If the boy only knew what headaches he was about to cause...
Twelve Angry Men is a 1954 teleplay by Reginald Rose (and perhaps more famously, a 1957 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda and a veritable All-Star Cast of character actors) that concerns a supposedly straightforward murder trial. An eyewitness, forensic evidence, and the accused himself all seem to clearly point to an adolescent boy murdering his father. In the deliberation room, most of the jurors push for a quick guilty verdict, but one juror holds out and insists that they examine the evidence thoroughly to make darn sure that they've got the right guy.This work is best known as the film that popularized the Rogue Juror trope. Though it was not the first work to use it, it was the first to receive widespread critical acclaim. It's a classic of American cinema and recommended watching- especially because most of the other works on the Rogue Juror page reference it either directly or indirectly.According to the American Film Institute, it's the second best courtroom drama movie in history, after To Kill A Mockingbird's film adaptation. In 1997 it was adapted yet again, this time as a Made For TV movie on Showtime starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott (which race lifted several characters and added more cussing). There is also a 2007 Russian Adaptation by Nikita Mikhalkov called simply 12.
Tropes used include:
Actor Allusion: Juror #3 mocks #12 by calling him "the boy in the gray flannel suit". Lee J. Cobb, the actor playing #3, was in the 1956 film version of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, as was Joseph Sweeney, the actor playing Juror #9.
An Aesop: Jury duty should never be taken lightly, and a man should never be convicted of a crime unless his guilt can be proven without a reasonable doubt.
Artistic License - Law: Being convicted of first-degree murder does not result in an automatic death sentence. (This isn't Society Marches On, though the length and likely outcome of the appeals process after a death sentence might indeed be very different today). Also, see Hollywood Law below. The entire case, in real life, would have ended in a mistrial the moment it came to light that #8 had bought the exact same type of knife as used in the murder specifically to use in the deliberations.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Juror #9, who provides great insights on the eyewitnesses based on their appearances at court, and in turn gives fairly logical reasons for why their testimonies might not be truthful. Also leads to the Wham Line, below.
Berserk Button: #6 twice threatens violence (once explicitly, once by implication) over people showing disrespect to others.
Heel Face Revolving Door: Juror #12 is the only one who ever changes his vote back to guilty. Juror #7 compares him to a tennis ball.
Heel Realization: When, in the middle of his furious insistence that the defendant is guilty, Juror #3 sees the picture of his estranged son and rips it to pieces, you can see in his face that he has just figured out what he was really doing.
Hollywood Law: While the Jurors do make the correct decision on reasonable doubt, the way they reach that position (by #8 wandering around the defendant's neighborhood conducting his own investigation) is major juror misconduct.
Juror #10: He's a common, ignorant slob. He don't even speak good English.
Juror #11:Doesn't even speak good English.
To make it even funnier, Juror #11 is an immigrant to America from Europe.
I'LL KILL YOU!: Said by the defendant and later Juror #3, which gets thrown back in his face because he'd earlier claimed that people don't say something like that unless they mean it.
Immigrant Patriotism: Juror #11 takes a moment to gush about the Jury trial system, and how it could only happen in a Democracy like the United States. They never say where he came from, but the implication is that the country he was from as not a democracy. He also berates another juror for refusing to take the process seriously, and makes a point to make sure he is speaking English more properly than the bigoted natural-born #10.
Implacable Man: Juror #4 is a purely intellectual version, a highly intelligent man who looks at the case with pure logic to defend his guilty vote rather than the more passionate and personal views of the others. He's also the only one who doesn't take his jacket off or loosen his tie in the hot room, claiming to never sweat. Subverted when he starts sweating when questioned about a movie he saw four days earlier.
Jerkass: Juror #7. He doesn't care what the decision of the jury is. He's only concerned with catching a baseball game. At least the most vicious jurors voted guilty because they believed so.
The Judge: Shown issuing instructions to the jury in the opening scene. Many stage productions (and the 1997 TV version) cast a woman in the role as a way of bringing at least some token gender diversity to the play without having to change its title.
Jury Duty: Well, yeah. The characters run the whole gamut of taking the duty very seriously (Juror #8's stance on this drives the whole plot, and Juror #11 later claims the responsibility to be one of the greatest things about American democracy) to being almost entirely dismissive of it (Juror #12 is more concerned with doodling and talking about his work than he is with the deliberations, and Juror #7 is mostly upset that he's missing a baseball game; both get called out for this). Notably, Jurors #3 and #10 are taking it seriously, but are too hung up on their own emotional baggage to approach it objectively.
Karma Houdini: If the kid is guilty, he gets away with killing his father. If the kid is innocent, the real killer is still at large and unsuspected. Either way, someone gets away with murder, but considering that the adversarial judicial system is intended to minimize the chance of a miscarriage of justice, that's beside the point of the trial.
The Lancer: Juror #9 acts as this, to some extent, to Juror #8.
Lampshade Hanging: "You know, it's interesting he'd find a knife exactly like the one the boy bought!"
Large Ham: George C. Scott as Juror #3 in the 1997 version.
Minimalism: Apart from a very short prologue and epilogue, the entire play/film takes place in the jury room (and an adjacent bathroom).
Minimalist Cast: At the beginning, other people (such as the defendant and the judge) are briefly shown, but for the rest of the film, we only see the twelve jurors (and the guard, briefly).
Monochrome Casting: Perhaps unsurprisingly for a film made in The Fifties, the jury is all-white (although one is an immigrant with a noticeable accent). Race Lift for the 1997 update, which features one Latino juror and four African-Americans. In a twist, one of the latter is a Malcolm Xerox version of the bigoted Juror #10.
Nice Hat: Juror #7 dons a straw fedora throughout the film.
Oh Crap: Juror #3's face when he realizes that he's just contradicted his own argument subtly, but wonderfully, evokes this sentiment.
Perfect Health: Averted with Juror #10, who has a cold and keeps coughing and sneezing throughout.
Pet the Dog: After Juror #3's Villainous Breakdown, he puts his head down on the table and cries. Once all the other jurors have left, Juror #8 gets 3's coat and helps him put it on.
Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: While there are plenty of impassioned speeches, the trope is less severe than most examples since the characters often stutter or pause at key points.
Real Time: Fully in the play; broken briefly at the beginning and end of the film.
Reverse Grip: An important plot point is how unlikely it is for any experienced knife fighter to use a switchblade this way.
Rogue Juror: If not the Trope Maker, definitely the Trope Codifier. In this case, however, the rogue juror isn't actually convinced of the defendant's innocence at first. He just wants to forestall an overly hasty deliberation.
The Unreveal: Did the boy really kill his father? If he didn't, who did? Since we only see the case from the jurors' perspective (not the police's), we never find out. All we know is that it's possible that the boy is innocent—which, under the laws of the United States, is enough to keep him from being convicted.
Values Dissonance: At the time this was written in the '50s, women and nonwhites were excluded from jury service in some parts of the country. These days, the script is often produced as Twelve Angry Jurors with a more diverse cast. invoked
Verbal Tic: Juror #10 seems to have one of these, you know what I mean? *sniff*
Video Credits: Necessary, since none of the characters are named.
When Juror #10 delivers his famous rant. "Listen... listen to me...."
And Juror #3 shortly afterward. Made somewhat more poignant by the reactions of the other jurors; where they reacted to #10's breakdown with silent anger, they watch #3's meltdown with something closer to pity, as most of them realise why he is really pushing for a guilty verdict even as he denies the true reason, not just to the other jurors but to himself.
Wham Line: #8 has a wham action when he pulls out a switchblade identical to the murder weapon, but the best has to go to #9 when he points out the female witness had glasses marks on her nose, which renders her testimony useless (meaning she wasn't wearing her glasses at the time she saw the stabbing, meaning she wouldn't have been able to see the murderer correctly).
What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out who killed the old man, whether it really was his son or someone else. The film ends once the jury gives their verdict.
You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Juror #3 is asked to reenact the stabbing process on Juror #8. Given the tension between the two men, and #3's almost maniacal bloodthirstiness, there's a definite tension as to how "real" #3 will make the reenactment. Lampshaded by the alarmed reactions of most of the other ten jurors as he draws back the knife.
Referring back to the I'LL KILL YOU above, Juror #8 afterward remarks, "You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?"