12 Angry Men
By M. Faust,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Outstanding Henry Fonda jury classic is still relevant.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
People given the legal responsibility to decide a peer's fate should not jump to conclusions based on preconceived notions about race, education, economic status, or other identifying characteristics. Police and prosecutors can make mistakes. Everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt, especially when quick judgments could lead to someone's death. The fact that this jury is made up exclusively of white males should be explained to kids as a sign of the film's time period.
Positive Role Models
Henry Fonda plays the sole juror voting to acquit based on reasonable doubt. Although he is verbally abused and called a bleeding-heart liberal by those voting in favor of the death sentence, he patiently and calmly enlists the curiosity and fair thinking of his fellow jurors to examine more closely the so-called facts of the case until they slowly agree that the prosecution's murder case might not be airtight.
Violence & Scariness
A young man is accused of stabbing his father to death. Jurors nearly come to blows over disagreements about the case. One juror threatens to kill another in the heat of the moment. It's suggested that one of the jurors most eager to sentence a boy to death for murder has physically abused his own estranged son.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Jurors smoke cigarettes throughout the movie. Biased jurors state as a "fact" that minorities drink too much alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 12 Angry Men is a gripping 1957 drama that makes much out of a simple situation (the ordinary deliberations of a jury) and setting (the room where they have been sequestered). Jurors smoke cigarettes throughout the movie. Biased jurors state as a "fact" that minorities drink too much alcohol. There is one "damn." A young man is accused of stabbing his father to death. Jurors nearly come to blows over disagreements about the case. One juror threatens to kill another in the heat of the moment. The fact that this jury is made up exclusively of white males should be explained to kids as a sign of the film's time period. Despite its age, this drama still has a lot to say about the principles on which the American justice system is based, as well as issues of prejudice.
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12 Angry Men
Based on 10 parent reviews
Required viewing to understand this crazy world we live in
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What's the Story?
12 ANGRY MEN creates a mesmerizing drama out of an event that takes place many times every day throughout the United States: A man is tried by a jury of his peers. "Nice bunch of guys, huh?" one juror remarks sarcastically after a particularly heated argument. The juror, played by Henry Fonda, replies, "They're about the same as anyone else." That observation is central to the film, which shows the deliberation of a murder trial where a young Puerto Rican man is accused of killing his father.
Is It Any Good?
Though this is an older film, its examination of the jury system is as valid as ever, and it may be even more important today when media sensationalism has such a strong effect on public perceptions. The movie stresses that the most crucial issue is not whether the jurors think the accused is guilty but, according to the law, whether that has been proven "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Henry Fonda, perfectly cast in 12 Angry Men as a man who values reason, leads a troupe of familiar character actors in a movie that makes a virtue out of its cramped setting. Fonda is one of the great movie stars who will be discovered afresh by new generations.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about confusing aspects of the legal system and the complex topic of prejudice in 12 Angry Men. How timely are these issues now? Give some examples.
Explore the idea of being tried by a "jury of your peers," since it's easy for kids to assume that peers are people who are similar to the accused in nearly every way.
Why do you think this film is considered a classic? Does it stand the test of time?
How does Henry Fonda's juror in 12 Angry Men demonstrate communication and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: March 6, 1957
- On DVD or streaming: March 6, 2001
- Cast: Henry Fonda, Joseph Sweeney, Robert Webber
- Director: Sidney Lumet
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Communication, Integrity
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 3, 2023
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