Finch, as a lawyer, is asked to take a legal case that involves defending Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of abusing a 19-year-old Caucasian female named Mayella Ewell. Eventually, the news of his accepting the case spreads around town and puts Atticus in a negative light, leaving Jem and Scout angry about it. Atticus forbids Scout from fighting with the other kids. Once Walter Cunningham Jr., a child that Scout fought with, is invited to dinner, Atticus says that it is "a sin to kill a mockingbird", referring to the temptations to go after birds once children got their first guns.
The American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.  Additionally, the AFI ranked the movie second on their 100 Years... 100 Cheers list, behind It's a Wonderful Life .  The film was ranked number 34 on AFI's list of the 100 greatest movies of all time , but moved up to number 25 on the 10th Anniversary list .  In June 2008, the AFI revealed its " Ten top Ten "—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. To Kill a Mockingbird was acknowledged as the best film in the courtroom drama genre.