Every so often, a piece of art comes around that ends up epitomizing a period of time. The 12 Angry Men script is one such piece of art. Although it was originally broadcasted on television, most people know the feature film version of 12 Angry Men. We’re going to break down everything you need to know about the film, from its characters to its ending. Bailiff shut the doors, make sure to download a copy of the 12 Angry Men PDF below to read along!

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12 Angry Men Script Teardown - Reginald Rose Headshot

WHO WROTE 12 angry men SCRIPT?

Written by Reginald Rose

Reginald Rose was an American screenwriter who worked in Hollywood for more than 30 years. Some of his most famous credits include Emmy Award winning The Defenders and teleplay episodes for Studio One.

12 ANGRY MEN FULL SCRIPT BREAKDOWN

12 ANGRY MEN SUMMARY

Here is the 12 Angry Men summary:

Exposition

It’s a scorching Summer day in New York City. At an unnamed courthouse, a judge tells a group of 12 jurors that they must decide if the defendant of the trial is guilty of first-degree murder. If they have reasonable doubt as to his guilt, they must return a verdict of not-guilty.  

Inciting Incident

The jurors retire to the deliberation chamber and take a preliminary vote. Eleven jurors vote guilty — Juror #8 votes not guilty.

Plot Point One

Juror #8 suggests that they spend one hour debating the guilt of the defendant. Juror #3 says that the defendant is guilty because an eyewitness placed him near the scene of the murder.

Rising Action

Several jurors, including Juror #3 and Juror #10, say that the defendant is more likely to be guilty because he’s a product of poverty. Others debate whether or not the defendant’s knife was the murder weapon.

Midpoint (76)

Juror #8 suggests that the witnesses of the crime may not have seen what they thought they did due to the passing of the El train. The jury shifts their vote.

Plot Point Two

Juror #3 grows increasingly angry at the other jurors, especially Juror #8. The jury begins to question whether or not the old man could have actually seen the defendant flee the scene.

Build Up (110)

The jurors continue to question the evidence of the prosecution. The room becomes hostile — Juror #10 goes on a racist tirade.

Climax (156)

Juror #9 points out that the woman across the street couldn’t have seen the murder without her glasses. This point shifts the vote 11-1 in favor of not guilty.

Finale

Juror #3 vehemently rejects the idea that the defendant is not guilty. The other jurors demand that he explain why, but he doesn’t. The vote goes through 12-0 and the defendant is acquitted.

Denouement

The twelve jurors exit the courthouse and go their separate ways as rain beats down to cool the late Summer night.

12 Angry Men Script Takeaway #1

12 Angry Men quotes are unforgettable

Now that we’ve reviewed the 12 Angry Men summary, let’s jump into some 12 Angry Men analysis. The 12 Angry Men screenplay shows us that people are often subject to their own prejudices. Twelve jurors walk into a room and eleven of them immediately decide that the defendant is guilty. Most of the jurors don’t decide on the defendant’s guilt for solely one reason. Most of the jurors debate the facts, but some aren’t able to look past their own prejudices. The 12 Angry Men plot is built upon the back of this premise.

Take Juror #10 for example. He decided that the defendant was guilty based solely on his race. We imported the 12 Angry Men script into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software to inspect the dialogue closer. As you’re reading this scene, make sure to pay attention to the way Juror #10 changes his vernacular when the other jurors ‘turn’ on him.

12 Angry Men "Shunning 10 Juror" Scene  •  Read Full Scene

Notice how Juror #10 tries to dig his way out by saying “Oh sure, there are some good things about 'em too. Look, I'm the first one to say that”?    

It’s a bit heavy-handed, but by literally having the other jurors turn their back on Juror #10, we get a clear sense that he’s being shunned. Even Juror #3 wants nothing to do with his racist tirade. It may be helpful to see how the scene was blocked and staged.

12 Angry Men Analysis

This exchange leads to one of 12 Angry Men’s most famous quotes. Juror #8 turns to #10 and says, “It's very hard to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And no matter where you run into it, prejudice obscures the truth.”

Here are some other great 12 Angry Men quotes:

  • “Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger.”
  • “I have a reasonable doubt.”
  • “Bright? He's a common ignorant slob. He don't even speak good English.”
  • “Baltimore? That's like being hit in the head with a crowbar once a day.”
  • “What is this? Love Your Underprivileged Brother Week?”
  • “It's no secret that slums are breeding grounds for criminals.”

12 Angry Men Script Takeaway #2

12 Angry Men characters create conflict

There is a lot of great conflict between the 12 Angry Men characters. The conflict between Juror #3 and Juror #8 is at the crux of 12 Angry Men. Don’t take my word for it, take writer Reginald Rose’s.

In this next scene, we’ll take a look at how Rose uses actions to describe the relationship between Juror #3 and Juror #8.

Conflict Between 3 Juror and 8 Juror  •  Read Full Scene

Sometimes it’s easiest just to spell out what’s going on. Look at how Rose blatantly says “This is the battle of good against evil, of compassion against brutality.” Juror #8 is a symbol for what is right, Juror #3 is a symbol for what is wrong. This conflict comes to a head when the two re-enact the ‘knifing’ of the murdered man. Let’s take a look at how director Sidney Lumet translates this interaction from script to screen.

12 Angry Men Knifing Scene

Juror #8 never wavers from his convictions, even in the face of danger. Without his moral sense. the defendant would have never been acquitted.

12 Angry Men Script Takeaway #3

Props are vital motifs in 12 Angry Men

There are a few motifs in 12 Angry Men, such as chairs and weather, but the best example is vision. One of the trial witnesses says that she saw the defendant kill the murdered man. Her testimony is taken as fact.

Late into the story, Juror #9 suggests that she may have been mistaken. He points out the fact that she wasn’t wearing glasses, as such, she couldn’t be sure of what she saw. But how is ‘not wearing glasses’ a motif? Well, it’s a major part of one of 12 Angry Men’s themes — people see the world in different ways.

We see this theme repeated over and over, through dialogue and actions. But when Juror #9 says that the glasses may exonerate the defendant, we see that the glasses may be a tool for objectivity. Let’s review the ‘glasses’ scene to see how others come to the realization of their own subjective interpretation of the events. Pay attention to Juror #4 in this scene.

12 Angry Men "Glass" Scene  •  Read Full Scene

The goal of the jury is to convict or exonerate the defendant. If they have any reasonable doubt, they must acquit him. Juror #4 is one of the few 12 Angry Men characters who genuinely believed that the defendant was guilty for reasons pertinent to the case. But the doubt of the glasses, the theme of questioning truth, is what makes him change his course.

Perhaps this is to further suggest that all people have intrinsic biases and prejudices. But the goal of justice (the glasses) is to remove subjectivity from the equation. Let’s see how it all came together in the final cut.

12 Angry Men Clip

Notice how the scene transitions to extreme close-ups when Juror #9 starts questioning the woman’s testimony? Director Sidney Lumet said that the goal of this technique was to create a sense of claustrophobia as the climax neared. The 12 Angry Men ending expertly shows us how to pull off a narrative conclusion.

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