12 Angry Men (1957 film)
|12 Angry Men|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Screenplay by||Reginald Rose|
|Story by||Reginald Rose|
|Music by||Kenyon Hopkins|
|Edited by||Carl Lerner|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$2,000,000 (rentals)|
12 Angry Men is a 1957 American courtroom drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. This courtroom drama tells the story of a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of an 18-year old defendant[note 1] on the basis of reasonable doubt, forcing the jurors to question their morals and values.
12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus-building and the difficulties encountered in the process among this group of men whose range of personalities adds to the intensity and conflict. It also explores the power one person has to elicit change. The jury members are identified only by number; no names are revealed until an exchange of dialogue at the very end. The film forces the characters and audience to evaluate their own self-image through observing the personality, experiences, and actions of the jurors. The film is also notable for its almost exclusive use of one set, where all but three minutes of the film takes place.
In 2007, the film was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute during their AFI's 10 Top 10 list.
In a mid-1950s New York County Courthouse, a visibly bored judge instructs a jury about to deliberate the case of an 18-year-old youth from a slum on trial for allegedly stabbing his father to death that if there is any reasonable doubt, the jurors are to return a verdict of not guilty. If found guilty, the defendant will receive a death sentence. The jury is further instructed that the verdict must be unanimous.
The evidence seems convincing, with testimony from the neighbor across the street who said she witnessed the defendant stab his father from her window. Further, the elderly neighbor in the apartment below testified that he heard the defendant shout at his father that he would kill him, and then, through his door's peephole, saw him run past his door.
In a preliminary vote, all jurors vote "guilty" except Juror 8, who reasons that there should be some discussion about the case before quickly reaching a "guilty" verdict and also brings up the defendant's rough upbringing. He questions the reliability of the two witnesses and the prosecution's claim that the murder weapon, a switchblade, was "rare" and produces an identical knife. Juror 8 argues that he cannot vote "guilty" because reasonable doubt exists.
Having hung the jury, Juror 8 suggests a secret ballot among the other eleven; if all the remaining jurors still vote "guilty", he will acquiesce. The ballot reveals one "not guilty" vote. Juror 3 accuses Juror 5, who grew up in a slum, of changing his vote out of sympathy, but Juror 9 reveals that he changed his vote, agreeing there should be some more discussion.
Juror 8 argues that the noise of a passing train would have obscured the threat that one witness claimed to have heard the defendant tell his father: "I'm going to kill you". Juror 5 changes his vote, as does Juror 11, who believes the defendant, having returned to the apartment and been met by the police, was not trying to retrieve the murder weapon as it had already been cleaned of fingerprints. Juror 8 points out that people often say "I'm going to kill you" without literally meaning it.
Jurors 5, 6, and 8 question the witness's ability to have made it to his door in time to see the defendant fleeing 15 seconds after hearing the father's body hit the floor. Juror 3 is infuriated, and Juror 8 accuses him of being a sadistic public avenger. Juror 3 tries to attack Juror 8, shouting "I'll kill him!", and Juror 8 calmly replies, "You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?" proving his previous point. Jurors 2 and 6 then change their votes, tying the verdict 6–6 as a thunderstorm begins.
Juror 4 doubts the defendant's alibi, based on the boy's inability to recall certain details, and Juror 8 tests Juror 4's own memory. He is able to remember events from the previous seven days though with some difficulty. Juror 2 questions the likelihood that the defendant, being seven inches shorter than his father, could have inflicted the downward stab wound. Jurors 3 and 8 act this out which confirms the possibility. However, Juror 5 demonstrates the correct way to hold and use a switchblade, proving that someone skilled with a switchblade, as the boy would have been, would always stab underhand at an upwards angle against a taller opponent.
Impatient to leave due to having tickets to that night's baseball game, Juror 7 changes his vote and earns the ire of other jurors, and is confronted by juror 11; he insists that he thinks the defendant is not guilty but doesn't explain why. Jurors 1 and 12 then change their votes, leaving only Jurors 3, 4, and 10. Juror 10 erupts in vitriol against slum people. One by one, the rest of the jurors, except 7 and 4, turn their backs to him and Juror 4 tells him to "sit down and don't open your mouth again". Juror 8 reminds the rest that personal prejudice can cloud judgments. Juror 4 declares that the woman who saw the killing from across the street stands as solid evidence. Juror 12 reverts his vote, making the vote 8–4.
Juror 9, seeing Juror 4 rub his nose, irritated by his glasses, realizes that the witness had impressions on her nose, suggesting that she wears glasses but did not wear them in court. Other jurors confirm the same, and Juror 8 adds that she would not have worn them to bed, and the attack happened so swiftly that she would not have had time to put them on. Jurors 12, 10 and 4 then change their vote to "not guilty", leaving only Juror 3.
Juror 3 gives an increasingly tortured string of arguments, building on earlier remarks about his strained relationship with his own son, the reason he wants the accused to be guilty. He tears up a photograph of him and his son and almost immediately breaks down sobbing and mutters "not guilty", making the vote unanimous. As the rest leave, Juror 8 helps the distraught Juror 3 with his coat in a show of compassion. The defendant is found "not guilty" off-screen and the jurors leave the courthouse. In a brief epilogue on the courthouse steps, Jurors 8 and 9 introduce each other for the first time by their names (Davis and McCardle respectively) before parting.
|Juror No.||Character||Actor||'Not guilty' order|
|1||Jury foreman, an assistant high school American football coach||Martin Balsam||9|
|2||Meek and unpretentious bank worker who is dominated by others||John Fiedler||5|
|3||The most passionate advocate of a guilty verdict||Lee J. Cobb||12|
|4||A rational, unflappable, self-assured and analytical stock broker||E. G. Marshall||11|
|5||Baltimore Orioles fan who grew up in a violent slum, sensitive to insults about his upbringing||Jack Klugman||3|
|6||Tough but principled house painter||Edward Binns||6|
|7||Wisecracking salesman and Yankees fan who seems indifferent to his role||Jack Warden||7|
|8||Davis, an architect, initially the only one to vote "not guilty" and openly questions the seemingly clear evidence presented||Henry Fonda||1|
|9||McCardle, an intelligent, wise, and observant senior||Joseph Sweeney||2|
|10||Pushy, loud-mouthed, and bigoted garage owner||Ed Begley||10|
|11||European watchmaker and naturalized American citizen who demonstrates strong patriotism||George Voskovec||4|
|12||Indecisive advertising executive||Robert Webber||8|
- Rudy Bond as the Judge
- Tom Gorman as the Stenographer
- James Kelly as the Bailiff
- Billy Nelson as the Court clerk
- John Savoca as the Defendant
- Walter Stocker as Man waiting for elevator
Reginald Rose's screenplay for 12 Angry Men was initially produced for television (starring Robert Cummings as Juror 8), and was broadcast live on the CBS program Studio One in September 1954. A complete kinescope of that performance, which had been missing for years and was feared lost, was discovered in 2003. It was staged at Chelsea Studios in New York City.
The success of the television production resulted in a film adaptation. Sidney Lumet, whose prior directorial credits included dramas for television productions such as The Alcoa Hour and Studio One, was recruited by Henry Fonda and Rose to direct. 12 Angry Men was Lumet's first feature film, and the only producing credit for Fonda and Rose (under the production company, Orion-Nova Productions). Fonda later stated that he would never again produce a film.
The film was shot in New York and completed after a short but rigorous rehearsal schedule, in less than three weeks, on a budget of $337,000 (equivalent to $3,068,000 in 2019). Rose and Fonda took salary deferrals.
At the beginning of the film, the cameras are positioned above eye level and mounted with wide-angle lenses, to give the appearance of greater depth between subjects, but as the film progresses the focal length of the lenses is gradually increased. By the end of the film, nearly everyone is shown in closeup, using telephoto lenses from a lower angle, which decreases or "shortens" depth of field. Lumet stated that his intention in using these techniques with cinematographer Boris Kaufman was to create a nearly palpable claustrophobia.
On its first release, 12 Angry Men received critical acclaim. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote, "It makes for taut, absorbing, and compelling drama that reaches far beyond the close confines of its jury room setting." His observation of the twelve men was that "their dramas are powerful and provocative enough to keep a viewer spellbound." Variety called it an "absorbing drama" with acting that was "perhaps the best seen recently in any single film," Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times declared it a "tour de force in movie making," The Monthly Film Bulletin deemed it "a compelling and outstandingly well handled drama," and John McCarten of The New Yorker called it "a fairly substantial addition to the celluloid landscape."
However, the film was a box office disappointment in the US but did better internationally. The advent of color and widescreen productions may have contributed to its disappointing box office performance. It was not until its first airing on television that the movie finally found its audience.
The film is viewed as a classic, highly regarded from both a critical and popular viewpoint: Roger Ebert listed it as one of his "Great Movies". The American Film Institute named Juror 8, played by Henry Fonda, 28th in a list of the 50 greatest movie heroes of the 20th century. AFI also named 12 Angry Men the 42nd most inspiring film, the 88th most heart-pounding film and the 87th best film of the past hundred years. The film was also nominated for the 100 movies list in 1998. As of June 2019[update], the film holds a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 50 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.98/10. The site's consensus reads: "Sidney Lumet's feature debut is a superbly written, dramatically effective courtroom thriller that rightfully stands as a modern classic". In 2011, the film was the second most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.
American Film Institute lists:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 88
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Juror No. 8 – No. 28 Hero
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – No. 42
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 87
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – No. 2 Courtroom Drama
The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing of Adapted Screenplay. It lost to The Bridge on the River Kwai in all three categories. At the 7th Berlin International Film Festival, the film won the Golden Bear Award.
The film was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute during their AFI's 10 Top 10 list, just after To Kill a Mockingbird, and is the highest courtroom drama on Rotten Tomatoes' Top 100 Movies of All Time.
Speaking at a screening of the film during the 2010 Fordham University Law School Film festival, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that seeing 12 Angry Men while she was in college influenced her decision to pursue a career in law. She was particularly inspired by immigrant Juror 11's monologue on his reverence for the American justice system. She also told the audience of law students that, as a lower-court judge, she would sometimes instruct juries to not follow the film's example, because most of the jurors' conclusions are based on speculation, not fact. Sotomayor noted that events such as Juror 8 entering a similar knife into the proceeding; performing outside research into the case matter in the first place; and ultimately the jury as a whole making broad, wide-ranging assumptions far beyond the scope of reasonable doubt (such as the inferences regarding the woman wearing glasses) would not be allowed in a real-life jury situation, and would in fact have yielded a mistrial (assuming, of course, that applicable law permitted the content of jury deliberations to be revealed).
There have been a number of adaptations. A 1963 German TV production Die zwölf Geschworenen was directed by Günter Gräwert, while a 1991 homage by Kōki Mitani, Juninin no Yasashii Nihonjin ("12 gentle Japanese"), posits a Japan with a jury system and features a group of Japanese people grappling with their responsibility in the face of Japanese cultural norms. The 1987 Indian film in Hindi language Ek Ruka Hua Faisla ("a pending decision") and also in Kannada as Dashamukha ("ten faces") are the remakes of the film, with an almost identical storyline. Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov also made a 2007 adaptation, 12, featuring a Chechen teen on trial in Moscow. A 2015 Chinese adaptation, 12 Citizens, follows the plot of the original 1957 American movie, while including characters reflecting contemporary Beijing society, including a cab driver, guard, businessman, policeman, a retiree persecuted in a 1950s political movement, and others. The detective drama television show Veronica Mars, which like the film includes the theme of class issues, featured an episode, "One Angry Veronica", in which the title character is selected for jury duty. The episode flips the film's format and depicts one holdout convincing the jury to convict the privileged defendants of assault against a less well-off victim, despite their lawyers initially convincing 11 jury members of a not guilty verdict.
In 1997, a television remake of the film under the same title was directed by William Friedkin and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In the newer version, the judge is a woman and four of the jurors are black, but the overall plot remains intact. Modernizations include not smoking in the jury room, changes in references to pop culture figures and income, references to execution by lethal injection as opposed to the electric chair, more race-related dialogue and profanity.
The film has also been subject to parody. In 2015, the Comedy Central TV series Inside Amy Schumer aired a half-hour parody of the film titled "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer". BBC Radio comedy Hancock's Half Hour, starring Tony Hancock and Sid James, and written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, broadcast a half-hour parody on October 16, 1959, also known as Twelve Angry Men. The Flintstones story "Disorder in the Court" and The Simpsons story "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" similarly feature the respective patriarchs of both families playing holdout jurors. Family Guy paid tribute to the film with its Season 11 episode titled "12 and a Half Angry Men", and King of The Hill acknowledged the film with their parody "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men" in season 3. Sitcom Happy Days also features a similar story in the season 5 episode "Fonzie for the Defense", when Howard Cunningham and Fonzie are picked for a jury, and Fonzie is the lone hold-out for innocence, swaying the rest of the jury. Saturday Night Live parodied the film in 1984 in a sketch called First Draft Theater. The American TV situation comedy, The Odd Couple, starring Jack Klugman (Juror 5 in the movie), satirizes the film in "The Jury Story". The comedy series Malcolm in the Middle paid homage to the movie in the episode "Jury Duty".
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- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
- In the United States, a verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous.
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