12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. Written and co-produced by Rose himself and directed by Sidney Lumet, this trial film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. In the United States, a verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous. The film is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set: with the exception of the film’s opening, which begins outside on the steps of the courthouse followed by the judge’s final instructions to the jury before retiring, two short scenes in an adjoining washroom, and a brief final scene on the courthouse steps, the entire film takes place in the jury room. The total time spent outside the jury room is three minutes out of the full 96 minutes of the film.
12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus-building, and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict. No names are used in the film: the jury members are identified by number until two of them exchange names at the very end, the defendant is referred to as “the boy”, and the witnesses as “the old man” and “the lady across the street”.
In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The film was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute during their AFI’s 10 Top 10 list and is the highest courtroom drama on Rotten Tomatoes’s Top 100 Movies of All Times.