, Vinny calls the local sheriff, Dean Farley (Bruce McGill), who ran a records check at Vinny's request. The sheriff also testifies that he spoke to a sheriff in Georgia, where two men resembling Billy and Stan were arrested driving a stolen, metallic green Pontiac Tempest with a white convertible and in possession of a gun of the same caliber used to murder the clerk. Vinny rests his case, and without bothering to make a closing summary, Trotter then moves to dismiss all charges against Billy and Stan. With the prosecution having stepped down, Haller declares Billy and Stan not guilty of murdering the convenience store employee.

Throughout the film, Vinny and Judge Haller play a game of cat-and-mouse over Vinny's qualifications. Haller first discovers that, despite Vinny's claims that he tried "quite a few" murder cases, there exist no records of anybody named Vincent Gambini trying any case in New York State. Vinny then claims that he had his name changed during a previous career as a stage actor and continued to use the name when he opened a law practice. Vinny, believing that he should give the judge the name of someone with the kind of resume he claimed to have, supplies the name of a prominent New York attorney, Jerry Gallo. Unfortunately, Lisa reveals the source of Gallo's most recent publicity: he died the week before. Vinny then claims that Haller misheard "Gallo" when Vinny actually said "Callo".

Finally, Lisa gets Vinny off the hook by calling his mentor, Judge Malloy from New York, who responds to Haller's request by claiming that "Jerry Callo" has a long and impressive trial history. The film concludes with Haller apologizing for doubting Vinny and praising his skills as a litigator. Vinny and Lisa then drive off together, arguing about plans for their wedding.

Filming locations

Sac-O-Suds convenience store is located on Georgia State Route 16 in Jasper County, Georgia, which is east of Jackson, Georgia. The courthouse is still in the town square of Monticello, Georgia. Dave's Barbecue and Sea Food (where Vinny and Lisa get in a fight near the end of the movie) is adjacent to the town square.

Shooting took place in and around Jasper and Putnam County, Georgia. Putnam General Motel where they first stay the night and then learn about grits in the morning is located on Highway 441 North in Putnam County outside of the town of Eatonton. The motel is still open but the restaurant is now closed and has been for a few years. The actual lumber plant that is supposed to be across the street from the Motel in the movie is actually the Georgia Pacific Plant in Jasper County Georgia. Sheriff Farley mentions that the two boys arrested in the Tempest were arrested in Jasper County, Georgia.


Box office

With a budget of $11,000,000, My Cousin Vinny was more successful than any had anticipated, grossing $52,929,168 domestically and $11,159,384 in the foreign markets, bringing its overall total to $64,088,552.


Marisa Tomei won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the film's sole nomination, at the 65th Academy Awards in 1993. The film's director, Jonathan Lynn, later remarked that he wasn't the least bit surprised at either her nomination or her win.[citation needed]


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


Actor Role Notes
Joe Pesci Vincent LaGuardia "Vinny" Gambini
Ralph Macchio William Robert "Billy" Gambini
Marisa Tomei Mona Lisa Vito Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Fred Gwynne Judge Chamberlain Haller Gwynne's final film role prior to his death
Mitchell Whitfield Stanley Marcus "Stan" Rothenstein
Lane Smith District Attorney James "Jim" Trotter III

Austin Pendleton, Bruce McGill, and James Rebhorn also perform in supporting roles.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

My Cousin Vinny is a 1992 film about a street-smart but inexperienced lawyer from Brooklyn defending his cousin in a murder case in Alabama.

Directed by Jonathan Lynn. Written by Dale Launer.
A Comedy Of Trial And ErrorTaglines
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.



Vinny: What are you wearing?
Mona Lisa: What?
Vinny: You look like a fucking tourist.
Mona Lisa: Me? What about you?
Vinny: I fit in better than you. At least I'm wearing cowboy boots.
Mona Lisa: Oh, yeah, you blend.

[Stan thinks Vinny, his attorney, is a new cellmate intent on sodomizing him.]
Vinny: Look, it's either me or them. You're getting fucked one way or the other. (Stan tries to get up) Hey, relax, I'm gonna help you.
Stan: Gee, thanks.
Vinny: Excuse me, I think a modicum of gratitude would not be out of line here.
Stan: You think I should be grateful?
Vinny: Yeah, it's your ass, not mine. I think you should be grateful. I think you should be down on your fucking knees.
Stan: I didn't know it was such an honor to get a visit from you.
Vinny: I'm doing a favor, you know. You're getting me for nothing, you little fuck.
Stan: That's one hell of an ego you got.
Vinny: What the fuck is your problem? I did not come down here just to get jerked off.
Stan: I'm not jerking you off. I'm not doing anything.
Vinny: That's it. You're on your own. I'll just take care of Sleeping Beauty.
[Wakes up Bill]
Bill: Vinny. Vinny, bag o' donuts.

Vinny: Is that a drip I hear?
Mona Lisa: Yeah.
Vinny: Weren't you the last one to use the bathroom?
Mona Lisa: So?
Vinny: Well, did you use the faucet?
Mona Lisa: Yeah.
Vinny: Why didn't you turn it off?
Mona Lisa: I did turn it off.
Vinny: Well, if you turned it off, why am I listening to it?
Mona Lisa: Did it ever occur to you that it could be turned off and drip at the same time?
Vinny: No, because if you turned it off, it wouldn't drip.
Mona Lisa: Maybe it's broken.
Vinny: Is that what you're saying? It's broken?
Mona Lisa: Yeah, that's it; it's broken.
Vinny: You sure?
Mona Lisa: I'm positive.
Vinny: Maybe you didn't twist it hard enough.
Mona Lisa: I twisted it just right.
Vinny: How can you be so sure?
Mona Lisa: If you will look in the manual, you will see that this particular model faucet requires a range of 10-16 foot pounds of torque. I routinely twist the maximum allowable torquage.
Vinny: How can you be sure you used 16 foot pounds of torque?
Mona Lisa: Because I used a Craftsman model 1019 Laboratory edition, signature series torque wrench. The kind used by Cal Tech High Energy physicists, and NASA engineers.
Vinny: In that case, how can you be sure that's accurate?
Mona Lisa: Because a split second before the torque wrench was applied to the faucet handle, it had been calibrated by top members of the state and federal Departments of Weights and Measures, to be dead-on balls accurate. Here's the certificate of validation.
Vinny: "Dead-on balls accurate"?
Mona Lisa: It's an industry term.
Vinny: I guess the fucking thing is broken.

Vinny: My clients were caught completely by surprise. They thought they were getting arrested for shoplifting a can of tuna.
Judge Haller: What are you telling me? That they plead not guilty?
Vinny: No. I'm just trying to explain.
Judge Haller: I don't want to hear explanations. The state of Alabama has a procedure. And that procedure is to have an arraignment. Are we clear on this?
Vinny: Yes, but there seems to be a great deal of confusion here. You see, my clients--
Judge Haller: Uh, Mr. Gambini? (motions for him to approach the bench) All I ask from you is a very simple answer to a very simple question. There are only two ways to answer it: guilty or not guilty.
Vinny: But your honor, my clients didn't do anything.
Judge Haller: Once again, the communication process is broken down. It appears to me that you want to skip the arraignment process, go directly to trial, skip that, and get a dismissal. Well, I'm not about to revamp the entire judicial process just because you find yourself in the unique position of defending clients who say they didn't do it. The next words out of your mouth better 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, (enunciating) how do your clients plead?
Vinny: (enunciating) I think I get the point.
Judge Haller: No, I don't think you do. You're now in contempt of court. Would you like to go for two counts of contempt?
Vinny: Not guilty.
Judge Haller: Thank you.

Vinny: Look, maybe I could have handled the preliminary a little better, okay? I admit it. But what's most important is winning the case. I could do it. I really could. Let me tell you how, okay? The D.A.'s got to build a case. Building a case is like building a house. Each piece of evidence is just another building block. He wants to make a brick bunker of a building. He wants to use serious, solid-looking bricks, like, like these, right? (puts his hand on the wall)
Bill: Right.
Vinny: Let me show you something. (he holds up a playing card, with the face toward Billy) He's going to show you the bricks. He'll show you they got straight sides. He'll show you how they got the right shape. He'll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there's one thing he's not gonna show you. (turns the card, so that its edge is toward Billy) When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they're as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion, 'cause you're innocent. Nobody, I mean nobody, pulls the wool over the eyes of a Gambini, especially this one. Give me a chance, one chance. Let me question the first witness. If after that point, you don't think that I'm the best man for the job, fire me then and there. I'll leave quietly, no grudges. All I ask is for that one chance. I think you should give it to me.

[Vinny is trying to dress properly for a hunting trip]
Vinny: What about these pants I got on? You think they're okay? Ho!
Mona Lisa: Imagine you're a deer. You're prancing along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put your little deer lips down to the cool clear water...bam! A fucking bullet rips off part of your head! Your brains are laying on the ground in little bloody pieces! Now, I ask ya, would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son-of-a-bitch who shot you was wearing?!

Vinny: Hey, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini--
Lisa: His name's J.T.
Vinny: J.T., I believe you and Lisa played a game of pool for two hundred dollars, which she won; I'm here to collect.
J.T.: How 'bout if I just kick your ass?
Vinny: Oh, a counteroffer. That's what we lawyers, I'm a lawyer, call that a counteroffer. Let me see, this is a tough decision you're giving me here. Get my ass kicked or collect two hundred dollars. Hmm, let me think. I could use a good ass kicking, I'll be very honest with you. Nah, I think I'll just go with the two hundred.
[The people in the room laugh]
J.T.: Over my dead body.
Vinny: You like to renegotiate as you go along, huh? Okay then, here's my counteroffer: do I have to kill you? What if I were just to kick the ever-loving shit out of you?
J.T.: In your dreams.
Vinny: Oh, no, no, in reality. If I was to kick the shit outta ya, do I get the money?
JT: (contemplates this) If you kick the shit outta me...
Vinny: Yeah?
J.T.: ...then you get the money.
[Some people weakly laugh. Vinny looks at a guy whose in a neck brace.]
Vinny: What happened? Rear-ended?
Guy: No, I fell.
Vinny: Oh. Okay, lets see if we agree on the terms. The choice now is: I get my ass kicked, or, option B: I kick your ass, and collect the $200. I'm goin with option B, (takes his coat off) kicking your ass and collectin' two-hundred dollars.
J.T.: Are we gonna fight now?
Vinny: Yeah, first let me see the money.
J.T.: I have the money.
Vinny: All right, show it to me.
J.T.: I can get it.
Vinny: You can get it? All right, go get it. Then we'll fight.

Vinny: What's the matter with you?
Mona Lisa: I don't know.
Vinny: You're acting like you're nervous or something.
Mona Lisa: Well, yeah, I am.
Vinny: What are you nervous about? I'm the one that's under the gun here. Trial starts tomorrow.
Mona Lisa: You wanna know what I'm nervous about? I'll tell you what I'm nervous about. I am in the dark here with all this legal crap. I have no idea what's going on. All I know is that you're screwing up and I can't help.
Vinny: You left me a little camera, didn't you?
Mona Lisa: Oh, Vinny! I'm watching you go down in flames, and you're bringing me with you, and I can't do anything about it!
Vinny: And?
Mona Lisa: Well, I hate to bring it up because I know you've got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, ten years later, my niece, the daughter of my sister is getting married. My biological clock is (stamps foot three times) ticking like this, and the way this case is going, I ain't never getting married!
Vinny: Lisa, I don't need this. I swear to God, I do not need this right now, okay? I've got a judge that's just aching to throw me in jail, an idiot who wants to fight me for two hundred dollars, 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 (stamps foot three times) 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 to of the outcome of this case?! Is it possible?!
Mona Lisa: Maybe it was a bad time to bring it up.

Vinny: Is it possible that the two youts--
Judge Haller: Uh, the two what? Uh, uh, what was that word?
Vinny: Uh, what word?
Judge Haller: Two what?
Vinny: What?
Judge Haller: Uh, did you say "yutes"?
Vinny: Yeah, two youts.
Judge Haller: What is a yute?
Vinny: Oh, excuse me, Your Honor, two youths.

Vinny: Ms. Vito, you're supposed to be some kinda expert in automobiles, is that correct? Is that correct?
Judge Haller: Would you please answer the counselor's question?
Lisa: No, I hate him.
Vinny: Your Honor, may I treat this witness as hostile?
Mona Lisa: You think I'm hostile now? Wait till tonight.
Judge Haller: Do you two know each other?
Vinny: Yeah, she's my fiancée.
Judge Haller: Well, that would certainly explain the hostility.


  • A Comedy Of Trial And Error
  • There have been many courtroom dramas that have glorified The Great American Legal System. This is not one of them.


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