12 Angry Men

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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If the boy only knew what headaches he was about to cause...

12 Angry Men is a 1954 teleplay by Reginald Rose (and perhaps more famously, a 1957 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda and a veritable All-Star Cast of character actors) that concerns a supposedly straightforward murder trial. An eyewitness, forensic evidence, and the accused himself all seem to clearly point to an adolescent boy murdering his father. While most of the jurors want to pack it in and call it a day, one stands up and refuses to admit to the boy's guilt -- at least until they take a fine toothed comb through every shred of the evidence and make darn sure that they've got the right guy.

This work is best known as the film that popularized the Rogue Juror trope. Though it was not the first work to use it, it was the first to receive widespread critical acclaim. It's a classic of American cinema and recommended watching - if only because most of the other works on the Rogue Juror page reference it either directly or indirectly.

According to the American Film Institute, it's the second best courtroom drama movie in history, after To Kill a Mockingbird‍'‍s film adaptation. In 1997 it was adapted yet again, this time as a Made for TV movie on Showtime starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott (the main difference in this version being the level of cussing). There is also a 2007 Russian Adaptation by Nikita Mikhalkov called simply 12.

12 Angry Men (the 1957 version) was added to the National Film Registry in 2007.

Tropes used in 12 Angry Men include:

Juror #10: Listen to me!
Juror #4: I have. Now sit down and don't open your mouth again.

    • The real kicker of the line is that #10 does exactly that - he doesn't say a word for the rest of the movie. When #8 asks him if he still thinks the boy is guilty, he simply shakes his head quietly.
  • Cool Old Guy: Juror #9, the first to support #8.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Juror #4.
  • Empathic Environment: The rainstorm.
    • To a lesser extent, the fan. It finally starts up when the votes start to swing in favor of acquittal.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Juror #3 may be vicious and want to see the defendant hang, but even he is unwilling to listen to #10's bigoted tirades.
  • Extremely Short Timespan
  • Freudian Excuse: Inverted for Juror #3 - he spends the movie continuously trying to convict a young man where there is more and more reasonable doubt for his guilt...because his relationship with his son appeared to have went very sour. He realizes this at the end, though, and does not continue his stance.
  • Fulton Street Folly: The film is set in a New York City courtroom, and the opening and closing scenes were shot on location at the New York State Supreme Court Building in Lower Manhattan.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: "This kid is 5 for 0."
  • Grey and Gray Morality. Though the pro-acquittal side is painted A Lighter Shade of Grey.
  • Guile Hero: Juror #8.
  • Heat Wave
  • Heel Face Revolving Door: Sort of; Juror #12 is the only one who ever changes his vote back to guilty. Juror #7 compares him to a tennis ball.
  • Heel Realization: When, in the middle of his furious insistence that the defendant is guilty, Juror #3 sees the picture of his estranged son and rips it to pieces, you can see in his face that he has just figured out what he was really doing.
  • Hollywood Law: While the Jurors do make the correct decision on reasonable doubt, the way they reach that position (by #8 wandering around the defendant's neighborhood conducting his own investigation) is major juror misconduct.
  • Hypocritical Humor:

Juror #10: He's a common, ignorant slob. He don't even speak good English.
Juror #11: Doesn't even speak good English.

    • To make it even funnier, Juror #11 is an immigrant to America from Europe.
  • I'll Kill You!
  • Implacable Man: Juror #4 is a purely intellectual version, a highly intelligent man who looks at the case with pure logic to defend his guilty vote rather than the more passionate and personal views of the others. He's also the only one who doesn't take his jacket off or loosen his tie in the hot room, claiming to never sweat. Subverted when he starts sweating when questioned about a movie he saw four days earlier.
  • Ineffectual Death Threats
  • Jerkass: Juror #7. He didn't care what the decision of the jury was, he only wanted to end early so he could go watch a game. At least the most vicious jurors voted guilty because they believed so.
  • The Judge: Shown issuing instructions to the jury in the opening scene. Many stage productions (and the 1997 TV version) cast a woman in the role as a way of bringing at least some token gender diversity to the play without contradicting the literal meaning of its title.
  • Karma Houdini: If the kid is guilty, then he gets away with killing his father.
    • And if the kid is innocent, the real killer is still at large and unsuspected.
  • The Lancer: Juror #9 acts as this, to some extent, to Juror #8.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "You know, it's interesting he'd find a knife exactly like the one the boy bought!"
  • Locked in a (Jury) Room
  • Man in White: Juror #8
  • Minimalism: Apart from a very short prologue and epilogue, the entire play/film takes place in the jury room (and an adjacent bathroom).
  • Monochrome Casting: Perhaps unsurprisingly for a film made in The Fifties, the jury is all-white (although one is an immigrant with a noticeable accent).
    • The 1997 update features one Latino juror and three African-Americans. In a twist, one of the latter is a Malcolm Xerox version of the bigoted Juror #10.
  • Nice Hat: Juror #7 dons a straw fedora throughout the film.
  • No Name Given/The Trope Without a Title/You Are Number Six/Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The jurors are known only by their numbers. The epilogue (in the film only, not in the play) gives last names for two of them (Davis for #8, and McCardle for #9).
  • Minimalist Cast: At the beginning, other people (such as the defendant and the judge) are briefly shown, but for the rest of the film, we only see the twelve jurors.
    • And the guard, briefly.
  • Oh Crap: Juror #3's face when he realizes that he's just contradicted his own argument subtly, but wonderfully, evokes this sentiment.
  • Perfect Health: Averted with Juror #10, who has a cold and keeps coughing and sneezing throughout.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: While there are plenty of impassioned speeches, the trope is less severe than most examples since the characters often stutter or pause at key points.
  • Real Time: Fully in the play; broken briefly at the beginning and end of the film.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Juror #5 will be instantly familiar to anyone who's seen an episode of Quincy, M.E.. Jack Klugman even gets to do a Quincy-style deduction years before the series was conceived, by pointing out the inconsistent nature of the knife wound.
  • Reverse Grip: An important plot point is how unlikely it is for any experienced knife fighter to use a switchblade this way.
  • Rogue Juror: If not the Trope Maker, definitely the Trope Codifier.
    • Unlike many examples, however, the Rogue Juror in this case isn't convinced of the defendant's guilt or innocence, at least initially; he simply wants the other jurors to take things seriously and not simply vote guilty -- thus sending a potentially innocent kid to the death chamber -- without making every effort to make sure he is guilty first.
  • Second Hand Storytelling
  • The Spock: Juror #4 (the stockbroker with wire rim glasses).
  • Title by Number
  • Values Dissonance: At the time this was written in the '50s, women weren't allowed on juries in some parts of the country. These days, the script is often produced as Twelve Angry Jurors with a more diverse cast.
  • Verbal Tic: Juror #10 seems to have one of these, you know what I mean? *sniff*
  • Video Credits: Necessary, since none of the characters are named.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Juror #10 delivers his famous rant. "Listen... listen to me...."
    • And Juror #3 shortly afterward. Made somewhat more poignant by the reactions of the other jurors; where they reacted to #10's breakdown with silent anger, they watch #3's meltdown with something closer to pity, as most of them realize why he is really pushing for a guilty verdict even as he denies the true reason, not just to the other jurors but to himself.
  • Wham! Line: #8 has a wham action when he pulls out a switchblade identical to the murder weapon, but the best has to go to #9 when he points out the female witness had glasses marks on her nose, which renders her testimony useless (meaning she wasn't wearing her glasses at the time she saw the stabbing, meaning she wouldn't have been able to see the murderer correctly).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never clear if the kid really did it, but that isn't the point. And many modern lawyers say that the jury made the correct decision as far as reasonable doubt goes.
    • It should be noted that even though acquittal was the right decision, the way they got to it was partly wrong; for a juror to conduct his own investigations the way #8 did should have resulted in an immediate mistrial. However, since the knife was only one aspect of the reasonable doubt, and the other points were arrived at properly, the verdict was still correct.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Juror #3 is asked to reenact the stabbing process on Juror #8. Given the tension between the two men, and #3's almost maniacal bloodthirstiness, there's a definite tension as to how "real" #3 will make the reenactment. Lampshaded by the alarmed reactions of most of the other ten jurors as he draws back the knife.