Twelve Angry Men
Based on a television play by Reginald Rose and directed by Sidney Lumet, in a capital murder case a jury begins voting 11-1 guilty, but the dissenter raises enough questions to persuade others who help persuade the others also.
In an impressive justice building in one of the courtrooms the judge instructs the jury what they are to decide in a murder case. Their verdict must be unanimous, and they must find the defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The alternate jurors are dismissed, and the twelve jurors are escorted from the courtroom to the jury room.
Juror #7 (Jack Warden) tries to get a fan to work and opens a window, and Juror #6 (Edward Binns) helps him open another window. 7 says it is going to be very hot. Juror #5 (Jack Klugman) says he did not know they locked the door. Juror #1 (Martin Balsam) has taken the place at one end of the table and has prepared paper for voting by ballot. Juror #10 (Ed Begley) makes a joke that maybe they could get him elected senator. Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) appears tired and tells Juror #2 (John Fiedler) that he almost fell asleep during the trial. He says he has been on many juries, and he finds it a waste of time. He suggests they get started. One man is in the bathroom. 5 tells Juror #12 (Robert Webber) that he is in his seat, and 12 gets up and talks to Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) at a window. 10 blows his nose and tells 7 that he has a cold. Juror #4 (E. G. Marshall) is reading a newspaper and tells 3 that he wants to see how the market is doing. 3 says he runs a messenger service with 37 employees and gives his card to 4. 1 tells them to take their seats, and 7 says he wants to go to the baseball game. He asks where they sit, and 1 says they could sit in order of their numbers. The others cooperate and take their seats. 1 tells 8 at the window to sit down so they can start. Juror #6 (Edward Binns) knocks on the bathroom door to get the old man Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney) who takes his seat.
1 says they can handle this various ways, and he says he will not make rules. He says they can discuss it and then vote on it or vote right away. 4 says it is customary to take a preliminary vote, and 7 agrees that is a good idea. 1 says it is a first-degree murder charge, and if they vote guilty, he will go to the electric chair. He says it has to be twelve to nothing either way because that is the law. He asks those voting guilty to raise their hands. Immediately 1, 3, 4, 7, and 12 put up their hands. Then 2, 5, 6, 11, and 9 raise their hands. 1 counts 11 votes and asks for those voting not guilty. 8 raises his hand. 7 asks what they do now, and 8 says he guesses they talk. 10 laughs and says there is always one. 3 asks 8 if he really thinks he is innocent. 8 says he does not know. 3 says he is a dangerous killer, and 8 says he is eighteen years old. 3 says that is old enough. He says they proved that he stabbed his father and that they proved it many different ways in court. He asks if he wants him to list the ways. 8 says no, and 10 asks what he does want. 10 asks if he believes his story. 8 says they cannot decide in five minutes because they may be wrong. 8 asks for an hour and says the ballgame does not start until eight. 10 starts to tell a good story, and 8 says that is not why they are there. 8 says the boy has been kicked around and lived in a slum and in an orphanage when his father was in prison. He says he had a miserable eighteen years, and they owe him consideration. 10 says they don’t owe him anything. He says he lived with them; they cannot believe anything they say because they are born liars. The old man (9) stands up and says only an ignorant person would believe that, and he asks 10 if thinks he was born with a monopoly on the truth. 9 says some things should be pointed out. 12 talks about his advertising campaign and shows his doodling to Juror #11 (George Voskovec).
1 asks 8 to tell them why he has a different opinion. 12 suggests the rest of them could convince him why they are right. 1 likes the idea and tells them to go once around the table and starts with 2. He says he just believes he is guilty, and 8 says the defense does not have to say anything. 2 says someone saw him do it. 3 mentions the facts that the old man heard the kid say he was going to kill him, and he heard the body hit the floor. They found the father dead. 4 says the boy’s story that he went to a movie was flimsy. 10 and 11 agree with him. 10 gets up and walks around the table and says a woman saw the kid stab his father. 8 says she had to see through the windows of the el train. 8 asks 10 why he believes the woman’s story since she is one of them too. 10 resents that and sits down. 5 asks if he can pass, and 1 lets him. 6 says he was looking for a motive. He says the people across the hall testified about an argument between the father and the son. 8 says they saw the father hit the boy twice, and the boy ran out of the house. 8 says that is not a strong motive because this boy was probably hit many times. 4 says it may have been two too many because everyone has a breaking point. 7 says it has all been said. He says the kid threw a rock at a teacher. He stole a car, was arrested for mugging, and was in knife fights. 8 says his father beat him up regularly since he was five years old. 7 says he does that too. 3 says he called his father “Sir.” 8 says fathers don’t think that is important anymore. They both have kids. 3 says his son once ran away from a fight, and he decided to make a man out of him. When he was sixteen, his son hit him in the jaw; he has not seen him for two years. 4 says it is too bad he lived in a slum, but that is not their concern. 5 says he lived in a slum. 1 says they are wasting time and calls on 8 who says he thought the others were to convince him. They discuss whether he should have a turn, and 1 says he will give up the responsibility and asks 10 if he wants to take the chair. 1 asks 12 to do it, but 7 tells him to stay in there and pitch.
8 says he knows what they do. He says the testimony makes it look like he is guilty. He says everything sounded so positive. He wishes he could have asked questions, and he felt the lawyer did not ask enough questions. 8 says he would have got another lawyer. He says two witnesses were the entire case, and he asks if they could have been wrong. 12 says no, but 8 asks if he knows for sure. 3 asks about the switch-blade knife they found in his chest. 8 says he would like to see the knife again. 1 knocks on the door and asks the clerk to bring them the knife. 4 reviews how the boy was hit by his father, and the boy bought the knife. He met some of his friends at 8:45 for an hour, and they saw the knife. The death weapon was identified as that knife. The boy claims he went to a movie and returned home at 3 in the morning and found his father dead, and he was arrested. 4 says the boy never went to the movies. The boy says the knife slipped out of a hole in his pocket when he went to the movies. 4 asks 8 to look at the knife and sticks it in the table. 4 says that is an unusual knife, and 3 agrees it would be very unlikely. 8 pulls out a very similar knife from his pocket and sticks it in the table. He admits he broke the law to buy that kind of knife in that neighborhood. They discuss the case. 10 says someone saw the kid stab his father, and he wants to get out of there. 11 stands up and says the knife was important to the district attorney. 1 says that 8 is the only one holding them up. 8 proposes another vote by secret ballot, and he will abstain. If all eleven vote guilty, he will not stand in their way; but if one person votes not guilty, then they will stay and talk out the case.
They use the paper ballots and pass them over to 1 who reads them one at a time. He reads the first nine as guilty and then reads one as not guilty and the last as guilty. Some want to know who it was, but 11 says it was a secret ballot. They do not have to know who it was. 3 blames 5 for the vote and asks him why he changed his vote. The old man says he changed his vote and asks if they want to know why. The old man says he respects the man who gambled, and he wants to support him. 7 gets up and goes into the bathroom, and 9 says he is talking. 1 says they should wait for the man in the bathroom, and they take a break. 12 talks about an advertising agency and the phrases they use such as “running it up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes it.” 3 apologizes to 5.
8 goes in the Men’s room, and 7 asks if he is a salesman. 8 is washing his hands and face and says he is an architect. 7 says 8 has the soft sell. 7 says he made $27,000 last year selling marmalade. He asks 8 what he is getting out of this and calls him a do-gooder. He asks why he is wasting their time and suggests he donate money to the cause. He says the kid is guilty. 7 goes out, and 6 comes in and asks if it will be much longer. 6 says he is guilty for sure; but he does not mind because it beats working. 8 says it is possible he is not guilty. 8 asks how he would feel if he was on trial. 6 asks what happens if he talks them out of it, and the kid is guilty.
They resume, and 3 asks 8 about the old man who heard the voices. 8 says it is not that easy to identify voices from another apartment. 4 says the woman remembered details of what she saw through the train. 8 sees 3 and 12 playing tic-tac-toe, and he picks up the paper and says this is not a game. He crumples the paper, and 3 complains of his nerve. 8 asks how long that train takes to pass a given point, and they agree on about ten seconds. He asks if any of them lived near a train, and he says that the noise is loud when one passes by. The old man said he heard the boy say he was going to kill him, and one second later he heard the body hit the floor. At the same time the woman saw the killing through the last two cars. The body must have hit the floor as the train went by. Thus the train was roaring by the window while the old man heard the boy’s statement. 3 says testimony can’t always be accurate. 8 says in a murder case they should be accurate. Some say he could not have heard it. 3 asks why the old man would lie, and 9 says attention. 3 suggest that 9 send his ideas into a newspaper. 6 warns 3 he should have more respect and threatens to lay him out if he says things like that to him. 6 asks 9 why he thinks the old man might have lied. He says he was very old in poor clothes and was ashamed of his bad leg. He says this is a man who never had recognition. To be quoted made him feel important. 9 says he may have persuaded himself that he heard those things. 10 calls it a fantastic story and asks 9 what he knows about that. 2 gets up and asks if anyone wants a cough drop. 8 asks for one, and 2 gives him one. 8 says even if he did hear it, that phrase is often said by people without really meaning it. 3 says he is trying to get them to believe things that are not so. 8 asks if the kid would shout that out, and he says he is too bright for that. 10 says he is a common ignorant slob who “don’t speak” good English. 11 corrects 10’s English. 5 says he wants to change his vote to not guilty. 7 says his own lawyer knew he was guilty and that his lawyer presented his case. 8 says he was appointed and did not believe in his client. 7 asks them to look at the time.
11 stands up and says 8 has some good points. He asks if the boy committed the murder at 12:10, and he was captured by two detectives about 3 in the hall. He asks if he killed his father, why would he go home three hours later? 4 says he might have come back to get the knife and may have left in a panic. 11 says the fingerprints were wiped off. 11 says that the woman who saw the killing says she screamed. 11 says the boy would not have gone back. 4 says the boy may not have heard the scream or did not think it was related to what he did. 8 says there is enough doubt to wonder whether the boy was there at all. 10 asks if the old man saw the kid running out of the house. 11 says he said he did. 10 talks loudly and is finally interrupted. They decide to have another vote, and the same three vote not guilty. Then 11 says he is voting not guilty. 3 tells them to listen to the facts. 1 says the vote is eight to four. 11 says he has a reasonable doubt. 3 says the kid was seen stabbing his father. 7 asks 8 about the old man who said he ran to the door and saw the kid leaving at 12:10. 5 asks if the old man said he ran to the door, and 6 agrees he did say that. 4 says he went to the door. 8 asks the foreman to get them a floor plan of the apartment. 8 wants to know if the old man with a bad leg could get to the door in fifteen seconds, and they argue about the time. 8 says he heard footsteps upstairs immediately and tries to figure out how long it would take the kid to leave. 8 shows them the diagram of the apartment, and he says the old man would have to walk 55 feet in fifteen seconds. 8 says he is going to try it to see how long it would take. 8 says lawyers avoid badgering an old witness. 8 measures the room and has 4 mark the front door. 8 lies down, and 2 times him. 8 gets up and walks while dragging one foot. Some say he could have walked faster, and 8 speeds up a little. 2 tells them the time was 41 seconds. 8 says he might have assumed that someone racing down the stairs was the boy. 3 calls this a fairy tale and says he has had enough. He says they are letting him slip through their fingers. 8 asks 3 if he is the executioner and calls him a sadist. 3 gets angry and is restrained by others, saying, “I will kill him.” 8 says he does not really mean that. The clerk comes in, and 1 says it was a friendly argument. The clerk removes the diagram.
Some sit down, and 11 stands at an end of the table and talks about their responsibility of finding the right verdict. He says they should not make it a personal thing, and he sits down in his chair. 7 stands by the window, and 5 says it is really hot. 6 asks if they could take another vote, and 7 sits down. 1 asks if anyone does not want to vote. 10 asks for an open vote. 1 calls the numbers and says he votes guilty. 2 and 6 change their votes to not guilty. 1 says the vote is now six to six. 10 says he is sick and tired of facts, and the old man criticizes him and wishes he were younger. 2 tells 7 it is going to rain. 7 asks why he changed his vote. 2 says there is room for doubt. 10 says he thinks too much and gets mixed up. 2 calls 10 a loud-mouth.
It starts raining, and 1 turns on the light. 8 closes a window, and 1 helps him. 1 remembers a storm they had during a football game when he was a coach. 7 asks why the fan is not on. He turns it on and realizes it may be connected to the lights. 7 throws papers at the fan. 4 gets some water from the cooler, and 3 says it is surprising that the vote is even. 3 says that 8 baited him and made him angry. 10 says they should tell the judge they are a hung jury. 7 agrees and says no one else is going to change their vote. 11 asks if he understands the term “reasonable doubt.” 7 calls him arrogant. 8 asks about the movie alibi and questions 4 about whether he would remember details of the movie. In court he did remember the movie, but only during the interrogation that night he did not remember. 8 asks 4 personal questions what he did on recent nights. 4 says he went to the movies on Monday night, but he has trouble remembering the title of the second feature. 8 asks who was in it, and he remembers only one name. 8 says he was not under emotional stress. 12 says the ballgame will be rained out. 2 asks to see the knife. He stands up and says the evidence was that the wound was from a downward direction. 2 says the boy was 5’ 7”, and his father was 6’ 2”. 3 says he will demonstrate, takes the knife, makes himself shorter, and starts to stab at 8. He says he could stab him down and in. 5 comes over and takes the knife. He asks if any of them ever saw a knife fight. 5 says he saw many in his neighborhood. A switch knife is usually handled underhanded. 8 asks 12 what he thinks, and he says he does not know. 8 asks 7 what he thinks, and he changes his vote to not guilty. 3 complains, and 11 asks why he changed his vote because he is sick of the talking. 7 tells him not to talk like that to him. 11 asks if he is guilty or not, and 7 says not guilty. 11 asks him why, but 7 gives no reason.
8 asks for another vote. 1 asks those voting not guilty to raise their hands. 12 becomes the eighth vote and 1 the ninth vote. 10 stands up and says he does not understand them. He asks if they believe his phony story about losing the knife. He says they don’t need a reason to kill someone because they are violent by nature. 5 and 11 get up, and several turn their backs on him. 10 asks if they know about these people. He says they are dangerous. He asks them to listen. 4 says he has and tells him to sit down and not speak anymore. 10 sits at another little table. 8 sits down and says it is difficult to keep personal prejudice out of this, and it always obscures the truth. He says the nine not guilty voters may be wrong, but they have a reasonable doubt. He says they are not sure why they are still voting guilty. 4 says the woman saw the boy stab down into his father’s chest. She went to bed and could see directly from her bed across the street. She says the lights went out after the killing, but she saw the deed. 4 asks 12 what he thinks, and he says it is complicated. 3 calls for a vote, and 12 changes his vote back to guilty. 3 asks if anyone will change. Then he says they are a hung jury. 4 tells 3 not to change it into a contest. 4 suggests a time limit. He proposes that at seven they begin discussing if they are a hung jury or not.
The old man says 4 was rubbing his nose, and he asks him why he rubs his nose. 4 says it bothers him because of his eyeglasses. The old man says the glasses make impressions on his nose. The old man says the woman who testified she saw the killing had those marks on her nose and was rubbing them in court. 5 says he saw her do that. 9 says she was 45 and was trying to look 35 and did not wear glasses. 5 says she had the marks, and 1 says he saw them too. 3 asks what the point is. 4 admits he saw the marks too and says they could only be made by eyeglasses. 8 says women often don’t wear glasses because they think they spoil their looks. 3 says she was in the house alone. 8 asks 4 if he wears his glasses in bed, and he says no one does. 8 says she would not have time to put on her glasses. He says she may have only seen a blur. 11 says she would have to identify a person sixty feet away at night. 8 asks if it is possible. 3 says no, but 12 changes his vote again to not guilty. 3 asks 4 who says he has a reasonable doubt now. 8 says 3 is alone. 3 says he does not care; it is his right. 3 says he is guilty, and 8 asks for his arguments. 3 stands up and says the old man saw him on the stairs. He says they can’t prove he did not get to the door. 3 says he would remember the movies he saw. He says the woman testified in open court. He says he has all the facts there. They look at him, and he asks them to say something. He calls them bleeding hearts and says he is entitled to his opinion. He tears up the photo of him with his son and cries and says not guilty.
1 tells the clerk that they are ready now. They put on their coats and leave the jury room. 3 is still sitting at the table, and 8 helps him put his coat on. 3 goes out followed by 8.
The jurors leave the building, and the old man asks 8 his name and tells him his name. They shake hands and say goodbye.
This classic courtroom drama depicts an all-male jury of the period and shows that one intelligent person with courage and determination can persuade others that there are doubts in a murder case. In the process prejudices are exposed as they attempt to reason out what actually happened based on the evidence presented in court.