Friday, February 04, 2011

Film Favorites - 12 Angry Men

There is a distinct difference between showing a movie to take up class time and utilizing a movie to enhance your curriculum.  It should be clearly understood that movies shown in class have a defined purpose within your curriculum.  There are several movies that I incorporate into my classroom to introduce a topic, create discussion and support the curriculum.

There are a few movies that provide great possibilities in a variety of subject areas.  One of my favorites for this is 12 Angry Men.  I will only show the original with Henry Fonda, in black and white.  After the initial shock of seeing a movie that is not in color students do settle in and can focus on the content of this film. 

The jury of twelve 'angry men,' entrusted with the power to send an uneducated, teenaged Puerto Rican, tenement-dwelling boy to the electric chair for killing his father with a switchblade knife, are literally locked into a small, claustrophobic rectangular jury room on a stifling hot summer day until they come up with a unanimous decision - either guilty or not guilty. The compelling, provocative film examines the twelve men's deep-seated personal prejudices, perceptual biases and weaknesses, indifference, anger, personalities, unreliable judgments, cultural differences, ignorance and fears, that threaten to taint their decision-making abilities, cause them to ignore the real issues in the case, and potentially lead them to a miscarriage of justice.
Fortunately, one brave dissenting juror votes 'not guilty' at the start of the deliberations because of his reasonable doubt. Persistently and persuasively, he forces the other men to slowly reconsider and review the shaky case (and eyewitness testimony) against the endangered defendant. He also chastises the system for giving the unfortunate defendant an inept 'court-appointed' public defense lawyer who "resented being appointed" - a case with "no money, no glory, not even much chance of winning" - and who inadequately cross-examined the witnesses. Heated discussions, the formation of alliances, the frequent re-evaluation and changing of opinions, votes and certainties, and the revelation of personal experiences, insults and outbursts fill the jury room. (

Topics and Themes
  • the judicial system and trial by jury
  • analysis of information and data
  • critical thinking
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • standing up for what you believe
  • consensus building
  • prejudices
  • cultural differences
  • fears
  • racism
  • just vs fair
  • stereotypes
  • psychology of man


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