Amistad (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

Amistad (1997)



Critic Consensus: Heartfelt without resorting to preachiness, Amistad tells an important story with engaging sensitivity and absorbing skill.

Movie Info

In the summer of 1839, on a stormy night off the coast of Cuba, 53 Africans held captive in the cramped cargo holds of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad break free of their shackles. Led by Cinque, they arm themselves, take control of the ship and reclaim their freedom. They have one goal: to return to Africa. Without the navigational skills to guide them home, the Africans are forced to rely on the two surviving members of the crew. But they are tricked. After two months on a ragged course up the Eastern seaboard, the Amistad is captured by an American naval ship off the coast of Connecticut and the Africans were charged for murder and piracy. In the beginning, the Africans are championed by abolitionists Theodore Joadson and Lewis Tappan, and a young real estate attorney named Roger Baldwin. However, as the case becomes the symbol of a nation divided, two great Americans lock horns in the debate. Pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren, seeking re-election, is willing to sacrifice the Africans to appease the South, as well as Queen Isabella of Spain. But his will is challenged by former President John Quincy Adams, who comes out of retirement to fight the Africans' cause in the United State Supreme Court.more
Rating: R (Because of violence and nudity)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: David H. Franzoni
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 19, 1999
Dreamworks Distribution LLC


Morgan Freeman
as Theodore Joadson
Anthony Hopkins
as John Quincy Adams
Matthew McConaughey
as Roger S. Baldwin
Nigel Hawthorne
as Martin Van Buren
David Paymer
as Secretary Forsyth
Stellan Skarsgard
as Lewis Tappan
Anna Paquin
as Queen Isabella
Tomás Milian
as Calderon
Austin Pendleton
as Professor Gibbs
John Ortiz
as Montes
Peter Firth
as Capt. Fitzgerald
Jeremy Northam
as Judge Coglin
Arliss Howard
as John C. Calhoun
Harry A. Blackmun
as Justice Joseph Story
Ralph Brown
as Lieutenant Gedney
Allan Rich
as Judge Juttson
Darren E. Burrows
as Lieutenant Meade
Saye Lah
as Kessebe
Abu Sidique
as Tsukama
Daniel von Bargen
as Warden Pendelton
Rusty Schwimmer
as Mrs. Pendelton
Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
as General Espatero
Michael Massee
as Prison Guard
Roy Cooper
as Pickney
Jake Weber
as Mr. Wright
Victor Rivers
as Captain Ferrar
Steve Passewe
as Cinque's In-Law
Matt Sarles
as Young Aide
Gerald R. Molen
as Magistrate
Robert Walsh
as Guardsman
Sean McGuirk
as Courier
Tony Owen
as Farmer
William Young
as Businessman
Michael Riley
as British Officer
Leon Singer
as Don Pablo
Castulo Guerra
as Spanish Priest
Harry Groener
as Tecora Captain
Hawthorne James
as Creole Cook
Ingrid Walters
as Woman Overboard with...
Edward Appiah
as Followolo
M.S. Kaleiwo
as Kaleiwo
Jerry Molen
as Magistrate
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Amistad

Critic Reviews for Amistad

All Critics (65) | Top Critics (13)

In short, a wordy courtroom drama which seldom progresses beyond ciphers, stereotypes and salutary slogans.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

In Amistad, an admirable but disappointing effort...[Speilberg] veers between stoic political correctness and mushy Hollywood platitudes.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Spielberg seems to be dividing his filmmaking output into two distinct halves: in the summer months cranking out no-brainer dinosaur the winter season unveiling his serious artistic stuff to edify the adults and woo the Oscar crowd.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Amistad promotes a pluralist vision of cooperation between different ethnic and religious groups and in doing so acknowledges, in part, the historical role of Christians.

Full Review… | November 29, 2015

Powerful story for mid-teens and up.

Full Review… | December 21, 2010
Common Sense Media

Amistad is worth seeing just for people to know about this important story, this moment in history. But from the world's most powerful, successful and famous director, we expect more.

Full Review… | May 26, 2006
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for Amistad

Although technically competent and with wonderful performances by Hopkins and Hounsou (who should have been nominated for an Oscar too), this is a bloated and misstructured film that has an alarming tendency to give in to melodrama and is not as strong as it could be.

Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


More of an interesting history lesson than a compelling film despite good performances.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

This is, like a lot of Spielberg, pretty sentimental and schmaltzy, but it had some good intentions, even if the pretentions and pandering can't be totally covered up.

I mean, it is Spielberg, so there are great production values, and John Williams has a good score, but the acting and some of the casting just doesn't totally come together for me. I do think this is an alright movie though, even if the story does deserve a better telling.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Amistad Quotes

Martin Van Buren: I am burdened by white guilt.
– Submitted by Jesse K (3 years ago)

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