12 Angry Men
1957 | Courtroom Drama | 96 minutes | In English
It’s a simple story. A teenaged boy is accused of killing his father. There are two witnesses whose testimonies convince eleven of the jurors that the kid is guilty. The jurors will not take long to reach a verdict, maybe five minutes. But, whoa! In a murder case, the verdict has to be unanimous, and there is Juror #8 who wants to deliberate further. Slowly and methodically, Juror #8 introduces evidence and facts that may not necessarily prove the accused to be innocent. We’re never sure of that. But Juror #8 believes there may be “reasonable doubt.” If that’s the case, the Constitution states that the verdict must be Not Guilty. As the jury deliberates, they argue, shout, and come close to fisticuffs. The deliberation brings out their prejudices, hatreds, and their outlook on justice and fairness. The film is not a conventional courtroom thriller but more of a character study of people from different walks of life.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
- Metacritic Score: 96
American Film Institute (AFI) listed Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) as one of the “50 Greatest Movie Heroes of the 20th Century.” The AFI also selected the film as the second-best courtroom drama ever made. To Kill a Mockingbird was #1.
Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Picture; Best Director (Sidney Lumet); Best Writing of an Adapted Screenplay (Reginald Rose).
Berlin International Film Festival: Winners of the GOLDEN BEAR Award.
The film was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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This is a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, not action; where the defendant has been glimpsed only in a single brief shot; where logic, emotion and prejudice struggle to control the field. It is a masterpiece of stylized realism—the style coming in the way the photography and editing comment on the bare bones of the content.
Too few films take on the art of arguing as a subject; we could certainly use more of them, but until then, director Lumet’s window into strained civic duty will continue to serve mightily.
Although cameras have been focused on jurors before, it is difficult to recall a more incisively revealing record of the stuff of which such peers can be made than is presented in 12 ANGRY MEN. The film is a penetrating, sensitive and sometimes shocking direction of the hearts and minds of men who obviously are something less than gods.
Aesthetically, 12 ANGRY MEN is a master class in refurbished cinematic space. It takes a confined, almost completely banal real-world location and makes it completely dynamic, using incredible nimble camera movements to establish character motivation and theme.
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