Does 12 Angry Men consist of only one cut? Apart from maybe an opening scene and closing scene, when they are in the room, I don't see any cuts.

If that is so, does it mean when some actor makes a mistake that they have to do the whole thing all over again?

  • 7
    According to Wikipedia there are two movies called 12 angry men(one from 1957, bw, the other dated 1997): which one are you talking about?
    – mattiav27
    Jan 30, 2016 at 22:54
  • No. Are you thinking of Rope (1948)? That appears to be only one cut but there are blackouts every 11 minutes so the film can be reloaded.
    – user207421
    Feb 1, 2016 at 2:59
  • As you has seen, the answer is No. But consider what happens in stage theater when somebody fumbles a line: They improvise and get back on track as best they can. I see no reason they can't do the same on a movie stage. In fact, look up trivia for just about any movie and you will find that somebody said something that was off script, but the director let it go. Feb 1, 2016 at 11:01

3 Answers 3


Richard has done a great job of explaining that it is more than one cut but I'd like to add why.

The fact is that, even today, it's pretty much impossible to make a feature-length film in one cut... even with digital recording.

In the 50s, it was even more limited. All films were shot on actual film and filmmakers had to work around the limited length of the reel - either 500 or 1000 feet - which, at 24 frames per second limits directors to 11 minutes of shooting time per shot.

Modern digital cameras are limited in their shot length by the size of their digital media and the recording quality.

As an example, here's the stats for the Arri Alexa.

Recording length for an Arri Alexa Digital

To paraphrase, with a 64 GB card, you'll get between 24 and 210 minutes of recording time depending on the codec you use. Now, 210 minutes is a really long time but the quality at this level would be very low. Some cameras may also have issues with overheating when used on very long shots and, if running on batteries, the batteries would certainly not last 210 minutes.

So, while possible (and actually accomplished in a 96 minute long Russian historical drama called Russian Ark), it would take some extreme measures to actually do it. For example, to limit the number of restarts, the director of Russian Ark recorded video only to avoid sound issues and recorded directly onto a large external hard drive that was able to hold up to 100 minutes of uncompressed high-def footage and had to be carried around with the camera.

  • 1
    I've heard about Russian Ark. Does that count? Jan 31, 2016 at 3:01
  • @EngineerToast Interesting. It seems as though they went to extreme lengths to make it possible to record 87 minutes straight, including recording video only and recording directly to a giant hard disk.
    – Catija
    Jan 31, 2016 at 3:17
  • Indeed. I think it really just proves your point. The most special thing about the film is that they did it in one shot. That just proves how impractical it is to do it. Jan 31, 2016 at 3:29
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    You also have Rope, which was made in multiple cuts, but most of them were disguised in various ways so that it feels like a single continuous shot (for the most part).
    – Kevin
    Jan 31, 2016 at 7:14
  • 4
    There's a few more examples here on wikipedia; "One shot films"
    – user7812
    Jan 31, 2016 at 9:24

Assuming you're referring to the 1957 B&W version, the simplest answer is that the film was indeed unique (for the time) in consisting of some extremely long mobile sequences with a mounted camera. The initial scene with the jury introduction, for example is nearly 10 minutes long and involves no less than 30-40 different conversations in the foreground and probably ten times as many in the background.

That being said, there are cuts throughout the film, for example the one below at timecode 00:10:45.

enter image description here

If you're referring to "takes", several critics and commentators have noted that the film is famed for having required just 365 separate takes (and 2 weeks of solid rehearsals) in order to get the film in the can. When compared to some filmmakers (Kubrick famously took 148 takes to get a single scene right in The Shining), this can be seen to be nothing short of miraculous.


What I love about this movie is that though the set was a room Lumet and Kaufman, his cinematographer, did their best to amplify 12 Angry Men tone so that at the end the feeling of tension appears. Also, Lumet and Carl Lerner, his editor, used editing techniques to increase this tension. At the beginning there are quite long takes but gradually as the conversations start heating up, cuts start coming faster. All in all there were 360 shoots which were carefully thought through from the very beginning till the end.

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