12 Angry Men (1956)

In his feature debut, director Sidney Lumet brought his trademark social conscience to a claustrophobic jury room where one man pits reason against the prejudices of 11 others.

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Introduction

“It makes for taut, absorbing and compelling drama that reaches far beyond the close confines of its jury room setting.”
A.H. Weiler, The New York Times, 1957

Apart from his bravely outspoken scepticism about the assumed guilt of a young Hispanic man on trial for murder, pretty much all we come to know about Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda) is that he is an architect. Brick by brick, he restacks the evidence and compels his fellow jurors (a gallery of US character actors including Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam and Jack Warden) to re-examine the testimony that sounded so convincing in the court room, and to look at their own motives as well.

12 Angry Men began life as Reginald Rose’s 1954 television play for US network CBS, and gave young TV director Sidney Lumet his first shot at feature directing, launching a half-century career that concluded with another crime drama, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007).

Lumet continued to explore the world of US law enforcement in such films as Serpico (1973), Prince of the City (1981), The Verdict (1982), Q&A (1990) and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996).

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