A Synopsis of 12 Angry Men One of the top one hundred movies of all time according to the American Film Institute (number 87 to be exact), and also listed as one of his “Great Movies” by Rogert Ebert, 12 Angry Men is considered a household classic today and the definition of a quality movie. Unlike many of the movies today, 12 Angry Men doesn’t use vulgar language, have raunchy sex scenes, or any type of real violence through out the movie, but yet it is still considered a classic.
In this paper, I will be going over an analysis of the each juror in the story, the group’s dynamics as a whole and individually, and the assets and liabilities with the jury. First off, lets go over each character in the jury and how each of them contribute to the dynamics of the group as a whole. Every juror in this movie plays a part in the decision making processes of this movie. In a way you could say that Henry Fonda was the star and the 11 other jurors all played co-stars within the movie.
The first juror, Juror number1, unfortunately was appointed the task of being the foreman of the jury. He in my opinion didn’t initially conform to the social pressure that members of juries tend to do. I think he had the basic thought that the kid was guilty before the jurors even convened in the room. Later on, when he does decide to change his mind to not guilty, I also believe that he didn’t conform to social pressure, but simply reviewed the facts and decided there was a “reasonable doubt” that the kid could be innocent.
The next juror, Juror number 2, is a very shy and timid man. At the beginning of the movie, it’s really hard to tell whether the man’s decision of being guilty is influenced by the group or whether he formed his opinion strictly from the court case. The reason I think this is because he really doesn’t do much talking in the beginning, but eventually comes into his own later on and actually voices his opinion. Juror number 3, and probably the most controversial juror in the film, he tarts out to be a pretty pleasant person, but eventually turns into a deranged, loud, and controversial character. Towards the beginning of the film, he seems to think that the boy is guilty without really having to have the other jurors persuade him to think that he is. Throughout the movie though, when each of the jurors one by one decide to join Henry Fonda’s side of not being guilty, he is still stuck in his ways and disregards the facts that help make the boy innocent.
I think the reason that he is stubborn and sticks by his decision is both because he doesn’t want to look foolish that he made the wrong decision because he was so sure the boy was guilty and for the fact that his son deserted him. In some sick twisted way, I also think that he felt he could get back at his son for leaving him by putting this boy that’s on trial into prison. I also personally think that he shouldn’t have even been a juror assigned to this case to his mental instability.
Juror number 4 is more of a cocky individual, one of those people that think they know everything and that everything they say is right (I think we all know someone like this). In a way he is somewhat like Juror number 3 in that he ignores the facts that lead to a “reasonable doubt” that the boy is innocent in fear of being wrong and hurting his image of being the most intelligent individual in the room.
This is a perfect example of one of the liabilities within groups, letting one’s ego get involved and being determined to win the argument at any cost. Juror number 5 has pretty much the same background as the boy on trial growing up; he grew up in the slums, witnessed knife fights, and had an overall poor standard of living. He decides to hide his background in fear that the rest of the jury will judge him and disregard his opinion because he may have an emotional attachment to the case makes juror number 5 decide guilty at the beginning of the movie.
During the movie though, he does state the fact that he did grow up like the boy and has some valuable insight on the case, such as the knife wound and the way boys growing up like himself hold knives in knife fights. Towards the end of the movie he decides on his own, based on the recently discovered facts, that the boy is not guilty. This decision is totally decided on his own instead of trying to fit in and not be discovered as he did at the beginning of the movie. One of the most non-caring individuals when it comes to the case at hand is Juror number 7.
All the man cares about is making it to the baseball game he has tickets for in time. Once the rain starts, and it is assumed the baseball game is cancelled, he moves his concerns to other things such as the heat, anything other than the case that the man is there to decide on. At the beginning of the film he seems to be influenced by the group to decide on guilty simply for the fact that more people chose guilty, so if Juror number 7 decided guilty then they would be done convening quicker.
Though later he does come to his senses and realize there is a boy’s life at stake, so he looks at the newly discovered facts and decides he “has a reasonable doubt” so the boy is not guilty. Juror number 8, the star of the film, is played by Henry Fonda who is named the sixth greatest actor of all time by The American Film Institute. He also played in other classic films such as The Grapes of Wrath and On Golden Pond. In this film, Henry Fonda’s character is the most individualistic juror of them all.
From the beginning, he thinks the boy is not guilty and throughout the film even more facts arise to concrete his belief that the boy is not guilty. While one or two other jurors are quick to change their opinion on whether the boy is guilty, he is the only person in the entire film not to change his mind on his decision (I guess that’s why Henry Fonda’s character is the star of the film). Juror number 9 is a very unique person in the film in my opinion; his insight on many things plays a big supporting role to Henry Fonda’s fight to show the rest of the jury that there is a “reasonable doubt”.
His realization of the imprints on juror number 4’s nose that leads to the discovery of the woman witness who might not have worn her glasses at the time of the incident helps him to sway number 4’s opinion on whether the boy is guilty or not. I also believe that if it were not for him playing a major part in deciding the boys innocence, that the movie would not have turned out the way it did many of the jurors would have still decided the boy was not guilty and there wasn’t a reasonable doubt.
Juror number 9 also doesn’t fall into the group liability of social pressures to conform to a solution that a majority of group members feel to be correct or incorrect, but rather the juror has his own opinion and formulates his own ideas based on facts. Juror number 10 in the film is portrayed as a stereotypical, hypocritical, and overall evil character in the film. Much like juror number 3, no matter what any juror has to say or the discovered facts that lead to innocence of the boy, number 10 is still set in his ways no matter what and has convinced himself that the boy is guilty.
The main reason that he is stubbornly unwilling to say that the boy is innocent is because of the boys background growing up. He is so determined to prove to everyone that because of the way the boy grew up and where he grew up that the boy had to of had killed his father. He also puts emphasis on this fact because he is not that far above the boy from a social and economical standpoint. Juror number 11, who I also believe was a supporting character to Henry Fonda and played a major factor, is a foreign watchmaker who I believe, comes from a French descent.
Number 11 is one of the most sensible, level headed, and realistic thinking people in the movie. One major point in the movie that shows both the character and intelligence of the jurors is when he corrects juror number 10 when he says “ He don’t even speak good English”. This line shows that this foreigner, is far more educated then juror number 10, and this in my opinion far less validates the view that juror number 10 has in the film. This also disproves that the background that someone is raised in doesn’t have a major factor in who they are today.