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12 Angry Men

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The Bottom Line

An excellent case study in group dynamics that is memorable, entertaining and realistic.
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Pros

  • Very well-written and well-acted
  • Memorable
  • Realistic presentation of group dynamics

Cons

  • As a work of fiction, may not resonate with those who prefer actual case studies

Description

  • Celebrated drama about a jury's deliberation
  • Presents group decision making in a realistic manner
  • Long used as a fictional, yet illustrative, case study in business schools

Guide Review - 12 Angry Men

The classic 1957 movie 12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb, has a long history as a teaching tool in business school courses about management, group dynamics and group decision making. An Academy Award nominee for Best Picture of 1957, this film provides an entertaining and engrossing video case study in these areas.

The story is about a jury's deliberations in what appears to be an open-and-shut murder case, in which the defendant initially seems to be guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Eleven jurors are ready to convict wtihout discussion. The twelfth votes "not guilty" mainly to provoke discussion, out of fairness to the accused.

Most jurors are fair-minded, and want to do the right thing. Some, however, have key character flaws, reflective of many people within society at large as well as within companies:

  • The yes-man who is afraid to stand against the majority
  • The shallow, impatient man who has no interest in making the right decision, only in making a quick decision so that he can move on to other things that concern him more
  • The bigot who is driven by prejudice, even malice
  • The man who jumps to improper conclusions about the case, by seeing it through the lens of an unfortunate experience of his own
  • The foreman who struggles to maintain order, and who becomes frustrated and passive when he cannot

The juror willing to stand alone is highly analytical and logical, as well as courageous in opposing the majority. In the end, he persuades all the others.

The story was originally entitled Twelve Angry Men (with the number spelled out) and first appeared as a live television play in 1954. A year later, in 1955, a stage adaptation was produced under the same title. Various remakes and new adaptations for the stage, film and television have appeared in subsequent years (including some foreign versions), with variations in the title.

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