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12 Years a Slave (2013)

tomatometer

97

Average Rating: 9/10
Reviews Counted: 260
Fresh: 251 | Rotten: 9

It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema.

98

Average Rating: 9.8/10
Critic Reviews: 45
Fresh: 44 | Rotten: 1

It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema.

audience

91

liked it
Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 119,065

My Rating

Movie Info

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, the New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800s. Steve McQueen (Hunger) directs from a script he co-wrote with John Ridley, based in part by Northup's memoir. Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Giamatti co-star. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi

R,

Drama, Special Interest

John Ridley

Mar 4, 2014

$56.6M

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All Critics (260) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (251) | Rotten (9)

The cumulative emotional effect is devastating: the final scenes are as angry, as memorable, as overwhelming as anything modern cinema has to offer.

January 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

So overpowering is this film's simple, horrible, and almost entirely true story that it's hard to get enough distance on 12 Years a Slave to poke at its inner workings.

December 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Slate
Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Every scene of 12 Years a Slave, and almost every shot, conveys some penetrating truth about America's original sin.

December 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is a film that necessity and education demand seeing.

November 25, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It provokes recognition in us of the very heart of darkness. It makes the unimaginable imaginable.

October 31, 2013 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"12 Years a Slave" isn't easy to watch, and it shouldn't be; it's one man's tragedy, but it's also the tragedy of countless thousands of souls beaten down, literally and metaphorically.

October 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

McQueen works from ferocity to felicity. Scenes of body horror bear higher emotional stakes than your average horror film. It's a film of few kindnesses and many graces.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity
Newcity

An uncompromising look at slavery in the Antebellum South. Anchored by career-defining performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o, director Steve McQueen brings his assured directorial mind to a harrowing, but necessary picture.

March 15, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

There are no false pretenses or unnecessary charging, instead, there is patience and time. The moments of suspension often become the biggest delight.

March 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

Much of it is difficult to watch, but '12 Years a Slave' is that rare film that's both important in its message and a darned good film all the same.

March 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

While the praise for 12 Years a Slave has been rather overblown, it's still a recommendable film due to its incredible cast, which helps cover up its weaknesses.

March 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Examiner.com
Examiner.com

This is a truly impressive piece of filmmaking.

February 27, 2014 Full Review Source: The Standard

O que nos torna racistas não é o preconceito que exercemos de maneira ativa, mas a intolerância contra as mais diversas minorias que simplesmente nos mostramos incapazes de perceber.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

It's a heavy, depressing film but it's also one that's hard to discredit.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

McQueen has used this near-documentary style of filming before, but this is the first time it's seemed essential to his story.

February 13, 2014 Full Review Source: The Vine
The Vine

An unflinching, uncomfortable and entirely necessary modern classic.

February 12, 2014 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

There is a reason that Slave has topped the best of list of 25 major film critics and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture. Miss it at your own loss.

February 11, 2014 Full Review Source: The Aristocrat
The Aristocrat

The direction from Steve McQueen is visceral, the script from John Ridley doesn't waste a word, and the performances are, without exception, brilliant.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

Using dialogue sparsely and shocking images relentlessly, McQueen's movie brilliantly explores the implications and legacy of slavery, and debunks some of its more cherished myths.

February 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Irish Independent
Irish Independent

Minds will be opened, perhaps even changed by what they see (and indeed, feel) here.

February 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Herald Sun (Australia)

Fortunately, 12 Years a Slave is not just a minor vanity project for Brad Pitt, who is one of its producers, but also a courageous step forward for director Steve McQueen.

February 4, 2014 Full Review Source: SF Weekly
SF Weekly

The film imparts the casual cruelty of slavery with full force without having to resort to graphic portrayals of on-screen brutality. The film certainly has those, but they are sporadic, well-judged and serve the larger story of a man starved of freedom.

February 2, 2014 Full Review Source: 3AW

12 Years A Slave tackles America's primal sin of slavery with unflinching honesty, leaving in the shade Hollywood's previous efforts to address the subject, from Gone With the Wind's rose-tinted myopia to Django Unchained's gore-and-irony-soaked fantasy.

February 1, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

Generally more concerned with making its audience wince than with forging an indelible imprint on the soul.

January 31, 2014 Full Review Source: Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

It may well be the greatest film ever made about slavery, but that says more about the movie world than the work itself.

January 30, 2014 Full Review Source: Flicks.co.nz
Flicks.co.nz

In its portrayal of violence and spectatorship, it stays in the mind.

January 29, 2014 Full Review Source: Impulse Gamer
Impulse Gamer

Audience Reviews for 12 Years a Slave

A worthy best picture winner based on the excellent performances and the importance of the subject matter, but this is not an easy movie to watch. If you can't handle graphic torture scenes, stay far away. There's quite of few of them and they are brutal. I admire that the actors and actresses were willing to put themselves through it. The movie itself is a great redemption story and emotionally compelling (especially the ending), but it can be slow at times. It's not something I would probably want to watch again, but absolutely worth it at least once if you can stomach it. The average film-goer that grabs this for a watch based on its awards will not like it more than likely because it is not a mainstream audience movie, but that is not something that should take away its accomplishments on and off the film.
April 1, 2014
jlewis07

Super Reviewer

This is the crowing work of 2013. An instant classic. A true emotional powerhouse of a film. A triumphant masterpiece of the highest kind. An extremely powerful, deeply moving and truly breathtaking movie. Director, Steve McQueen outdoes himself once again, crafting a true story and shows great dedication and commitment to the material and the characters. An unforgettably unapologetic piece of work that will talked about and remembered for years. A brutal and vicious account of slavery and its cruel nature that shows its devastation and its tragedy but also a glimmer of hope. The all-star cast is beyond superb. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a magnificent and brilliant performance, he gives the performance of his career. Michael Fassbender gives an vicious and powerful performance. Benedict Cumberbatch is terrific. Brad Pitt is excellent. Lupita Nyong'o gives an emotionally devastating and great performance. A movie that has outstanding power. It has brutal darkness in it but also a fine beauty. It's truly impossible to turn away from.
March 18, 2014
allan913

Super Reviewer

An Oscar winning movie? I definitely agree with the critics and audiences that root for this movie to take home the biggest prize of that night.. Not only that Brad Pitt and the others produce a wonderful story about a free man that been kidnapped and made a slave for 12 years with a very touching story, but the cast also did a wonderful job such as Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, or Lupita Nyong'o.. And the power of this movie depends on its story that made the audiences can feel like what Solomon has experienced.. The emotion that this movie offered was that awesome so I was drawn into this movie.. But the one thing that kinda disturbing me is Steve McQueen's directing style because it is a little similar to Terence Malick's but luckily they're not exact same..
March 18, 2014
ajaymuthecooldevils
Sanjaya 丘耀文

Super Reviewer

There hasn't been a film that broaches the area of slavery with such candor and honesty since the television miniseries "Roots." "Amistad" was a great example as well, but this film really shows the violence, hatred, and social repudiation of the horrifying actions that stemmed from slavery. Solomon Northup's story is vivid and inspiring, giving a new perspective from a man who was born free and then caged, like so many others taken from their homelands and put to work in America. This film is beautiful in a despicable, low-down kind of way, thanks in large part to the amazing soruce material. Steve McQueen's films all take on issues in history that are gritty, that shame the viewer, maybe even alienate the audience. Here he makes you very uncomfortable with long takes, unpleasant visuals, and painful scenes with actors who live through these people's lives with gusto. Ejiofor is brilliant, as he has been in previous roles, shining through as Northup through the twelve years of his incarceration. Fassbender gives another stunning performance, proving that he has the staying power of a great actor. Finally, Lupita N'yongo deserves even more than the grand praise she has been given for her tremendous performance as Patsy, never given verdict, never free and yet trying to stay alive in her sense of the word. It's a chilling indictment of the past, our present, and the climactic turn of our shared future, and that's a lot to ask from one film.
March 17, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

    1. Bass: Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact - it is a plain fact that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike.
    – Submitted by David E (22 days ago)
    1. Solomon Northup: I am Solomon Northup. I am a free man; a resident of Saratoga, New York. The residence also of my wife and children who are equally free. I have papers. You have no right whatsoever to detain me...
    – Submitted by David E (22 days ago)
    1. Tibeats: You will not live to see another day!
    – Submitted by David E (22 days ago)
    1. Solomon Northup: I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!
    – Submitted by David E (22 days ago)
    1. Solomon Northrup: I don't want to survive. I want to live.
    – Submitted by Mati M (2 months ago)
    1. Ford: What is the price for the ones Platt and Eliza?
    2. Freeman: A thousand for Platt; he is a nigger of talent. Seven hundred for Eliza. My fairest price.
    3. Ford: You will accept a note?
    4. Freeman: Always from you, Mr. Ford.
    – Submitted by joseph j (3 months ago)
View all quotes (18)

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  • 12 Years A Slave (DE)
  • 12 Years a Slave (UK)
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