Juror #1 seems like a soft-spoken person who's willing to assert himself when he needs to. He makes a decent effort at trying to keep the other jurors in order because as Juror #1, he is also the jury's foreman and is responsible for keeping the group under control.
We see Juror #1 trying to establish himself in the first lines of the movie, saying stuff like, "All right, gentleman. Let's take our seats." And when he doesn't get people's attention right away, he turns things up a notch and says, "How about sitting down?" We can tell from his body language that he respects the other men as adults and doesn't want to babysit them. But he also knows he has a job to do.
As the movie unfolds, the other jurors get angrier and louder with each other. But Juror #1 is always ready to step in and say stuff like, "Now, please. I don't want any fights in here." When things really start to go off the rails, he tries to get the meeting back under control with a claim like: "All right. Let's stop the arguing. Who's got something constructive to say?"
It's no surprise then when we find out that Juror #1 is also the coach of a high school football team. He knows how to control a group without seeming overly assertive, and that sort of thing can really come in handy when the people you're trying to control are almost all quick-tempered.
So, Juror #2 is kind of a squeaky voiced dude who's pretty shy about sharing his opinions. He tends to vote with the group and isn't very good at explaining himself whenever he's put on the spot. When the aggressive Juror #3 gets in his face about how much dumb talking the lawyers did in the courtroom, it's clear that #2 disagrees with him. But the best response he can muster is, "Well … I guess … they're entitled."
When Juror #8 questions #2 on why he thinks the defendant is guilty, all he can say is, "Oh. Well … (Long pause) I just think he's guilty. I thought it was obvious. I mean nobody proved otherwise." #2 has clearly forgotten that the burden of proof is on the prosecution and not the defense, but he's so lily-livered that he can't make a strong claim about anything without hesitating or backtracking, saying, "Well, sure, I've heard of it. I know what it is. I … what I meant … well, anyway, I think he was guilty."
By the end of the move, we even find out that Juror #2 has held back on some major issues just because he was afraid of bothering the group. As he says at one point, "There's something I'd like to say. It's been bothering me a little, and as long as we're stuck... There was this whole business about the stab wound and how it was made." This argument ends up leading to a key point in the case, and Juror #2 barely even mentioned it because he was too shy to speak up.
All we can say at this point is that it's a good thing he overcame his shyness for a few seconds and did the right thing.
If you have to pick a main antagonist for this movie, Juror #3 is your man. We can tell from early in this movie that #3 is a guy who's rigid in his opinions and not used to having people disagree with him. Even before the jury has started talking, he says, "Six days. They should have finished it in two. Talk, talk, talk. Did you ever hear so much talk about nothing?"
In this guy's mind, it's totally clear that the defendant is guilty, and he resents the fact that the trial gave so much time for the lawyers to make their arguments. At this point, though, even he is willing to accept the fact that this is the law, saying, "Everybody gets a fair trial. That's the system. Well, I suppose you can't say anything against it."
The longer this movie goes on, the more we learn about the reasons behind Juror #3's hate for the defendant. For starters, he clearly doesn't like the idea of a child killing his own father, which we can see when he says, "Well [Eighteen is] old enough. He stabbed his own father four inches into the chest. They proved it a dozen different ways in court. They proved it a dozen different ways. Do you want me to list them?" But it's still going to be a little while longer before we figure out just what this guy's hang-ups are.
It's not until Juror #3 starts talking about his own son that we see the true reason for his bias against the defendant. While thinking about the trial, #3 talks about how he once saw his own son run away from a fight. As #3 tells it, "I told him [my son] right out, 'I'm gonna make a man out of you or I'm gonna bust you up into little pieces trying.' When he was fifteen he hit me in the face. He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid!" So it's clear now that this guy has a bit of a problem with kids not respecting their fathers.
Juror #3 doesn't like to be questioned, which is exactly why he'd like to punch Juror #8 in the face if he ever got a chance. By the midway point of the movie, #3 jumps up almost every time #8 speaks and says something like, "I've got a good mind to walk around this table and belt him one!" Eventually, he even gets to the point where people have to hold him back from #8 while he shouts, "Let me go! I'll kill him. I'll kill him!"
It's probably guys like Juror #3 who become brutal dictators, both for families and entire countries. And that's one reason why we need democracy to make sure people like this don't get to run things. When asked if he'd like to be the one to kill the eighteen year-old defendant, #3 doesn't hesitate to say, "For this kid? You'd bet I'd like to pull the switch!" So it's clear that there's a lot more on this dude's mind than just justice.
This is a guy who simply can't handle a world that doesn't do whatever he tells it to. That's why he gets so upset with Juror #8 and even threatens to resort to violence to get his way.
By the end of the movie, Juror #3 stands alone in his Guilty verdict. But he seems like a fire that's starting to burn itself out as he rants and says, "You lousy bunch of bleedin' hearts. You're not gonna intimidate me. I'm entitled to my opinion. Rotten kids... You work your life out!" But at some point in this speech, we see the energy drain out of him. After all, it's hard to be mad all the time without getting tired.
In the end, Juror #3 seems to go with a Not Guilty verdict out of sheer defeat and tiredness more than any sense of justice. But who knows? Maybe the other guys managed to change his mind a little bit.
Of all the jurors, #4 is the nearest to a robot. The guy doesn't even sweat when all the other guys have made their shirts see-through. He's pretty convinced of a Guilty verdict in the beginning, but only because he believes in the power of evidence, while the others who cling to a Guilty verdict tend to have some personal bias against the defendant.
Whenever an argument breaks out, #4 is always quick to say stuff like, "I don't see any need for arguing like this. I think we ought to be able to behave like gentlemen." But when it comes to reaching a verdict in the case, #4 is completely unsympathetic, saying, "The boy's entire story is flimsy. He claimed he was at the movies. That's a little ridiculous, isn't it? He couldn't even remember what pictures he saw."
While he might seem cold and harsh, Juror #4 is actually not all that bad. For one thing, he's totally willing to be swayed by evidence. He tosses aside some of the early arguments about the defendant's innocence not because he's prejudiced, but because he doesn't believe them: "Everyone connected with the case identified this knife. Now are you trying to tell me that someone picked it up off the street and went to the boy's house and stabbed his father with it just to be amusing?"
It's clear that #4 has a very good eye for facts and evidence. In fact, he can repeat almost every detail of the trial: "The woman saw the killing through the window of a moving elevated train. The train had five cars, and she saw it through the windows of the last two. She remembers the most insignificant details." Juror #4 is probably more likely to trust this woman's memory of details because he's the kind of person who remembers details, too.
For most of this movie, Juror #4 reaches the same conclusion as guys like Juror #3 and Juror #10. But don't let that make you think they're similar. Juror #4 is actually disgusted by the prejudice he sees in these men. He even says, after one of Juror #10's racist rants, "Now, sit down and don't open your mouth again." And when push comes to shove, he changes his mind about his verdict because he realizes he missed the fact that one of the witnesses was not wearing her glasses when she apparently saw the murder.
Instead of throwing a fit like some other guys, Juror #4 simply says, "Strange, but I didn't think about it before." And just like that, he changes his mind and does the right thing.
The main thing we know about Juror #5 is that he grew up in a slum—and he's not especially fond of people who think everyone who comes out of a slum is a thief or a murderer. He's quick to defend himself against these types of people when he tells the other jurors, "I used to play in a back yard that was filled with garbage. Maybe it still smells on me."
And don't try telling him that it's nothing personal, because for him, "This is something personal!" Being from a slum, #5 is also more sympathetic to the defendant in the murder trial than the others are. Or at least he doesn't hold it against the defendant that he comes from a slum.
Juror #5 really comes in handy is when he tells the jury room that an experienced knife fighter would never hold a knife the way the murderer in this trial did. Instead, he says, "Here's how. Underhand. Anyone who's ever used one wouldn't handle it any other way." When asked if he's ever seen a knife fight, he answers, "Well, I have. You know, on my back stoop, the lot across the street, back yard. Switchblades came with the neighborhood."
It's #5's understanding of knives that adds a crucial piece of evidence for the defendant's innocence.
Juror #6 is probably the most invisible juror of the entire bunch. He only has a handful of lines in the movie, and he tends to come across as a guy who's willing to change his mind if people can convince him. As he says toward the beginning of the movie, "I don't know. I started to be convinced, you know, with the testimony from those people across the hall. Didn't they say something about an argument between the father and the boy around seven o'clock that night? I mean, I can be wrong."
This kind of talk shows us that he has a fair mind and simply thinks the kid is guilty, although he's willing to admit he could be wrong.
The only time Juror #6 shows a strong personality is when he scolds Juror #3 for speaking rudely to the elderly Juror #9. He hasn't taken a strong stand on the case yet, but he's more than happy to put his cards on the table when he says, "You oughta have more respect, mister. You say stuff like that to him [#9] again... I'm gonna lay you out." So that's what we've got from this guy—maybe he's not all that smart, but he's open-minded and quick to defend someone who's getting bullied.
The most important thing to know about Juror #7 is that he doesn't really care about justice and wants to reach a verdict ASAP so he can get to a baseball game. This is pretty much the first thing we learn about him when he says, "OK, men. Let's take our seats, huh? We can all get out of here pretty quick. I have tickets to that ball game tonight. Yanks and Cleveland. We've got this kid Modjelewski in there."
Juror #7 knows full well that he doesn't care about the verdict, but at least in the beginning, he pretends to be offended when someone questions his motives. He shows this offense when he says, "What, just because I voted fast? I think the guy's guilty. You couldn't change my mind if you talked for a hundred years." The ironic thing here is that #7 will change his mind more easily than anyone else in the room. He's just saying whatever he thinks will get the verdict over with as soon as possible.
By the midway point of the movie, #7 has started saying stuff like, "Do me a favor. Wake me up when this is over." He even gets to a breaking point when he says, "Listen. I'll tell you something. I'm a little sick of this whole thing already. We're getting nowhere fast. Let's break it up and go home. I'm changing my vote to not guilty." So in other words, he's totally willing to admit to the whole room that he doesn't care if the defendant is guilty or innocent. He just wants to go home. And we should remind you here that the defendant will get the DEATH PENALTY if he's convicted, so it's fair to say that Juror #7 is about as selfish as a human being can be.
Juror #8 is a dude who cares about justice and is willing to stand up against a crowd to do what he thinks is right. In the beginning, we're not really sure what his deal is, because he starts kind of softly, saying, "There were eleven votes for guilty. It's not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first." So at this early point, it sounds like he just wants to talk for a while before they reach a guilty verdict.
And, in fact, it doesn't take long before the other jurors start pressing #8 to give a Guilty verdict. They assure him that he'll never change their minds about the guilt of the defendant, but he responds by saying, "I don't want to change your mind. I just want to talk for a while. Look, this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know, living in a slum, his mother dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. You know why slum kids get that way?"
In other words, this guy thinks that the defendant deserves a little sympathy and discussion before the twelve jurors send him off to die. But we sort of already know that he's just biding his time and angling to change some of the jurors' minds.
Let's be real: Juror #8 is probably also the smartest guy in the jury room. When Juror #2 mentions that no one could prove the defendant didn't commit murder, #8 is quick to answer, "Nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn't have to open his mouth. That's in the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment. You've heard of it."
And when Juror #10 says that the jurors shouldn't believe the defendant because he's not white, #8 asks, "How come you believed [the non-white witness]? She's one of 'them,' too, isn't she?"
Despite all of Juror #8's tricky arguments, he never really gets any traction for a Not Guilty verdict until he shows the other men some solid evidence. This sets us up for one of the most dramatic moments in the movie, when #8 pulls a knife exactly like the murder weapon out of his pocket and jams it into the table, saying, "I got it last night in a little junk shop around the corner from the boy's house. It cost two dollars."
On top of everything else we know about him, we know that #8 has a little flair for the dramatic.
So, all right, Juror #8 is dramatic, just, kind, and smart. But none of these things would get him anywhere with the other jurors if he weren't willing to put himself out there and take risks. He takes his biggest risk of all early in the movie when he says, "I want to call for a vote. I want you eleven men to vote by secret ballot. I'll abstain. If there are still eleven votes for guilty, I won't stand alone. We'll take in a guilty verdict right now."
If this vote once again went for a unanimous Guilty verdict, this movie would be over, and there'd be nothing else to talk about. But Juror #8's trust in his fellow man pays off, as Juror #9 gives a Not Guilty verdict and puts us all on the path to setting the defendant free.
Once Juror #8 has managed to sway a few of the jurors, it's time for him to go on the offensive and attack the jurors whose prejudices prevent them from changing their minds. In one case, he basically calls out Juror #3 for wanting to murder the defendant in cold blood by giving a Guilty verdict. He doesn't mince words: "You want to see this boy die because you personally want it—not because of the facts."
This tactic works because #8 eventually makes #3 so flustered that #3 tries to attack him; he even says he'll kill him. To all of this, #8 calmly answers, "You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?"—which shows that we shouldn't always believe people when they exaggerate, sure, but it also shows that Juror #8 is able to stand up to pretty much anything if he thinks his principles are being violated.
By the end of the movie, Juror #8 has proven himself to be a true hero for standing by his principles and having the courage and skill to put them to work. He eventually gets the jury to find the defendant Not Guilty, and in the process, he avoids sending an innocent 18 year-old kid to jail. He also helps restore our faith in democracy and human decency, which is pretty darn good for a day's work.
Sitting beside Juror #8, Juror #9 shows us throughout this movie that he's a strong believer in justice and sympathy. The first thing we notice about him, though, is that he's much older than the other jurors—probably somewhere in his eighties. But he surprises us when he stands up to Juror #10's racist comments and says, "Do you think you were born with a monopoly on the truth? Certain things should be pointed out to this man."
This act shows us that #9 is a guy with progressive ideas—and it also shows that he's not afraid to stand up to bullies.
Our respect for Juror #9 only grows when he becomes the first person other than Juror #8 to give a vote for Not Guilty in the murder case. He makes this clear when Juror #3 accuses #5 of changing his vote, and #9 says, "He didn't change his vote. I did." When asked to explain why, he says, "This gentleman chose to stand alone against us. That's his right. It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly. He left the verdict up to us. He gambled for support and I gave it to him. I want to hear more. The vote is ten to two."
So there you have it: Juror #9 is like the second-in-command when it comes to justice and sympathy. He might not be as young or smart as Juror #8, but his heart is just as good.
Even after we've come to respect him, Juror #9 shows us just how strong his sympathy is when he explains to the other jurors about why an elderly witness in the murder case might have made up his testimony. He backs up his theory by saying, "I think I know this man better than anyone here. This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant old man who... who has been nothing all his life."
Since he can identify with being old and forgotten, Juror #9 concludes his big sympathy speech by saying, "Gentlemen, that's a very sad thing—to mean nothing. A man like this needs to be quoted, to be listened to." So in this case, he's shown us how sympathetic he can be and how convincing he can be: he actually ends up making some of the other jurors think that the elderly witness has made up parts of his testimony.
The main things you need to know about Juror #10 are that he has a bad cold and that he's a total racist. The first taste we get of his prejudice comes when he tells Juror #7, "It's tough to figure, isn't it? A kid kills his father. Bing! Just like that. Well, it's the element. They let the kids run wild. Maybe it serves 'em right."
At first, we might not be quite sure of what the guys means when he says "the element." But chances are that he's referring to a general group of people, which tells us right off the bat that he's not really one for specifics... or for sympathy and understanding.
The more we hear from Juror #10, the more we realize how ignorant he is. Worse yet, the guy seems to think that if he just says more racist stuff, he'll somehow get everyone to come over to his side. Eventually, he launches into one final rant, shouting, "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 to me."
The "people" he's talking about here, of course, are people of color. It's a good thing that by this point in the movie, no one is willing to listen to this guy. So he gives up and goes to sit in the corner of the jury room, hanging his head in shame.
Good riddance, really.
This dude is the only foreigner in the group of jurors, which might be the reason why he seems to appreciate their democratic rights and freedoms more than anyone else. For example, when some of the jurors want to know who changed their original vote from Guilty to Not Guilty, Juror #11 steps in to say, "Excuse me. This was a secret ballot. We agreed on this point, no? If the gentleman wants it to remain secret—" You might also notice here that the guy is very polite compared to his American-born fellow jurors.
As the movie unfolds, Juror #11 seems to take more opportunities to remind the other jurors about how important it is for them to reach a verdict that is fair and moral. As he tells the entire group, "We have a responsibility. This is a remarkable thing about democracy. That we are … what is the word? … Ah, notified! That we are notified by mail to come down to this place and decide on the guilt or innocence of a man we have not known before. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. This is one of the reasons why we are strong. We should not make it a personal thing."
In some ways, Juror #11 could be giving us the thesis statement of the entire movie here. Like the movie, he is optimistic about how great it is that he and his fellow men have the opportunity to act as jurors and to make the best possible decision through democratic voting.
Despite all his happy talk about democracy, Juror #11 shows his mean streak when he realizes that Juror #7 has just been voting for whatever verdict will help him make the opening pitch for a baseball game. He shows his disgust by saying, "What kind of a man are you? You have sat here and voted guilty with everyone else because there are some baseball tickets burning a hole in your pocket."
Juror #11 is especially angry that someone like Juror #7 takes all of his freedoms and responsibilities for granted, while an immigrant like #11 probably knows what it's like to live without these things. His anger makes a lot of sense, and it goes to remind us that democratic processes, like sitting on a jury, are actually a pretty serious deal.
Juror #12 is kind of a strange bird. One of the first things we learn about him is that he works in the advertising industry; as he says to another juror, "You know, in advertising... I told you I worked in an agency? Some pretty strange people work there. Well, not strange, really. I guess it's just they have peculiar ways of expressing themselves."
The funny thing about this comment is that #12 expresses himself in almost the exact same "strange" way he describes here. When he throws out an idea, for example, he says something like, "If nobody else has an idea, I might have a cutie here. Let's throw it out and see if the cat licks it up."
The unfortunate thing about Juror #12 is that his words tend to have little substance to them. But that doesn't mean he's a bad guy. He tries his best to treat the jury room the same way he'd treat a meeting at his ad agency, saying stuff like, "Maybe this is an idea. It seems to me that it's up to us to convince this gentleman that he's wrong and we're right. Maybe if we each took a couple of minutes."
You can see here that, even though he might have good ideas, Juror #12 isn't used to expressing himself in a really forceful way; he's really more of a brainstorming type. Maybe for this reason, he tends to be easily swayed by the opinions of others.
The judge only has one rambling speech in the movie, and it goes something like this:
"To continue, you've listened to a long and complex case, murder in the first degree. Premeditated murder is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You've listened to the testimony, had the law interpreted as it applies in this case. It's now your duty to sit down and try and separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead. Another man's life is at stake."
Now, normally, you might read those words and think, "Wow that's pretty dramatic." But if you check out the movie, you'll see that the judge delivers this speech with a tone of total boredom and fatigue. This speech sounds like something he wrote a long time ago and still recites at every murder trial. His words also suggest that this is an open and shut case that will be decided rather quickly. And when we first go into the jury room and see everyone voting guilty, this assumption seems pretty accurate.
As a character, the judge in this movie doesn't just represent someone who's bad at his job. He also represents the justice system in general, which can often seem tired and unsympathetic. After all, this judge has probably seen dozens and dozens of kids just like the one on trial. So it makes sense that he'd feel a bit burned out by his job. Now it's up to fresh heroes like Juror #8 to inject some much-needed sympathy and energy into the justice system.