12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)

Critics Consensus

Sidney Lumet's feature debut is a superbly written, dramatically effective courtroom thriller that rightfully stands as a modern classic.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 50

97%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 104,866
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Movie Info

A Puerto Rican youth is on trial for murder, accused of knifing his father to death. The twelve jurors retire to the jury room, having been admonished that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Eleven of the jurors vote for conviction, each for reasons of his own. The sole holdout is Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda. As Fonda persuades the weary jurors to re-examine the evidence, we learn the backstory of each man. Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb), a bullying self-made man, has estranged himself from his own son. Juror #7 (Jack Warden) has an ingrained mistrust of foreigners; so, to a lesser extent, does Juror #6 (Edward Binns). Jurors #10 (Ed Begley) and #11 (George Voskovec), so certain of the infallibility of the Law, assume that if the boy was arrested, he must be guilty. Juror #4 (E.G. Marshall) is an advocate of dispassionate deductive reasoning. Juror #5 (Jack Klugman), like the defendant a product of "the streets," hopes that his guilty vote will distance himself from his past. Juror #12 (Robert Webber), an advertising man, doesn't understand anything that he can't package and market. And Jurors #1 (Martin Balsam), #2 (John Fiedler) and #9 (Joseph Sweeney), anxious not to make waves, "go with the flow." The excruciatingly hot day drags into an even hotter night; still, Fonda chips away at the guilty verdict, insisting that his fellow jurors bear in mind those words "reasonable doubt." A pet project of Henry Fonda's, Twelve Angry Men was his only foray into film production; the actor's partner in this venture was Reginald Rose, who wrote the 1954 television play on which the film was based. Carried over from the TV version was director Sidney Lumet, here making his feature-film debut. A flop when it first came out (surprisingly, since it cost almost nothing to make), Twelve Angry Men holds up beautifully when seen today. It was remade for television in 1997 by director William Friedkin with Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Martin Balsam
as Juror No. 1
John Fiedler
as Juror No. 2
Lee J. Cobb
as Juror No. 3
E.G. Marshall
as Juror No. 4
Jack Klugman
as Juror No. 5
Edward Binns
as Juror No. 6
Jack Warden
as Juror No. 7
Henry Fonda
as Juror No. 8
Joseph Sweeney
as Juror No. 9
Ed Begley Sr.
as Juror No. 10
George Voskovec
as Juror No. 11
Robert Webber
as Juror No. 12
Rudy Bond
as Judge
Billy Nelson
as Court Clerk
John Savoca
as Defendant
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Critic Reviews for 12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (6)

Audience Reviews for 12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)

  • Oct 01, 2018
    A film whose action takes almost completely in the deliberation room of a jury may sound as if it's going to be awfully dry or uninteresting, but on the contrary, '12 Angry Men' is powerful and stirring, with real tension, fantastic characters, and great dialogue. It probes into the American judicial system, and in a larger sense, the human condition. I couldn't recommend it more highly. As a jury of twelve retire to reach a verdict in a murder trial on a sweltering day in New York, it's clear that most - in fact, eleven of them - believe the evidence against the accused is overwhelming. To me it's notable that early on, the lone holdout (Henry Fonda) isn't making all sorts of arguments as to why the defendant isn't guilty: he simply wants to make sure they proceed carefully and talk it through. He empathizes with the defendant's difficult upbringing not because he thinks it's relevant to the charges or a defense in and of itself, but because he's a decent guy who senses a rush to judgment, and perhaps most importantly, senses a bias in the room against one of "those kinds of kids" from the slums. What follows from there is a tour de force in critical thinking, rational discourse, and civility - all of the best things about mankind, and which save us from injustice and the mob. While the film is taut and focused on this single trial - and only this aspect of the trial - it has a number of larger messages. First and foremost, it tells us that wisdom never needs to shout. Patience and silence are powerful. There are such lessons here in how to interact with others in calm, respectful, and yet assertive ways - even when tempers flare, things get personal, or when one has to stand up to a bully with a big mouth. In one of my favorite moments, when a bigoted juror (Ed Begley) is going on about "those kind of people" in clearly prejudiced ways, his fellow jurors quietly get up and turn their backs on him to show their disdain, and even those who agree with his vote do not support him. In another great rebuke, when Begley asks the immigrant watchmaker (George Voskovec) why he's being so polite, he responds "For the same reason you are not; it's the way I was brought up." The film also affirms the importance of the American justice system, and by extension, other countries with trial by jury in one form or another. Flawed though it may be, the concept that one must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of one's peers, and that the decision must be unanimous - that it's better to let a guilty man go free than to convict an innocent man - is fundamental to a functioning democracy. How fantastic it is when Fonda's character states these points so simply and clearly. However, with that said, the film shows that this system only works when it's 'run' (or participated in) properly. Justice and democracy require thoughtful participation, and are not things to be dismissed quickly so that we can resume our lives, and in the case of Jack Warden's character, get on to the baseball game. It's a wonderful moment when Voskovec, otherwise relatively quiet, chastises him for his backward priorities while another man's life hangs in the balance. From these moments we can infer that the film is a criticism of those who avoid jury duty by pretending to show bias or conflict, and though it may be a stretch, you can apply this to other important civic duties as well, such as voting. It's to the film's credit that while there are a few who spew bigotry and bully others, everyone makes valid points about the evidence they've heard, including the loudmouths, and that's part of what makes it so gripping. Sifting through these points and reaching consensus is a big part of the film. The flow of the discussion is intelligent, with the natural questions or responses to an argument vocalized by one character or another. There is such rawness and realism in the dialogue, and we wrestle with the facts ourselves, and feel the weight of it all. We see the importance of rational, careful thought, but also the importance of understanding others, and not just the defendant or witnesses in the case, but the jurors themselves, who all have their own backgrounds, and in some cases, their own baggage. If all of this sounds too heavy or moralistic, I apologize, because it really isn't. The performance are natural and brilliant across the board. There are powerful emotional moments, but there is also humor peppered throughout the film. When Fonda's character queries Marshall's own ability to recall events from past evenings, we hear Warden quip in the background "When you get to New Year's Eve 1954, let me know." Before the advertising man (Robert Webber) puts forth an idea, he says "Let's throw it out and see if the cat licks it up." These types of lines not only make the characters more interesting, but they also add realism. It's telling to me that while Lee J. Cobb comes across as the 'rival' to Henry Fonda, and he is quite bombastic in several emotional moments, it's really the cold, factual juror (E.G. Marshall) who really needs to be swayed at the end, and it's a discussion of reason against reason. Cobb is the last juror to change his mind, but the final discussion is really between Marshall and Fonda. Marshall admits that Fonda has "made some excellent points", but then reminds him of the eyewitness testimony, and then says "what do you think?" Civility and decency are triumphing, and it's a metaphor for the only hope for man. The ending is absolutely brilliant, with the jurors returning into the streets to head back to their twelve separate lives, having performed their civic duty. Director Sidney Lumet shows incredible restraint to not then cut to 'what actually happened' on the night in question, or to a plot twist, or to some outcome good or bad (e.g. some of type of feel-good fanfare with the young defendant weeping tears of relief, or a horrifying realization Fonda has when he somehow finds out that he's let a killer go free, etc). There's none of that, and quite simply because they've done what they're meant to do, and justice has been served.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 15, 2017
    12 Angry Men proves that a masterpiece is all in the details. Released in 1957, this is about a group of jurors deciding the fate of a young boy who is accused of murder. One man believes he is not guilty and attempts to convince the rest of the jurors of his innocence. This is, without a doubt, one of the best dramas ever created. Nice short runtime, small cast, all filmed in one room...it's just so tight!! The beauty of it is that just from dialogue alone we are thoroughly entertained and it maintains a sense of tension throughout. The crime is never re-enacted, it's from the descriptive dialogue that we picture it in our heads. Writer Reginald Rose knew that the most powerful tool in film (at that time) was words. The cast was high calibre, Henry Fonda leading the view of not guilty...it's pretty difficult to go against him when he is full of suaveness and so convincing. We get to know each juror as the film goes on and we soon start to explore the possibility that their personal lives are tainting their decision. That, was what made it so palpable. It was clouding their judgement, and their stubborn personalities made it all the more satisfying if they did change their mind. Persuasion is a powerful tool, but add a hint of conviction and you can manipulate anyone's mind. Several nice details were included, I like the fact it was set on the hottest day of the year. The heat evidently getting to the jurors, it made them more irritable and heightened the angry emotions within. Director Sidney Lumet did so much in such a little space, technically. When the jurors enter the room, its a sublime long five minute shot and he manages to share the screen time with each juror equally. He was able to convey their personalities instantaneously just by their attire, then when the discussion commences we start to dig a little deeper. The screenplay really is the winner here, if anything it makes me want to work in law! Dramas do not come better than this, 12 Angry Men easily gets the perfect rating. It sits in the inclusive list of masterpieces.
    Luke A Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2016
    A bonafide classic one location drama. Simply shot, with a superb ensemble cast, it is in the end an humanistic and moving film.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2016
    Being a film buff myself, I'd like to think I know good movies when I see them. With 12 Angry Men, all it took was a few scenes and I knew this was one of the great ones. Not only was this movie important and influential, it's also easily re-watchable. I've seen it three times now and each time I pick up on new tidbits of information and dialogue that I missed the time before. I would imagine it's not easy directing an ensemble of 12 in one small room, but Sidney Lumet managed to do it, and do it very well. I often find crime-drama's to be my favorite genre of movies in large part because of the suspenseful aspects of that particular storytelling. While 12 Angry Men is far from a prototypical crime drama, it's certainly suspenseful. What begins as one man's doubts against 11 other men's desire to leave the courthouse as fast as possible, ends with a powerful message of prejudices and class issues. The nice thing about this particular criminal case is that at first listen, it's hard to argue with what some of the men are saying. There's definitely a grey area to this particular case, and that proves to help the development of the suspense and third-act revelations. Perhaps even more important than the simple theme of class issues is the idea of communication, and how far a little talking can take you. As Henry Fonda nicely put it "we have a reasonable doubt, and that's something that's very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's sure." All of these men were under difficult conditions, considering the small room and blistering heat, but all of them also needed to understand that communicating with each other was the only way they were going to get through the night. I loved the way Lumet gracefully gave every one of the actor's their time to shine. Although Fonda was the clear star, and likely had the most lines, here, every single one of them brought their A-game. The film also points out how easy it is to involve your own personal prejudices into cases like this. Perhaps even to some viewers it may be hard to against the grain of 11 other "angry men" and vote not guilty, but sometimes it takes more than just sitting around and waiting for someone else to step up. Sometimes you have to be the one to point out the questionable things in whatever job field or discussion you are in. Communication can be a difficult thing, but if you're willing to listen to others share their opinion, you should be willing to talk as well. But I do know one thing that can't be disputed, the greatness that is Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men. 93/100
    Thomas D Super Reviewer

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