Welcome to the latest installment of a weekly movie blog series about the best movies you (probably) haven’t seen. Last week, I featured the modern version of Great Expectations, and the week before I featured the futbol film Green Street Hooligans.
(The idea is that each week I’ll throw out a movie that I think is really great, but isn’t a huge mainstream hit, or it’s not fresh and likely hasn’t been seen in quite a while—if at all. If you have seen it, share what you think about it—and feel free to rip me if you think it’s not worth watching! Then, in the comments, y’all make one movie suggestion as well. It’s that simple, and it’ll be a lot of fun if you’re a cinephile like me.)
This week, my nomination for the best movie you (probably) haven’t seen is a the first truly “classic” film I’ve mentioned, and we go all the way back to the black-and-white period to get it. 12 Angry Men was recommended to me by a former roommate who swears by it (the movie is in his “Top 5”) and it makes #6 on IMDB’s Top 250 Films as voted on by it’s users. This classic courtroom drama starring Henry Fonda was made in 1957 and it’s a simple (almost the entire film is on one set), but very well-told story about a jury of 12 men deciding the fate of an 18-year-old accused murderer. As a bonus, you can view the entire film at the bottom of this post! Amazon’s summary:
Sidney Lumet‘s directorial debut remains a tense, atmospheric (though slightly manipulative and stagy) courtroom thriller, in which the viewer never sees a trial and the only action is verbal. As he does in his later corruption commentaries such as Serpico or Q & A, Lumet focuses on the lonely one-man battles of a protagonist whose ethics alienate him from the rest of jaded society. As the film opens, the seemingly open-and-shut trial of a young Puerto Rican accused of murdering his father with a knife has just concluded and the 12-man jury retires to their microscopic, sweltering quarters to decide the verdict. When the votes are counted, 11 men rule guilty, while one–played by Henry Fonda, again typecast as another liberal, truth-seeking hero–doubts the obvious. Stressing the idea of “reasonable doubt,” Fonda slowly chips away at the jury, who represent a microcosm of white, male society–exposing the prejudices and preconceptions that directly influence the other jurors’ snap judgments. The tight script by Reginald Rose (based on his own teleplay) presents each juror vividly using detailed soliloquies, all which are expertly performed by the film’s flawless cast. Still, it’s Lumet’s claustrophobic direction–all sweaty close-ups and cramped compositions within a one-room setting–that really transforms this contrived story into an explosive and compelling nail-biter. –Dave McCoy
12 Angry Men is a very dialogue-based plot, so you do have to be engaged and thinking about the film as it develops. To me, it’s a film that you can pretty-well assume how it will end, but it’s the “how” that keeps you intrigued . . . and the “how” doesn’t disappoint! The cast is superb and the story development peels back the layers of the case and the characters very well. Henry Fonda’s performance was admirable (not great), and that is more of a testament to the strength of the other 11 men in the room and not a disappointment from Fonda.
Some 12 Angry Men fun facts:
- Director Sidney Lumet cleverly used longer focal length lenses as the production of the film went on to make it appear the room was shrinking around the characters (a cinematography trick).
- Despite the film’s simplicity, it took the cast two intensive weeks to rehearse for production. This meant the film had to be shot in 21 days . . . a nearly impossible feat.
- Jack Klugman, Juror #5, is the only remaining living juror from the film.
- Out of the entire 96-minute film, only three minutes take place outside the rather small jury room.
Based on Netflix’s star-rating system (1* = Hated it, 2* = Didn’t like it, 3* = Liked it, 4* = Really Liked it, 5* = Loved it), I give this film 4/5 stars.
I’d love to make this series even better, so if you have any ideas, share them!
- 12 Angry Men on IMDB
- 12 Angry Men on Wikipedia
- 12 Angry Men on Amazon ($9.03 on DVD, $23.98 on Blu-ray, PRIME Eligible)
You can also watch the entire film on YouTube for free, if you aren’t interested enough to purchase. The film is embedded below!