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Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Other Sections:
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast
Go to the Learning Guide for this film.

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.

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.

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 couldn'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.


Additional Discussion Questions:

Continued from the Learning Guide...

5. Since it is against the rules for a juror to investigate a matter under deliberation on his own, and the dissenting juror discovers significant information in this manner, what would you have the man do that could be as persuasive as dropping the knife onto the table yet remain within the rules? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Since a mistrial would be declared were the judge to find out what the juror had done, students can suggest other ways that the information provided by the fact that the knife is commonly sold can be presented to the jury. Just doggedly insisting on proof beyond a reasonable doubt will usually do.

6.  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.

7.  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.

8.  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.

9.  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.

10.  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.

11.  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.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions


See the Subject Matter Discussion Questions above.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
(TeachWithMovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner"
and  uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.)

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.

Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7 - 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41,& 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.

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.

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