SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 – 1991 & The Law;


MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Fairness; Respect; Citizenship.

1957 Version: Age: 11+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 96 minutes; B & W; Available from Amazon.com.

1997 Version: Age: 11+; MPAA Rating — PG-13 for language; Drama; 117 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

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TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students’ minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie.

Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project and Movies as Literature Homework Project.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM’s guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.


These movies depict jury deliberations in a murder trial. The first vote is 11 to 1 to convict but through rational argument and persuasion, bias and prejudice are overcome and justice is done. Both films are excellent, however, the original black and white version is better in terms of artistic merit than the 1997 remake.


Selected Awards:

1957 Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear; 1957 British Academy Awards: Best Actor (Fonda); 1957 Edgar Allan Poe Awards: Best Screenplay; 1957 National Board of Review Awards: Ten Best Films of the Year; 1957 Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Lumet), Best Adapted Screenplay. This film is listed in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.

Featured Actors:

Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Robert Webber, Ed Begley, Sr., John Fiedler, Jack Warden, George Voskovec, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney.


Sidney Lumet.


12 Angry Men shows a reasonable approximation of what happens behind the closed doors of the jury room and the dynamic of jury deliberations.

Students will be introduced to the inner workings of the American jury system and will be motivated to do their best on research and writing assignments. The film can also be used to introduce the concept of due process in the legal system.


None. The jury is all-male; the play on which the film is based was made in the days when women were not allowed to serve on juries in most jurisdictions. There is some profanity.


Watch the movie with your child and assure your child that situations have occurred when one juror has turned a jury around.


In England before the 15th century, juries were chosen among people who actually knew something about the customs of the people and the locale in question. The modern jury dates from the 15th century when English Common Law judges began to instruct juries on the law and restrict them to finding the facts from the evidence presented at the trial. Under the U.S. Constitution, a person is entitled to a jury of his peers. This doesn’t mean that the jurors must come from the same racial, ethnic, or cultural background as the defendant, but rather that no particular race or ethnic background can be excluded from the jury selection process. The discussion the men are having about how to treat the youth of the slums is a perennial debate in American Society. See Boys Town.

When a jury begins to analyze the facts of a case, the application of twelve minds to a set of circumstances is an amazing and awesome process. Attorneys who have often worked on a case for years will miss facts brought out by the jurors. An example from the film is the jury’s analysis of the marks made on the nose of the eyewitness by her glasses. Jurors often find that their original positions are changed by the discussion during deliberations. The film is true to life. On rare occasions, a position that was held by only one dissenting juror has eventually been adopted by the rest of the jury, as occurs in this movie.

12 Angry Men has been shown to law school and business school classes as a study in the jury system and as an example of effective persuasion.

A Report from the Classroom: The power of this movie and film, in general, is shown by this incident. It has been reported to TWM that a community college civics teacher had a class that was particularly lethargic. For weeks, he couldn’t get the students to show any interest in the subject or to respond in class. Then he showed them the 1957 version of Twelve Angry Men and the class completely changed. The students enthusiastically participated in discussions of issues raised by the film and kept on responding when the class moved on to other matters. The movie completely changed the dynamic of the class.


Introduction to the Movie and Closing:

Before showing the movie, tell the class that the film shows a realistic view of jury deliberations.

At the end of the movie, tell the class that the conviction of innocent people is still a serious problem in the United States. For example, in 2000 the governor of Illinois issued a moratorium on death sentences in his state because more than 13 people who had been convicted and sentenced to death were later found to be innocent and at least one innocent man had been executed.


After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1. The dissenting juror may have suspected that the young man actually did kill his father. Why does he still argue that the young man should be acquitted of the charges?

Suggested Response:

The dissenting juror understands that a conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt and he pursues his doubts relentlessly yet patiently and with respect for the other juror’s opinions.


2. What are some of the policy reasons underlying the requirement that before a person can be convicted of a crime, every member of a jury vote for conviction?

Suggested Response:

Students will give answers based on the movie, referring to the jurors who wanted to go to the ball game or who were prejudiced for some reason against the defendant. Guide the discussion to the following points: the state is powerful and has many resources and because often individuals accused of a crime have few ways to protect themselves, the state is held to a high burden when it tries to fine or imprisons someone. This is the same reason why the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. These requirements result in some guilty people going free, but it is better for that to happen than to wrongfully convict, fine, or imprison even one person who is innocent. Experience shows that even with the protections of due process, some innocent people are convicted or are forced into plea bargains. The rates of erroneous convictions would soar if the government was not required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to every one of the jurors hearing the case.


3. What is “due process of law” and why is it important?

Suggested Response:

Even students who have not formally studied the concept of due process should have an intuitive understanding of the concept. Guide the discussion to the concepts that follow.

Due process:

  • is a set of procedures designed to make sure that people are treated fairly by the government;
  • is based on the idea that a person cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without appropriate legal procedures and safeguards;
  • includes, at least, the right to notice, an opportunity to be heard, and protection from an unreasonable or capricious result;
  • is a flexible concept and requires different procedures in different situations; for example, the due process requirements for a criminal case are more stringent than due process requirements for a civil case because a criminal conviction carries potential incarceration, a heavier punishment than mere loss of money; and
  • requires more protections in a court case than in an administrative proceeding; in an administrative hearing the decision must be reasonable but it doesn’t have to meet the standards of beyond a reasonable doubt or even a preponderance of the evidence.
  • Due process is more than just important. It is essential in a government of ordered liberty because it is important to individuals that when the government makes a decision affecting them, that the decision be made fairly. If the government takes action without due process, it will lose the loyalty of its citizens.


4. What would you think about due process if a member of your family was killed and the killer was acquitted because the prosecutor made mistakes and did not prove his case?

Suggested Response:

Obviously, one would be angry and upset. A good answer will recognize that the system of justice is not perfect and that sometimes we don’t get perfect justice. Turn the question, how would they feel if their relative or they themselves were accused of a crime they did not commit and then they were convicted and had to go to jail?


5. Since it is against the rules for a juror to investigate a matter under deliberation on his own, and the dissenting juror discovers significant information in this manner, what would you have the man do that could be as persuasive as dropping the knife onto the table yet remain within the rules?

Suggested Response:

Answers will vary. Since a mistrial would be declared were the judge to find out what the juror had done, students can suggest other ways that the information provided by the fact that the knife is commonly sold can be presented to the jury. Just doggedly insisting on proof beyond a reasonable doubt will usually do.

6. One juror was prejudiced. Another juror wanted to get to a baseball game. Yet another juror was angry at his own son and, at first, wanted to take that anger out on the young defendant. How do the requirements of a unanimous verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt relate to the personal concerns that some jurors will bring to the jury room?

Suggested Response:

The requirements for a unanimous verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt help jurors to deliberate carefully and focus on the facts of the case. They reduce the force of extraneous factors that don’t relate to the guilt or innocence of the accused.


7. After watching this movie, do you agree that verdicts in criminal trials should be unanimous and that jurors should vote for guilt only if they are convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

Suggested Response:

The answer to both parts of the question should be “yes.” These protections are the foundation of our criminal justice system. What would happen if the victim had been a member of your family or you yourself? What if the accused is a member of your family? Teachers may get good results by playing, at least for a time, the devil’s advocate for whatever position students take.


8. Name some important elements of “due process of law” in a criminal trial.

Suggested Response:

The requirement that the prosecution present proof beyond a reasonable doubt; the requirement that all jurors agree on conviction; presumption of innocence; the right to confront your accuser; right not to be compelled to testify against yourself; right to a jury of your peers; and right to an attorney.


9. Pick a juror, describe the way he made up his mind at first, and tell us whether this is a proper way for a juror to make up his mind.


10. Do you think that the dissenting juror planned all along to try to convince the others? What were his methods of persuasion?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct answer but this question will focus the class on the mind of the dissenting juror and the fact that it doesn’t really matter what the subjective intent of the dissenting juror was. What mattered is that it helped to lead to the correct result in this case.


11. Do you think that the jurors thought that the boy probably had killed his father? Should they have voted to convict if they had that belief?

Suggested Response:

The test is not what they believed probably happened, the test is whether the government had made them believe it beyond a reasonable doubt.


See the Subject Matter Discussion Questions above.


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements)

1. One of the jurors originally felt that the boy was guilty because of the neighborhood that he had grown up in. What is the logical flaw in this argument?

Suggested Response:

Logically, this is the basic flaw of racism or classism, the idea that just because someone belongs to a particular group, the have a particular personal attribute. Ethically, attributing to individuals attributes that they may not have just because they belong to a particular ethnic, religious, or economic group, shows a lack of respect for the individual.



(Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don’t take advantage of others; Don’t blame others carelessly)

2. What is another term for “due process of law?”

Suggested Response:

Fundamental fairness.



(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

3. Name at least four basic ways in which ordinary citizens can participate in government?

Suggested Response:

There are many. Several examples are listed below. The ways in which ordinary citizens usually have the most power are the first two. Some ways in which ordinary citizens can participate in government are: 1) vote; 2) serve on juries; 3) participate in political campaigns, 4) attend government hearings and express their opinions; 5) report criminal activity and agree to serve as a witness; 6) report government waste.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1. Research the evolution of the Innocence Project and present the information to the class as an example of how often trials can result in wrongful conviction. Use a PowerPoint format and include your sources of information.

2. Look up the concept of “due process” and write a formal essay in which you evaluate the film in terms of its adherence to the principle of “fundamental fairness.”

3. Write a newspaper account of the process by which the jurors determined that the accused in the case described in 12 Angry Men was innocent of the crime. You may want to make up quotes and attribute comments to various jurors that explain why they voted for or against conviction and ultimately changed their minds.

See also Additional Assignments for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.



Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.”) CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.


Anchor Standards #s 1 – 5 and 7 – 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41,& 63.

Speaking and Listening:

Anchor Standards #s 1 – 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.

This Learning Guide was written by James Frieden and Mary RedClay and was last updated on August 12, 2013.

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