12 Angry Men
1957
Knowing full well that a guilty verdict means death, a jury of 12 men (including Jack Warden and Jack Klugman) must decide the fate of an 18-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing his father. But only one juror (Henry Fonda) wants to take the time to coolly deliberate the case. Sidney Lumet (Network) made his directorial debut with this Oscar-nominated drama that illuminates all the petty impediments on the path to justice.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Here's another classic that everyone has seen, or should. I'm surprised to learn how many people aren't familiar with it, given its classic simplicity: Twelve jurors deliberate a murder trial until a verdict is bitterly hammered out. Except for brief bookend scenes, the whole film takes place in one room, an actual New York City jury chamber, with twelve distinguished character actors. This was Sidney Lumet's debut film and he was out to prove he knew his stuff; never once does he repeat a shot, and watch the camera angles: The camera gradually gets lower and lower as the film progresses, as we come to stare into these angry faces as the men deliberate and question each other's motivations. It's captivating stuff, driven by sharp dialogue from a brief era when the script was of paramount concern. Even though its politics lean towards the liberal, it's still worth seeing as a primer on the importance of civil duty and the careful balance of the American justice system. This is a film for every proud American to see.

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