Breaking Prejudice with Logic: 12 Angry Men Movie Review and Analysis

Image source: Everett Collection.

Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it. — Charles R. Swindoll

Have you ever thought or assumed something negative about a group and its members? When you visit an area, have you ever assumed that the people there are rude when talking?

This is a form of prejudice. Prejudice can be found in the community even in yourself when looking at certain groups. You might even have been a victim of that prejudice. So what is prejudice?

“Prejudice is a negative attitude that one has based mostly on opinions and stereotypes rather than facts/evidence. The word prejudice is of Latin origin, pre meaning “before” and prejudice stemming from “judged.”

Image source: BBC

Talking about prejudice, there is a movie that really show how a prejudice can influence heavily on people’s assessment towards something. Without further ado, let’s review this one of the best movies.

The film starts in a courtroom. Inside the courtroom, there was a trial against a child who was accused of murder of his own father. If the allegation is proven, then the child will be sentenced to death. Regarding whether or not the allegations are proven, it all depends on the 12 jurors who have seen the proceedings of the trial from the beginning to the end. The common law court system adopted by the United States is a juror who decides whether a defendant is guilty or innocent.

So, after the prosecutors and defense attorneys completed their duties, the witnesses had testified, and there was enough evidence, the judge gave the 12 jurors, which consist of people from different background, the mandate to negotiate and decided unanimously whether the defendant was found guilty or innocent.

It is predicted that the decision will be decided shortly due to the evidence, witnesses were all pointing out towards the kids as guilty. That is why, they went directly through the voting mechanism to map the vote. However, the result is beyond prediction, of the 12 jurors, it was ‘only’ 11 people who judged that the defendant was guilty, the one that vote not guilty is juror #8. According to the rule, 11 votes cannot be categorized as acclamation. Therefore, they must decide to round the 11 votes to 12, or vice versa. But it was not an easy task, especially for Juror #8 which is the only one standing for not guilty against 11 other who pressed him because of his choice.

Juror #8 himself was not sure if the defendant was truly innocent, for him it is not fitting to determine the life of a person in just five minutes. Not that he is convinced the defendant is innocent, but he is only less certain that the defendant is guilty which in the movie called reasonable doubt. The other jurors cannot accept this reason. In the stale and hot atmosphere, with the cross of opinion, the war of words, the pounding of various ego, they begin to start debating and arguing to find the correct decision between guilty or not guilty. To make it interesting, almost in the entire movie, they call each other by Juror #1, Juror #2, Juror #3 and so on. But in the end of the movie, we know the name of Juror #8 (Davis) our protagonist and Juror #9 (McCardle).

In this movie, intelligent dialogues become the main factor. The jurors displayed that they are not just debating without purpose, but they used constructive argument, using facts based on the evidences and witnesses, as well as theories to support or refute the opinion of the other person. Each character is given time and a portion to show off, so that of the 12 jurors characters will have a spotlight. None of the 12 jurors in the movie seem to be redundant, they have their own role to play.

By watching this movie, we can take some lessons that we can apply in real world situations. The first is the importance of a discussion. It was not a correct way to use a voting, because it will depend on the majority. As reflected in the fourth precepts of Pancasila and the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution of my country, the Republic of Indonesia. Deliberation to consensus is the best way to make a decision, especially if the decision is so important. Because, in this way we can hear each other opinion before making a decision.

Another lesson is that the majority is not always true and the minority is not necessarily wrong. Minority votes are entitled to be heard not to be directly suppressed by the majority. Juror #8 gives an idea of how effective persuasive communication, which is an effective way to change the minds and behaviors of those with whom you disagree. Even though he becomes a minority, it does not matter. As long as we can back-up our argument.

In this movie, we also understand that there are different people with different character. Juror #1 who organize thing and lead others, Juror #2 that’s so easy to intimidate, Juror #3 that are so prideful and won’t admit that he is wrong until the last, Juror #4 that are overconfident, Juror #5 that are afraid to state his opinions and had left on a slump, Juror #6 that doesn’t quite understand what is going on, Juror #7 that takes things easily, even if it is a human life, Juror #8 which is our protagonist calm and brilliant, Juror #9 the old man who is so wise, Juror #10 who always angry and let his prejudice clouded his observation, Juror #11 who is a watchmaker and very polite and Juror #12 who just going with the flow.

Juror #8 also taught us to stay calm, observing other behavior and preparing solid proof. In the end, with a critical and logical and rational analysis supported by the facts, Juror #8 sought to gradually erode the analytical flaws of the witnesses and evidences. Moreover, Juror #8 resolve and determination successfully makes the other Juror change their minds.

The next lesson is that Juror #8 wants to show us that, if we do not know the truth with certainty, we must think carefully and all personal issues, emotions, and prejudices must be kept away before making decision, search for reasonable doubt. And more importantly, we must admit that if we are wrong, not being stubborn and keep ignoring the fact that presented to us.

The last and the most important thing, deciding whether a person deserves to die or not is one of the big decisions that we have to take responsibility for the rest of our life, and not a trivial decision that we can decide in a hurry and emotional way.

In Brief, this movie deserved a 9/10 and credit to Reginald Rose for its fantastic script as well as Sidney Lumet, one of the best movie directors. With limited source, but so impactful, the dialogue, interaction between each character, the argument and reasoning. All of it teach us that we can create something so impactful with only a few resources. No wonder that this movie is labelled as one of the best movies of all time!

It doesn’t even make sense to judge a person before you know them, it’s unfair to them. Let alone blame someone without proof and clear logic

“Some people are prejudiced because they don’t want to understand another person’s difference, or they feel scared or threatened. “

“Do not be ignorance, stand up to prejudice, use your logic and think clearly before you judge someone, you might inspire other people to do the same!”


Computational Linguistic Enthusiast.

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