12 Angry Men Poster

This film opens with a seemingly bored, uninterested judge addressing the jury about a murder case. An 18 year old Latino man is accused of stabbing his father, and the facts seem to point to his guilt. The defendant has a weak alibi, he said he was at the movies the time the murder occurred but he couldn’t remember details of the films he saw when questioned immediately after capture. A distinctive knife he claimed to have lost is found at the murder scene. There are witnesses who heard the screams of the victim, saw the killing, and saw the defendant flee the scene.

Once trapped in sweltering heat of the juror’s room (with baseball games to catch), 11 of the 12 jurors immediately vote guilty. Only Henry Fonda’s Davis stands up and maintains he is not sold beyond reasonable doubt. He then manages to slowly convince the other jurors that the case is not as clear as it seemed in court, doing a far better job than the defendant’s attorney.

Juror #3: You’re talking about a matter of seconds. Nobody can be that accurate.
Juror #8: Well I think that testimony that can put a boy into the electric chair *should* be that accurate.

This is a masterful film. The audience’s view is restricted, along with the jury members, to the deliberation room. The heat is a physical manifestation of the pressure of the situation, that a life is at stake. Fonda’s acting is superb and the film moves along at an exciting pace. Highly recommended.

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12 Angry Men movie image

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Have you seen 12 Angry Men? What you think?

5 thoughts on “12 Angry Men (1957)

  1. One of my favorite films, especially when it comes to my hobby of spotting actors I’ve seen elsewhere in later work. (Fans of the original “Bob Newhart Show” will recognize Mr. Peterman.)

    This film taught me to relax my prejudice against “realism.” Like most legal dramas, the procedure in this one bears little resemblance to how the system actually works. (A jury can’t just toss out testimony on its own volition.) But the jury room is just a device here that enables a “no escape” situation for the men.

    Good recap, except that it’s Henry Fonda, not Peter.

  2. There are 2 movies named 12 Angry Men, one is with Henry Fonda, the other Jack Lemmon. If you are interested the movies are off a play which explains the intensity in acting and lack of bing bang boom and scenery.

    I like the Fonda version only because I prefer the presentation in its more original form, the second has much more abrasive view of the cultural issues but Lemmon is excellent in the lead role.

    I enjoy this movie, regardless of version – there were also two television series based on this movie, one American and another British.

    It is a view on decision making, proof and how positive do you feel you need to be to convict someone? Where are your personal prejudices influencing your view on the same evidence, or lack there of that everyone else is seeing? What colour are the glasses you are looking through?

    It is an excellent movie (either one) and my admiration for those who get cast because in this you have to act, carry your own part, among other first calibre actors.

    I wish there were more such movies about.

  3. Love the film! The concept is intriguing to me b/c what it boils down to is the power of persuasion and one man persuades 11 men to change their minds in the course of a two hour film. Debate is always fascinating to me, especially when both opponents are on opposite sides of the spectrum; it’s always interesting to me to see who will bend to another’s will. Great review! Short and precise. 🙂

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