Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film!

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    12 ANGRY MEN

    SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 - 1991 & The Law;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Fairness; Respect; Citizenship.

    1957 Version: Age: 11+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 96 minutes; B & W; Available from Amazon.com.

    1997 Version: Age: 11+; MPAA Rating -- PG-13 for language; Drama; 117 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     These movies depict jury deliberations in a murder trial. The first vote is 11 to 1 to convict but ... Both films are excellent, however, the original black and white version is better than the 1997 remake.

    Benefits of the Movie: "12 Angry Men" is a gripping tale of jurors struggling to determine if a young man is guilty of murdering his father. It's also a primer on what to do and what not to do when deliberating as a juror. At first, only one juror will not accept the prosecution's case at face value. His questions eventually lead a number of other jurors to make a searching inquiry into facts presented at the trial.

    This story shows the dynamics of jury deliberations: the anger, the false starts, the personality conflicts, the joint effort, and the functioning of several minds together to ferret out the truth.

    "12 Angry Men" has been shown to law school and business school classes as a study in the jury system and as an example of effective persuasion.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Due Process Curriculum Standards
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

    Possible Problems:    MINIMAL. The jury is all-male. This film was made in the days when women were not allowed to serve on juries in some jurisdictions.

    There is some profanity. The doubting juror investigates on his own, something jurors are not permitted to do.

    Parenting Points:     Watch the movie with your child. You can assure your child that situations have occurred when one juror has turned a jury around. (The author's mother did it in a criminal case in Tallahassee, Florida.)

    Ask and answer the Quick Discussion Question and talk about any other points in the film that might interest your child. Consider watching and discussing The Ox-Bow Incident. If your child is interested in the film, go through some of the other discussion questions.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  1957 Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear; 1957 British Academy Awards: Best Actor (Fonda); 1957 Edgar Allan Poe Awards: Best Screenplay; 1957 National Board of Review Awards: Ten Best Films of the Year; 1957 Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Lumet), Best Adapted Screenplay. This film is listed in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress as a "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" film.

      Featured Actors:  Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Robert Webber, Ed Begley, Sr., John Fiedler, Jack Warden, George Voskovec, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney.

      Director:  Sidney Lumet.

    Helpful Background:

    In England before the 15th century, juries were chosen among people who actually knew something about the customs of the people and the locale in question. The modern jury dates from the 15th century when English Common Law judges began to instruct juries on the law and restrict them to finding the facts from the evidence presented at the trial. Under the U.S. Constitution, a person is entitled to a jury of his peers. This doesn't mean that the jurors must come from the same racial, ethnic or cultural background as the defendant, but rather that no particular race or ethnic background can be excluded from the jury selection process. The discussion the men are having about how to treat the youth of the slums is a perennial debate in American Society. See Boys Town.

    When a jury begins to analyze the facts of a case, the application of twelve minds to a set of circumstances is an amazing and awesome process. Attorneys who have often worked on a case for years will miss facts brought out by the jurors. An example from the film is the jury's analysis of the marks made on the nose of the eyewitness by her glasses. Jurors often find that their original positions are changed by the discussion during deliberations. The film is true to life. On rare occasions, a position that was held by only one dissenting juror has eventually been adopted by the rest of the jury, as occurs in this movie.

    A Report from the Classroom: 2010: The power of this movie and film in general is shown by this incident. It has been reported to TWM that a community college civics teacher had a class that was particularly lethargic. For weeks, he couln't get the students to show any interest in the subject or to respond in class. Then he showed them the 1957 version of "Twelve Angry Men" and the class completely changed. The students enthusiastically participated in discussions of issues raised by the film and kept on responding when the class moved on to other matters. The movie completely changed the dynamic of the class.
  MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Homework Project and Movies as Literature Homework Project.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Did the dissenting juror believe that the defendant was probably guilty or did he think the young man was innocent? Does it matter? Explain the reasons for your response.

Suggested Response: We don't know if the dissenting juror believed that it was probable that the young man had killed his father. It doesn't matter. The question that must be decided in any criminal case is whether the prosecution has presented proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that gives the jury, "after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence . . . an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge." California Penal Code, § 1096. The reason for imposing this requirement is based on: 1) the fact that the government has many resources at its disposal and that the usual criminal defendant does not; holding the government to a high burden of proof helps to redress this imbalance; and 2) the policy that it is better to let several guilty people go free than to convict and fine or imprison one innocent person.


    Discussion Questions:

    1.  In this film, the dissenting juror did something that juror's are not supposed to do. What was it and why is it forbidden? Suggested Response: The dissenting juror performed his own investigation and found the duplicate knife. Jurors are not permitted to investigate facts on their own because the Judge cannot assure that the evidence that the juror finds will be admissible. In addition, the two sides cannot be heard to explain how the fact applies to the case or to come up with other evidence that contradicts or explains the results of the juror's independent investigation.

    2.  What is "due process of law" and why is it important? Suggested Response: Due process is a set of procedures designed to make sure that people are treated fairly by the government. Dur process derives from the concept that a person cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without appropriate legal procedures and safeguards. Due process is a flexible concept and requires different procedures in different situations. For example, the due process requirements for a criminal case are more stringent than due process requirements for a civil case. Usually, due process requires more protections for the rights of those involved in a court case than in an administrative proceeding. In an administrative hearing the decision must be reasonable but it doesn't have to meet the standards of beyond a reasonable doubt or a preponderance of the evidence. The basic concept of due process is the right to notice, an opportunity to be heard, and protection from an unreasonable or capricious result. Due process is important because it is important to individuals that when government makes a decision affecting them, that the decision be made if the government takes action without due process, it will lose the loyalty of its citizens.

    3.  See the Quick Discussion Question.

    4.  What are the policy reasons underlying the requirement that before a person can be convicted of a crime, every member of a jury vote for conviction? Suggested Response: Because the state is powerful and has many resources and because often individuals accused of a crime have few ways to protect themselves, the state is held to a high burden when it tries to fine or imprison someone. This is the same reason why the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. These requirements result in some guilty people going free, but it is better to let some guilty people go free than to wrongfully convict, fine, or imprison even one person who is innocent. Experience shows that even with the protections of due process, some innocent people are convicted. The rates of erroneous convictions would soar if the government was not required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to every one of the jurrors hearing the case.

    5.  One juror was prejudiced. Another juror wanted to get to a baseball game. Yet another juror was angry at his own son and, at first, wanted to take that anger out on the young defendant. How do the requirements of a unanimous verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt relate to the personal concerns that some jurors will bring to the jury room? Suggested Response: The requirements for a unanimous verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt help jurors to deliberate carefully and focus on the facts of the case. They reduce the force of extraneous factors that don't relate to the guilt or innocence of the accused.

    6.  After watching this movie, do you agree that verdicts in criminal trials should be unanimous and that jurors should vote for guilt only if they are convinced of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Suggested Response: The answer to both parts of the question should be "yes". These protections are the foundation of our criminal justice system. What would happen if the victim had been a member of your family, or you yourself? What if the accused is a member of you family? Teachers may get good results by playing, at least for a time, the devil's advocate for whatever position students take.

    7.  Name some important elements of "due process of law" in a criminal trial. Suggested Response: The requirement that the prosecution present proof beyond a reasonable doubt; requirement that all jurors agree on conviction; presumption of innocence; right to confront your accuser; right not to be compelled to testify against yourself; right to a jury of your peers; and right to an attorney.

    8.  Pick a juror, describe the way he made up his mind at first, and tell us whether this is a proper way for a juror to make up his mind.

    9.  Do you think that the dissenting juror planned all along to try to convince the others? What were his methods of persuasion? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer but this question will focus the class on the mind of the dissenting juror and the fact that it doesn't really matter what the subjective intent of the dissenting juror was. What mattered is that it helped to lead to the correct result in this case.

    10.  Do you think that the jurors thought that the boy probably had killed his father? Should they have voted to convict if they had that belief? Suggested Response: The test is not what they believed probably happened, the test is whether the government had made them believe it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: "burden of proof," "due process of law," "presumption of innocence," "circumstantial evidence," "beyond a reasonable doubt."

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See the due process curriculum standards for the 11 most populous states.

This film is one of a triumvirate which help students understand due process. The other two are The Ox-Bow Incident and Stand and Deliver.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    See the Subject Matter Discussion Questions above.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

    1.  One of the jurors originally felt that the boy was guilty because of the neighborhood that he had grown up in. What is the logical flaw in this argument? Suggested Response: Logically, this is the basic flaw of racism or classism, the idea that just because someone belongs to a particular group, the have a particular personal attribute. Ethically, attributing to individuals attributes that they may not have just because they belong to a particular ethnic, religious, or economic group, shows a lack of respect for the individual.

    (Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)

    2.  What is another term for "due process of law?" Suggested Response: Fundamental fairness.


    (Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

    3.  Name at least four basic ways in which ordinary citizens can participate in government? Suggested Response: There are many. Several examples are listed below. The ways in which ordinary citizens usually have the most power are the first two. Some ways in which ordinary citizens can participate in government are: 1) vote; 2) serve on juries; 3) participate in political campaigns, 4) attend government hearings and express their opinions; 5) report criminal activity and agree to serve as a witness; 6) report government waste.

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

    Bridges to Reading: None.
  MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See The Ox-Bow Incident. For another movie discussing the debate on the proper way to treat delinquent youth, see Boys Town.

    Links to the Internet: None.



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