The movie 12 Angry Men is a legal drama that takes place in a courtroom. The film, based on a play, made its big screen debut in 1957. The film was written by Reginald Rose and is based on a jury presiding over a homicide trial. After the concluding arguments have been made, 12 jurors are tasked with deciding the fate of a young man who was charged with the death of his abusive father. At first, the case appears to be a clear case of murder.1 However, the trial takes a different turn and becomes an investigative story that reveals a sequence of scenarios that presents doubt, revealing the jurors' own biases and assumptions about the defendant, themselves, and the trial itself. At the opening of the trial, it appears that the jurors have unanimously decided the defendant’s fate as guilty, with one juror dissenting. However, this is not surprising, as this juror, Juror #8, planted a notion of reasonable doubt from the beginning. It is this holdout that tries to show the avoidance of the potential of falsely accusing the defendant by forcing his fellow jurors to carefully reexamine the evidence presented in the case.
As the jury of twelve goes into the jury room, the main drama revolving around the twelve jurors take place. The men have been scolded to remind them of the defendant’s rights within the American Judicial System, which is that he is innocent until he has been found guilty and that no other explanation can be ascertained from the facts except that the defendant murdered his father. Of the twelve jurors, 11 concluded the defendant was guilty, leaving one holdout, Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda. The movie centers around Juror #8, who is the sole holdout in the 11 to1 guilty vote. Adding to the plot is that each juror’s prejudices are revealed showing each’s reasons for their decision regarding the defendant’s fate. The role of Juror #8 is to coerce the other jurors into viewing the case in a manner that is free from their own biases.
A character analysis of the movie reveals that the Judge, Bond, plays a limited role at the beginning of the movie. The defendant is a young minority from the inner city whose fate is being decided by a jury of white middle-aged men. Juror #1, Balsam, the foreman, is pretty laid back but can be assertive at times. Juror #2, Fiedler, is an introvert and tends to go with the flow. Juror #3, Cobb, is considered the movie’s antagonist and is very opinionated. Juror #4, Marshall, is very decisive and doesn’t spend a great deal of time trying to rethink his choice of a casting a guilty verdict. Juror #5, Klugman, has roots in the inner city and believes that those from the inner city are stereotyped as criminals. Juror #6, Binns, is very fluid thinking and tends to go with wherever the others believe the facts should take them. Juror #7, Warden, is very detached from the case and wants the process to move quickly so that he can move on with his personal plans. Juror #8, Fonda, takes his role as a juror seriously and has a personal interest in seeing that justice is served and that it is not a flawed process. Juror #9, Sweeny, is the older of the jurors and also believes in justice and is very compassionate. Juror #10, Begley, is the racist on the juror, which is evident with his discussions with Juror #7. Juror #11, Voskovec, is the only non-American only the jury, and as a result, has an outsider’s appreciation of the U.S.’s legal system. Lastly, Juror #12, Webber, is viewed as an eccentric. It is with these characters of different personalities that reveals the personal issues facing the jurors that threaten to jeopardize the legal process. The movie reveals Rose’s skills as he meticulously uncovers the pros and cons of the U.S. judicial system, as well as its concentrated rooted patriotic beliefs.
1. “12 Angry Men (1957).” IMBD, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050083/. Accessed October 24, 2018.