Study Guide

12 Angry Men Quotes

  • Versions of Reality

    JUDGE: It's now your duty to sit down and try and separate the facts from the fancy.

    Just before the jurors retreat to their jury room, the judge reminds them that they have a very important responsibility to get past their versions of reality and to come up with the version that makes most sense. That's the whole point of having twelve jurors instead of one, since twelve jurors are more likely to come to a more objective version of reality.

    JUROR #10: Look, we're all grown-ups in here. We heard the facts didn't we? You're not gonna tell me we're supposed to believe this kid, knowing what he is.

    We can tell early on that Juror #10 has a strong bias against the defendant because the defendant is non-white. This claim also shows us that rather than being totally objective, this juror is more than willing to indulge his petty racism, even if it ends up getting the defendant electrocuted.

    JUROR #3: Here's what I think. And I have no personal feelings about this. I just wanna talk about facts.

    We know that the whole "I have no personal feelings" is a bunch of hooey, since it's impossible for any one person to claim they're totally objective about something. Juror #3 says he just wants to talk about facts, but we learn at the end of the movie that he's the most biased juror out of the entire bunch.

    JUROR #3: Now these are the facts. You can't refute facts. The kid is guilty. I'm just as sentimental as the next fella. I know he's only 18.

    Juror #3 continues to talk about facts as a way of hiding his prejudice. He claims that he has sympathy for the kid who's on trial for murder, but we know that this guy has a lot of personal hang-ups about sons not respecting their fathers, and he's perfectly willing to send the kid to the electric chair as a result.

    JUROR #10: He's twisting the facts. Did or didn't the old man see the kid running out of the house at 12:10?

    When Juror #8 calls into question whether one of the murder witnesses (an old man) saw the defendant running away from the crime scene, Juror #10 gets really angry and accuses #8 of twisting the facts. But that's just the thing: if facts can be twisted, then how reliable are they?

    JUROR #3: What are you talkin' about? I mean, we're all going crazy in here or something.

    Like Juror #10, Juror #3 can't believe it when he sees the room starting to turn toward a "Not Guilty" verdict. He assumes that everyone around him is going crazy. After all, there are some people who just aren't all that good at changing their minds about something once they've decided on it. And this can make their version of reality really rigid.

    JUROR #3: What is this? Love Your Underprivileged Brother Week?

    When he realizes that the room is turning against him, Juror #3 decides that the rest of the men are weak for letting their versions of reality be swayed so easily. He accuses them of being a bunch of bleeding hearts who don't have the guts to do what is right. But by the end of the movie, he's the one who's bawling his eyes out over his lost son.

    JUROR #10: Well, don't you know about them? There's a… there's a danger here.

    Even after most of the jury members have changed their minds, Juror #10 continues to insist that they should convict the defendant because he's a dangerous person of color. It's not until the entire room (literally) turns on him (even the people who agree with his verdict) that he finally shuts up and stops talking.

    JUROR #9: No. He wouldn't really lie. But perhaps he made himself believe he heard those words and recognized the boy's face.

    Out of all the jurors, Juror #9 seems to be the most open to the idea of different people seeing reality in different ways. For example, he thinks that the old man who apparently witnessed the defendant running from the crime scene might have just imagined he saw the boy's face and then, later on, convinced himself that he was right. It just goes to show how our minds can often warp what we think is real.

    JUROR #8: You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?

    Midway through the movie, Juror #8 gets on Juror #3's nerves so much that Juror #3 says he'll kill him. But as Juror #8 reminds us, we say stuff like this all the time without meaning it. So we shouldn't always take the things we say literally, just like we shouldn't take it too seriously that the defendant told his dad he'd kill him a few hours before the old man died.

  • Race

    JUROR: #10: You're not gonna' tell me we're supposed to believe this kid, knowing what he is.

    It's pretty early in the film that we realize Juror #10 is pretty darn racist. Comments like this one show us that he's willing to make a judgment about the kid's guilt based entirely on race.

    JUROR #10: I've lived among them all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that. I mean, they're born liars.

    When he sees that the rest of the room isn't with him, Juror #10 digs himself an even deeper hole by insisting that the defendant and all the other people of color like him are just born liars.

    JUROR #9: Only an ignorant man can believe that.

    When he can't take it anymore, Juror #9 (the old man) gets up and tells Juror #10 that he's ignorant for being so racist. He'd be happy to get into a much longer argument if it weren't for the people around him shouting him down.

    JUROR #9: Certain things should be pointed out to this man.

    Even after the other jurors have tried to calm him down, Juror #9 wants to give #10 a piece of his mind. After all, it's hard to get comfortable in a jury room when you know one of the jurors wants to convict the defendant just because of the defendant's race.

    JUROR #10: Sure, there's some good things about 'em, too. I'm the first one to say that. I've known a couple who were OK, but that's the exception.

    When he realizes that the other men aren't nearly as racist as he is, Juror #10 tries a classic racist backpedal, which is to say that some people of color are okay. #10 actually thinks this is a pretty enlightened thing to say, but all he's actually doing is showing the others how narrow-minded he is on the subject of race.

    JUROR #10: Most of 'em, it's like they have no feelings! They can do anything!

    In a final flurry of madness, Juror #10 starts shouting about how much he hates people of color. By this point, no one is listening to him, and he's talking out of sheer desperation.

    JUROR #10: Listen to me. They're no good. There's not a one of 'em who's any good.

    When he sees that no one agrees with his views on people of color, Juror #10 changes his mind about his earlier claim that some of them are okay. He goes right back to his original point, which is that no people of color are okay. And we can pretty safely assume that he feels this way about almost any race that isn't Caucasian.

    JUROR #4: It's no secret that slums are breeding grounds for criminals.

    Juror #4 may or may not be racist, but he definitely thinks that slums are bad places that tend to breed criminals. In this sense, he's more prejudiced against people from low social classes than he is against certain races. Yet it's also pretty clear that it's not only white people living in these neighborhoods.

    JUROR #8: How come you believe the woman? She's one of "them" too, isn't she?

    In a clever moment, Juror #8 uses Juror #10's racism against him. After all, #10 thinks that they should all believe the testimony of a non-white witness. But he also thinks that they should consider the defendant guilty because he's a person of color and can't be trusted. But if people of color can't be trusted, why does he want to believe the witness? Maybe the guy just wants to see someone go to the electric chair.

    JUROR #10: I mean, what's happening in here? I speak my piece, and you… Listen to me.

    By the end of the movie, Juror #10 has lost his right to speak to the jury room. It's clear that he has nothing to contribute to the general conversation except his racist rants. So it's time for him to sit down and shut up.

  • Duty

    JUDGE: It's now your duty to sit down and try and separate the facts from the fancy.

    Inn the movie's opening scene, the judge makes it perfectly clear that the jurors have a sacred duty in deciding the fate of an 18-year-old boy. And of all their duties, their most important one is to figure out what's real and what isn't.

    JUDGE: You are faced with a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.

    Before the jurors go into their deliberation room, the judge reminds them that they have a very important duty. After all, the judge will be forced to give the death penalty to anyone convicted of murder in the first degree

    JUROR #11: What kind of a man are you?

    When Juror #7 shows his true colors, Juror #11 wants to know what kind of man he is. After all, Juror #7 has confessed to voting for whatever verdict will get him out of the courthouse as quickly as possible. For Juror #11 (and hopefully for us), this is just about the most selfish way a person could ever act.

    JUROR #11: You have sat here and voted guilty with everyone else because there are some baseball tickets burning a hole in your pocket.

    Juror #7 might have expected a quick scolding, but #11 won't let him off the hook that easily. He goes on at great length about the man's responsibility, but even still, he doesn't seem to make much of a dent in the guy's selfishness. This is just another way in which the characters of this movie show their true colors over the course of the film.

    JUROR #11: Who says you have the right to play like this with a man's life?

    Juror #11 hasn't had much time to talk in this movie, so now is his time to shine. Juror #7 might think he doesn't have the right to talk this way, but Juror #11 quickly wipes away his objections and gets right up in his face. After all, he asks a pretty legit question when he asks what gives #7 the right to decide a person's life or death based on a couple of baseball tickets.

    JUROR #11: If you want to vote not guilty, do it because you are convinced he is not guilty, not because you've had enough.

    No matter what the verdict it, Juror #11 wants to make sure that Juror #7 votes with his conscience instead of his self-interest. Unfortunately, #11 doesn't actually have any way of forcing #7 to do this other than shaming him in front of everybody. At the end of the day, #7 probably still votes Not Guilty because he doesn't care one way or the other.

    JUROR #8: There were eleven votes for guilty. It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.

    Early in the movie, Juror #8 refuses to confirm the Guilty verdict. When asked why, he says he can't send someone to the electric chair without talking about it first. The others think he's just being foolish, but as we find out later on, he is right for holding things up.

    JUROR #7: I honestly think the guy is guilty. Couldn't change my mind if you talked for 100 years.

    At the beginning of the movie, Juror #7 says he thinks that the defendant is guilty and that he wouldn't change his mind in 100 years. But as we find out later, this guy's opinion is based solely on how fast he thinks he can get out of the courthouse. It's all just talk for this guy.

    JUROR #8: This is somebody's life. We can't decide in five minutes.

    Juror #8 isn't saying that the defendant is innocent. He's just saying that there's enough doubt in his mind to have a conversation about the verdict. In his mind, it would be immoral to send a kid to his death so quickly, regardless of how certain the evidence seemed.

    JUROR #7: Supposin' we take five minutes? So what? Let's take an hour. The ball game doesn't start till eight o'clock.

    Juror #7 is willing to have a little chat about the verdict, but only because he still thinks he'll get out of the jury room in time for his ballgame. The closer he gets to the ballgame, the more he decides that he's willing to give whatever verdict will get him out of the courthouse the quickest. In other words, he's more worried about setting himself free than the defendant's fate.

  • Old Age

    JUROR #8: The old man—"I'm gonna kill you," body hitting the floor a second later—would have had to hear the boy's words with the el [train] roaring past his nose!

    This is the point where Juror #8 first brings up the possibility that the elderly witness in the murder trial might be making up parts of his testimony. For example, how could the old man hear the kid yelling upstairs with a massive train passing right outside his open window?

    JUROR #6: A guy who talks like that to an old man really oughta get stepped on.

    Juror #6 doesn't have much time for anyone who speaks disrespectfully to the elderly. Thank goodness someone feels this way, because Juror #3 definitely needs someone to knock some sense into him if he's going to keep yelling at poor old Juror #9.

    JUROR #6: You oughta have more respect, mister. You say stuff like that to him again… I'm gonna lay you out.

    In case Juror #3 didn't get his point the first time, Juror #6 tells him that he's going to slug him if he says another disrespectful thing to Juror #9. This is 1957, after all, and many of the people during this time wouldn't be willing to stand idly by and watch their elders get bullied by some pushy jerk.

    JUROR #6: You go ahead. You say anything you like. Why do you think the old man might lie?

    After taking Juror #3 down a peg, #6 turns back to the elderly #9 and invites him to give his opinion on why the elderly witness in the murder trial might be lying. This is one of the nicer moments in the movie; it reminds us that some people are still decent enough to give respect to old people who've worked hard their whole lives and now need respect for their age and wisdom.

    JUROR #9: I mean, to come to court like that. He was a very old man in a torn jacket.

    It might sound like Juror #9 is being cruel to the elderly witness who testified against the defendant. But he's actually giving the witness quite a bit of sympathy, saying that it must not be easy to show up at court in ragged clothes.

    JUROR #9: And he walked very slowly to the stand. He was dragging his left leg and trying to hide it because he was ashamed.

    It's important to note here that the old man dragged one leg while walking to the witness stand. After all, he testified that he ran to his door and saw the defendant running away from his building. But as Juror #8 points out, there's no way the man could cover this distance with a disability like that.

    JUROR #9: I think I know this man better than anyone else here.

    As he points out, Juror #9 understands the elderly witness better than anyone else because he knows what it's like to be an old man nobody (not even some of the other jurors) listens to.

    JUROR #9: This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant old man who… who has been nothing all his life.

    As #9 tells us, the poor old man who testified against the defendant might have made up some of his testimony because he just wanted a little attention. It can't be easy to sit alone in your apartment all day just watching the days go by and waiting to die.

    JUROR #9: Nobody knows him. Nobody quotes him.

    It's clear by this point that the old witness in the murder case has a reason to get up in court and lie about his testimony. He saw the opportunity to be important for one last time in his life and he didn't hesitate to take it.

    JUROR #9: Nobody seeks his advice after 75 years. Gentlemen, that's a very sad thing—to mean nothing.

    In conclusion, we learn from Juror #9 that it's very sad to be an old man with no family; no one cares about who you are or what you have to say. So is it any wonder that this old man would step up and try to be important for a few minutes by making up some court testimony? After all, what are they going to do to him if they catch him lying—put him in jail for the rest of his life?

  • Justice and Judgment

    JUROR #8: The judge won't accept a hung jury. We haven't been here long.

    When it looks as though the men will never agree on a verdict, some of them start suggesting that they go back to the judge to say they are a hung jury, meaning that the trial will have to start all over again with a new jury. But Juror #8 knows that another jury will convict the defendant immediately, and he assumes it's his responsibility to make sure the kid gets his Not Guilty verdict while he (#8) still has the power to do something about it.

    JUROR #3: He's an old man. You saw him. Half the time he was confused. How could he be positive about … anything?

    The funny thing about this quote is that only a minute earlier, Juror #3 was saying that they had to accept the testimony of the old witness as fact. But now Juror #8 has tricked him into showing his prejudice toward sending the defendant to the electric chair.

    JUDGE: Murder in the first degree—premeditated homicide—is the most serious charge in our criminal courts.

    The judge doesn't make any bones about the fact that murder in the first degree is as serious a crime as anyone can charged for in criminal court. It's for this reason that he insists that all of the jurors think very seriously about their responsibility to make sure that the trial ends with a proper and just sentence.

    JUROR #4: We're not here to go into the reasons why slums are breeding grounds for criminals. They are. I know it.

    Of all the jurors, #4 seems to be the most emotionally cold and rational. He doesn't even sweat until long after all the other men have lost a gallon of water each to the brutal heat. But like anyone, Juror #4 has his own prejudices, and we can see here that he doesn't always offer evidence. He just says, "I know it."

    JUROR #10: I'll tell you something. The crime is being committed right in this room.

    Juror #10 is the most racially prejudiced of anyone in the jury room. He's so biased that he thinks the other men are committing a crime by just considering the fact that the defendant might be innocent. In his mind, he might even believe that he's the only person in the room who cares about justice.

    JUROR #3: You come in here with your heart bleeding all over the floor about slum kids and injustice but you make up these wild stories, and you've got some soft-hearted old ladies listening to you.

    Like Juror #10, Juror #3 thinks that the rest of the men in the room are a bunch of softhearted fools who will believe any sob story anyone tells them. In his mind, justice means being tough on people and assuming the worst of them if the charge is something as serious as murder.

    JUROR #11: What kind of 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 can't believe it when he finds out that #7 has been voting with the majority of jurors all night just so he can get out of the courthouse as soon as possible. For #11, this is the most irresponsible and unjust thing a person could ever do in this kind of situation. And we're inclined to agree with him.

    JUROR #11: If you want to vote not guilty, then do it because you are convinced the man is not guilty. If you believe he is guilty, then vote that way. Or don't you have the … the guts—the guts to do what you think is right?

    As he spells out pretty clearly, Juror #11 wants #7 to vote with his conscience instead of his watch. The problem now is that we can't believe anything #7 says, since he refuses to explain his reasons for voting whatever way he does.

    JUROR #10: I don't understand you people. How can you believe this kid is innocent? Look, you know how those people lie. I don't have to tell you. They don't know what truth is.

    Juror #10's idea of justice seems to be the following: convict and execute any defendant who isn't white. Even worse, the guy just gets more racist as the movie goes on, until it seems like there's nothing behind his reasons for a Guilty verdict other than race.

    JUROR #3: I don't care whether I'm alone or not! I have a right.

    By the end of the movie, Juror #3 is the last man holding out for a Guilty verdict. But at this point, we can tell that his only reason for holding on to his anger is his own personal hang-ups about being a lousy father. When he finally realizes this, he breaks down and gives his permission for a Not Guilty verdict. So in the end, it looks like everyone on the jury gives a just verdict, although they do so for pretty different reasons.