Filmmaker in 5: Sidney Lumet

12 Angry Men

Sidney LumetUSA96 minutes1957B&WEnglish

In a crowded courthouse conference room in the midst of a sweltering New York summer, 12 unnamed jurors convene to consider and quickly dispose of the seemingly open-and-shut case of a Puerto Rican teenager who allegedly stabbed his father to death — but one member (Henry Fonda) dissents from the otherwise unanimous "guilty" vote. Facing down a hostile room, and the aggressive opposition of two particularly outspoken and differently prejudiced participants (Lee J. Cobb and Ed Begley), the lone dissenter forces his fellow jurors to reconstruct the context and the details of the crime, as well as examine their own consciences. Adapted by Reginald Rose from his own teleplay, Lumet's debut feature is well-nigh irresistible, both as an actors' showcase and as a liberal wet dream where rationality, compassion and understanding win out over bigotry and ignorance.