8.1/10
512,261
730 user 599 critic

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Trailer
2:26 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay by), (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)
Reviews
Popularity
686 ( 49)
Top Rated Movies #202 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 235 wins & 326 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian Version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Saurabh Shukla
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The story of King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A washed-up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, attempts to revive his career by writing and starring in a Broadway play.

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Stars: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton
Argo (2012)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980.

Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman
Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional.

Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman
Biography | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Gone Girl (2014)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Adventure | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

After John Nash, a brilliant but asocial mathematician, accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish.

Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
Gladiator (2000)
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor's corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen
Forrest Gump (1994)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  

JFK, LBJ, Vietnam, Watergate, and other history unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75.

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
Spotlight I (2015)
Crime | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Director: Tom McCarthy
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Uncle Abram
Dickie Gravois ...
...
Judge Turner
...
Anna
...
...
Cameron Zeigler ...
...
Mr. Moon
...
...
...
...
Mister Mackey Jr. ...
Randall
...
Edit

Storyline

Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life. Written by Fox Searchlight

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

| |  »

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

8 November 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Twelve Years a Slave  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$923,715, 20 October 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$56,671,993

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$187,733,202
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Digital DTS Sound)| | |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the third film collaboration of Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. They previously appeared together in Inglourious Basterds (2009) and The Counselor (2013). This is also the third collaboration between Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen, after Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011). See more »

Goofs

Several times during the movie horses are seen wearing bridles with a 'flash' attachment on the nose-band. This type of attachment wasn't invented until the 1960s. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Overseer: Alright now, y'all fresh niggers. Y'all gonna be in the cuttin' gang.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Roll Jordan Roll
Written by Nicholas Britell
Performed by Topsy Chapman (uncredited) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
12 Years A Slave earns the right to be called one of the best films of the year.
24 February 2014 | by See all my reviews

If any contemporary director deserves to be in the mainstream spotlight without compromising their style, it's Steve McQueen. His debut, Hunger, already had the hand of a confident filmmaker taking a fly-on-the-wall style to the grimy art-house. Shame was one of the finest films of its year for its impeccable depiction of an addiction to one of humanity's primal survival instincts resulting in self-destruction. I'm so happy that his latest film has gracefully conquered early Oscar favourites from the output of David O. Russell, Martin Scorsese and the now delayed film from George Clooney to become this year's Oscar frontrunner. During its festival run when the buzz first began, I took it upon myself to read the screenplay. While I can usually sink scripts within a few hours, the poetic density of 12 Years A Slave took several sittings across a week or two. Even on the page it was a harrowing, exhausting experience. It's a film that needs a have a gut to truly display the length of time, but the script is bloated in its brilliance.

Naturally, scenes were cut (whether in the editing room or pre-production I don't know) and that's a blessing and a curse. Now in the film, we rush to Solomon Northup's capture, opening with scenes we shall revisit later on. I understand the decision to enter the world as quickly as possible, but I do feel it hurts its first act. As much as I jump for joy every time Scoot McNairy hides himself in a film, the transition from ordinary life to becoming kidnapped feels jarring and contrived. Who is Solomon Northup as a free man? What does he want? Maybe we don't know because there is no source for the matter. Maybe McQueen isn't interested in telling that story. At the very least, we definitely know that Solomon is a compelling character during his capture. Chiwetel Ejiofor is an actor I've always liked but he's never made an impression until now. His passion and commitment to his portrayal of Solomon is utterly captivating. While he can slink into the background of some scenes where he is not the focus, when it's time to shine he bursts a fuse.

Unfortunately during this cluttered first act, it concerns itself too much with subplots that we know will not succeed. While they accomplish establishing the stakes at hand and rule out the 'why doesn't Solomon just…' there's just too many abridged tales. Perhaps this is distracting just because I know the full stories from the script, but they should've went all or nothing with them. It results in editing that frustratingly refuses to let us into Solomon's headspace. We're along for the ride, but too frequently not Solomon's ride. During then we only get rare and rewarding glimpses into how he feels and his perspective on his past life stolen from him. Fortunately the film vastly improves once Solomon is free from the deliciously cruel Paul Giamatti to the spiteful live-wire Paul Dano. As the film focuses on his one-on-one conflicts and moral dilemmas, the film reaches intimate and truly challenging moments which is where the film's power lies. Fruitless subplots are dropped in favour of heartbreaking ones as we're introduced to the pitiful Patsey on the pathetic Edwin Epps' plantation.

Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen have been one of the most enthralling director/actor combination in recent years. They always bring out the best in each other. Here, it feels like they've reached their finest work yet, but still feels like their collaboration has just began. Fassbender's Edwin Epps is the film's most fascinating and complex character, a man who sincerely refuses to believe he is evil. He demonstrates the thesis of the film in that the authoritative caucasians didn't believe they were doing anything wrong. Many people have laid claim that he is pure evil, but I don't think that's the point, he belongs in a misguided world where he thinks his lust and affection is apt praise for Patsey's talent. While I may not have sympathy for him, he is a tortured soul, a regrettable and irreversible tragedy of mankind and this is thanks to Fassbender's incredible performance. His victim Patsey, played by talented newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, is an utter revelation. She may not have a fully developed character but in at least two powerful scenes, she makes the best out of what she can for a character that warrants the tears you will inevitably shed.

One of the most consistent aspects of McQueen's films is the magnificent taste in cinematography and production design. Presumably from his art background, he's great at immersing you into his bleak visual worlds. Working with Sean Bobbit again, the cinematography is reliably enchanting. In true McQueen style, if a character must endure patiently, in this case Solomon hanging from a noose on the tips of his toes, we must endure with them. No shot this year, not even in the extraordinary Gravity, has been as stunning and unforgettable as the infamous long take of Patsey's lashes. It's a filmmaking masterclass in just a few short minutes. Despite the shaky first half hour, it's all redeemed in its harrowing final 15 minutes. It's the greatest sequence I've seen in a long time and I've never had a scene make me a blubbering mess quite like it. Yes, the jump to his kidnapping feels abrupt and there's no sense of relief to his inevitable freedom, but this is all calculated to mirror the struggle of his experience and we've felt every beat. 12 Years A Slave is a powerful testament to the endurance of the human spirit with its theme of injustice applicable to any point in history that earns the right to be one of the best of the year. After a string of lightweight Best Picture choices from the Academy, this will be a refreshing choice.

9/10


28 of 41 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?
Review this title | See all 730 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Best of 2017: Our Favorite Movie and TV Stills

Take a look at our favorite movie and TV stills from the past year. Spot any of your faves?

Browse the Best of 2017