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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; .

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

    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
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 very 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.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Did the dissenting juror believe that the defendant was probably guilty or did he think the man was innocent? Does it matter whether the dissenting juror think that the defendant was probably guilty? What is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt?"

Suggested Response: We don't know what the dissenting juror believed that the young man was probably guilty. It didn't matter. The question was whether the prosecution had presented proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt must "after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence" give the jurors "an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge." California Penal Code, § 1096.

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.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

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

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  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. Due process is important because if the government takes action without due process, it will lose the loyalty of its citizens. It is a flexible concept and requires different procedures in different situations. For example, the due process requirements for a criminal case against a person are different than due process for a civil case. There is more due process required whenever there is a court case. But when an administrative agency acts, the requirements of due process are less. For example, people have the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard. 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.

    2.  See the Quick Discussion Question.

    3.  Why does "due process of law" require that before a person can be convicted of a crime, every member of a jury vote for conviction? Suggested Response: Because the state is so powerful and has so many resources and because often defendants have few ways to protect themselves, the state is held to a high burden. This is the same reason why the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This results in some guilty people going free, but that is better than convicting many people who are innocent. Experience shows that this would happen if the state was not required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to each juror.

    4.  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?

    5.   If the one juror had not spoken up, and if he had gone along with the other jurors, the young defendant would have been convicted based on one juror's prejudice, another juror's desire to end the deliberations in time for a baseball game, yet another juror's anger at his son, and the failure of the jury to really consider the facts. Would that have been right? Suggested Response: Obviously, not.

    6.  In this film, the dissenting juror did something that is forbidden. What was it? Suggested Response: He performed his own investigation and found the duplicate knife. Jurors are not permitted to do this because the Judge cannot assure that the evidence is admissible.

    7.  What would have happened to the rights of this young man if there was not a requirement that the verdict be unanimous? Suggested Response: He would have been convicted of murdering his father.

    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 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 to this question and it doesn't really matter what the subjective intent of the dissenting juror was.

    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 happened, the test is whether the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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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.

    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. Was this a valid argument?

    2.  How do the events recounted in this film show the flaw in judging a person by his neighborhood or class?


    (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)

    3.  What is another term for "due process of law?"

    (Additional questions are set out in the "Justice" section above.)


    (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)

    4.  What would have happened to the boy had the dissenting juror not cared enough to sit on the jury or to attempt to persuade the other jurors?

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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