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12 Years a Slave (2013)


Average Rating: 9/10
Reviews Counted: 265
Fresh: 256
Rotten: 9

Critics Consensus: 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.

Average Rating: 9.8/10
Reviews Counted: 49
Fresh: 48
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: 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.


Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 130,444


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 (for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality)
Drama , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
John Ridley
In Theaters:
Mar 4, 2014
Box Office:
Fox Searchlight - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for 12 Years a Slave

All Critics (265) | Top Critics (49) | Fresh (256) | 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.

Full Review… | January 7, 2014
Time Out
Top 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.

Full Review… | December 31, 2013
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | December 31, 2013
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

The power of McQueen's movie is in its declaratory style: This happened. That is all, and that is everything.

Full Review… | December 10, 2013
Top Critic

It is a film that necessity and education demand seeing.

Full Review… | November 25, 2013
The New Republic
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 31, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

As with Schindler's List, you won't want to be munching a bucket of popcorn through this.

Full Review… | October 10, 2014
Birmingham Mail

Screenwriter John Ridley takes a story that's episodic in nature and crafts a narrative that manages to build in intensity and emotion for over two hours.

Full Review… | August 18, 2014
Under the Radar

Driven by the best performances of the year, bold directing, and a compelling true story that reminds us of our nation's shameful, inhumane past, it is a film destined to enjoy a reputation as one of the greatest films ever produced about slavery.

Full Review… | August 4, 2014

This isn't simply an important movie, but a dose of brutal truth that must be confronted, and done so with absolute certainty.

Full Review… | July 28, 2014

Lupita Nyong'o is the emotional epicenter of the entire film.

Full Review… | July 4, 2014

Ejiofor's low-key, naturalistic acting mode is ideal for conveying Northup's self-control and intelligence. And Fassbender avoids turning the malevolent Epps into a one-note nemesis.

Full Review… | April 28, 2014
America Magazine

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.

Full Review… | April 22, 2014

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.

Full Review… | March 15, 2014
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.

Full Review… | March 13, 2014
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.

Full Review… | March 8, 2014
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.

Full Review… | March 6, 2014

This is a truly impressive piece of filmmaking.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
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.

Full Review… | February 21, 2014
Cinema em Cena

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

Full Review… | February 14, 2014
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.

Full Review… | February 13, 2014
The Vine

An unflinching, uncomfortable and entirely necessary modern classic.

Full Review… | February 12, 2014
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.

Full Review… | February 11, 2014
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.

Full Review… | February 7, 2014
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.

Full Review… | February 6, 2014
Irish Independent

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

Full Review… | February 6, 2014
Herald Sun (Australia)

Audience Reviews for 12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup's story deserves to be told in all it's uncomfortable glory. Steve McQueen understood this and directed a beautiful and harrowing film accordingly. There are many films about slavery but this is the only one I can think of that really tackles the true horror of what it must have been like for slaves at that time. Many had it worse and some of those stories we will never know, it is only thanks to Solomon's strength and intellect do we have this particular account. It's nice to see a film about slavery that isn't apologetic either. Sure, three white men did help Solomon escape slavery - their help should and is acknowledged but for the best part the white man was indeed nothing short of ignorant and cruel. This isn't just another 'White's helping blacks' schmaltzy melodrama. This upsets many and makes them feel uncomfortable. For that reason alone it should be applauded. The direction and performances are both superb, the production, costumes, script and soundtrack are all nothing short of brilliant. A future classic.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer


So far, the best of the Academy Award contenders I've seen. Next would be The Wolf of Wall Street. 12 Years a Slave is a must-see.

Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

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.

Josh Lewis

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.

Al S

Super Reviewer

12 Years a Slave Quotes

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 (6 months ago)
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 (6 months ago)
You will not live to see another day!
– Submitted by David E (6 months ago)
Solomon Northup:
I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!
– Submitted by David E (6 months ago)
Solomon Northrup:
I don't want to survive. I want to live.
– Submitted by Mati M (8 months ago)
What is the price for the ones Platt and Eliza?
A thousand for Platt; he is a nigger of talent. Seven hundred for Eliza. My fairest price.
You will accept a note?
Always from you, Mr. Ford.
– Submitted by joseph j (9 months ago)

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