Zach's 10 Favorite Movies: 6. 12 Angry Men (1957)


"Listen to me. We're... This kid on trial here... his type, well, don't you know about them? There's a, there's a danger here. These people are dangerous. They're wild. Listen to me. Listen."

-Juror #10


I was a person who used to dismiss old movies, movies made before the glory of the '70s. I often thought them too out of touch, too backward in their thinking, too tame. In the film studies class I took in college, my eyes were opened to some great older films and I needed some place to start with the rest of my studies. I settled on a podcast called Battleship Pretension, named after the famous Russian film Battleship Potemkin (1925).


These guys were a little older than me and had been through the Hollywood ringer working as struggling screenwriters and production assistants and knew about a bunch of movies and filmmakers I had never heard of. When they did a whole episode on Lee J. Cobb, they went on and on about how great he is in 12 Angry Men. I knew I had to watch it. I was a little nervous I wouldn't like it, though, as it is a 90+ minute film about 12 men arguing a court case in one location.


I decided to put it on in between finishing an essay and going to water polo practice. I had enough time to spare and I thought I could pause it if I needed to. From about the tenth or eleventh minute I was hooked. I couldn't take my eyes off these men as they shouted, argued, and changed their minds. My heart was pounding as hard as with any thriller and my eyes would tear as the men let their passions come to bear. I was nearly late to practice that night and all I could think or talk about was this movie.


12 Angry Men takes on a greater significance in my mind now as I think about Juror #10's speech, the end of which is quoted up top. There's been 62 years since the release of 12 Angry Men. The continuing protests against police brutality and the system of injustice that allows it, include arguments against many of the same arguments Juror #10 makes and Juror #3 piles onto. Yes, 62 years ago, a filmmaker and writer attempted to change hearts and minds. The same people that believe in "us and them" and who think the police are an almighty and righteous force still exist. They still think that because of where someone lives, they don't deserve the same treatment as a person who lives in the "right" place. The speech and that it stil is used as an argument today proves we need to fight harder, be louder, diversify, empathize, and get ourselves toward an even playing field for all people. The fact that the ideas presented in the speech proves that policing isn't the answer, but bringing up our fellow citizens to have the same opportunities and access to services is what we need.


If there's longing at all in 12 Angry Men, besides the base longing of the right to a speedy judgement when you're a juror, it's that our only hope is that there's someone in the jury room that can point out the brokenness in the system and express a reasonable doubt. These 12 men long for a reason not to kill someone. They really do and they really wanted someone to be strong enough to point that out. They long for a justice system that works for the people and not for the status quo.

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