A Plot Review of 12 Angry Men

What would you do if your decision was the deciding factor in a young boy’s fate? Would you carefully examine the facts of what happened or would you blindly make a decision based on the thoughts and opinions of those around you? 12 Angry Men (1957) is one of the most acclaimed feature films of all time. It was produced during a time when our nation was approximately 10 years out of World War II.

After watching the film 12 Angry Men, I learned that a group of twelve jurors have to decide the fate of a young male who was blamed for the murder of his dad. Throughout the juries deliberation, one man truly displayed all of the qualities of a leader. We know this man as being juror number 8 played by Henry Fonda. Henry Fonda not only shows excellent qualities and traits of a leader but he uses these qualities to lead the jury to a vote of not guilty. Because of this, he plays a significant role. He could have easily been influenced by groupthink, as well as his peers but he was not.

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Groupthink by definition is the social psychological phenomenon that results in groups during pressure situations. This theory is broken down into eight signs. Illusion of invulnerability, Collective rationalization, Belief in inherent morality, Stereotyped views of out-groups, Direct pressure on dissenters, Self-censorship, Illusion of unanimity, and Self-appointed mindguards. I believe that groupthink may be a technique to control social behavior because when we are in a group setting we can be influenced by the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of those around us. It controls social behavior because one’s actions and decision making can easily be influenced by the presence of others. This was not the case with Juror 8; he was able to independently formulate his own thoughts and voice his opinion. I mean after all, they were deciding on whether or not to sentence an 18 year old to the electric chair. It definitely deserves a bit more critical thought and evaluation.

Juror 8 opened the eyes of the other jurors, by showing that the knife was not as unique as the rest had claimed it to be. This helped the young boy’s chances of not being convicted greatly, however there was supporting evidence that argued why the boy should be found guilty. I will present a few of the pieces of evidence supporting the boy’s guilty verdict. During the trial the boy advised that he was at the movie theater during the time of his father’s murder, but he seemed to have some trouble remembering the name of the movie or who was with him. A neighbor who lived on the same street testified during the trial stating that she saw the young boy kill his father. In addition, the boy seemed to have had a previous record of offenses, including a violent crime with a knife. With this supporting information being presented, are the other juror’s guilty of groupthink or is this substantial evidence to sentence the young boy to the electric chair?

After hearing enough of the evidence, majority of the jurors mutually agree into the group process of the “storming stage”. The jurors began to take on roles as a unanimous vote must be completed before proceeding or moving forward. Nearly all juror’s aim towards a guilty verdict, this symptom is the first groupthink term known as “Illusion of unanimity”. A conflict to this assumed general idea befell as juror eight votes not guilty. Juror number eight shows an added groupthink theory; his vote is later based on; “Belief in inherent morality”. This theory is the trust in the righteousness above conformity regardless of the circumstances. Conflict arises as the “norming stage” unfolds, as the other eleven jurors try to persuade that the boy is without a doubt guilty.

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