What is the best film of all time? It’s a question liable to cause heated debate and end in arguments. Traditionally, Citizen Kane has tended to top these lists, but they were often English-language centric. No more so than the IMDB top 250, which Shawshank Redemption has been sat at the top of for years now. Whilst many of the leading pack are questionable, to say the least, 12 Angry Men richly deserves its spot at number five.
In a New York courthouse, 12 jurors begin deliberations over a murder case. The accused is an 18-year-old charged with the murder of his father. It looks like an open and shut case. However, when an initial count is called, juror 8 (Henry Fonda) votes not guilty. Angering most of the other men who wish to get away quickly, especially in the sweltering conditions. He argues that they should take more time to deliberate as a guilty verdict means the death penalty. Tempers fray and prejudices come to the fore as a young man’s life is in the hands of 12 angry men.
Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men is an exhilarating and absorbing film which delves into the prejudices within society. The superb ensemble cast (including Lee J Cobb & E.G. Marshall) all play their part as the tide gradually turns, but it’s Fonda who really stands out. Staged entirely within the same room, the drama and tension arises from the interactions between the men. Their dialogue, their body language. 12 Angry Men is tense, breathtaking film-making. A drama propelled by a moral conscience and a timely reminder of our humanity.
- New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Frank Schaffner’s 1955 teleplay of 12 Angry Men, from the series Studio One, featuring an introduction by Ron Simon, curator at the Paley Center for Media
- Production history of 12 Angry Men, from teleplay to big-screen classic
- Archival interviews with director Sidney Lumet
- New interview with screenwriter Walter Bernstein about Lumet
- New interview with Simon about writer Reginald Rose
- Tragedy in a Temporary Town (1956), a teleplay directed by Lumet and written by Rose
- New interview with cinematographer John Bailey about director of photography Boris Kaufman
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by writer and law professor Thane Rosenbaum
12 Angry Men is released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as part of the Criterion Collection on Monday.