Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Gut-wrenching and emotionally affecting, Lee Daniels' The Butler overcomes an uneven narrative thanks to strong performances from an all-star cast.


Movie Info

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man's life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev … More

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Danny Strong
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 14, 2014
Box Office: $116.6M
Runtime:
The Weinstein Company - Official Site

Cast


as Cecil Gaines

as Gloria Gaines

as Richard Nixon

as Carter Wilson

as Ronald Reagan

as Nancy Reagan

as John F. Kennedy

as Jacqueline Kennedy

as Louis Gaines

as Thomas Westfall

as Dwight D. Eisenhower

as H.R. Haldeman

as Hattie Pearl

as James Holloway

as Lyndon B. Johnson

as Carol Hammie

as Freddie Fallows

as Martin Luther King, ...

as Charlie Gaines

as Rev. James Lawson

as Earl Gaines

as Annabeth Westfall

as Cecil Gaines

as Young Cecil Gaines (...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Lee Daniels' The Butler

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.

Login

Critic Reviews for Lee Daniels' The Butler

All Critics (172) | Top Critics (44)

It's not an interpretation of actual history as much as it is a reduced revision of movie history.

Full Review… | January 3, 2014
Grantland
Top Critic

The excitement comes from watching the director's rude energy chafe up against the constraints of a traditional Oscar-bait biopic.

Full Review… | April 28, 2015
Philadelphia Weekly

The Butler is often impressively acted, beautifully shot and clearly designed to try to pick up a heartfelt award or two. But, as a film, it's too fragmented to carry its own weight on its shoulders and is over- burdened by a starry cast.

Full Review… | October 10, 2014
Birmingham Mail

The Butler tells an obviously important and inspiring story, but the actual movie is laughable.

Full Review… | September 18, 2014
Combustible Celluloid

A large-scale, middle-of-the-road work that is entertaining and moving in the way that many other movies about the struggle for race equality have been.

Full Review… | June 27, 2014
Windy City Times

The Butler is as worthy and earnest as its hero... but some scenes have a gut-wrenching impact that makes the struggle to overcome bigotry and oppression heartrendingly real.

Full Review… | March 22, 2014
Movie Talk

Audience Reviews for Lee Daniels' The Butler

½

A somewhat moving film done with grace and dignity, but lacking the emotional heft to be profound. Although Whitaker and Winfrey deliver, the performances of the rest of the A-List ensemble cast is hit-or-miss. Entertaining but unnervingly episodic.

cchclaw
Christian C

Super Reviewer

½

This film tries to accomplish several tasks without doing so, and doesn't quite meet expectations at every turn. The premise follows butler Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) as he works for many generations of presidents; through their tenures at the White House. Throw in celebrity cameo depictions of presidents (Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Shreiber) and some feel-good humor and it's obvious Oscar bait. In actuality the film centers on Cecil and his family, and their fight for civil rights while being surrounded by the nation's turmoil. It tries to be explicit with language and violence, but it's meant to be more subdued. It never quite seems realistic or historically accurate, because it tries to fit into historical events that mattered. His children fall into every historical event or movement dealing with civil rights. One son knows and marches with Martin Luther King Jr. then becomes a Black Panther. Another goes to Vietnam. Meanwhile Cecil influences policy with every president he meets. Sadly, this is supposed to be based on a true story, but liberties were gratuitously taken: the name of the butler is changed, his influence is exaggerated, and the stories about his sons are completely fabricated. Every performance seems strained, especially Oprah's and Whitaker's, and it shows with every passing moment. In the end Ronald Reagan is shown as the hero, and it slows until it's a painful crawl. It's too long, too pretentious, and just too problematic for its own good.

FrizzDrop
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

I'm really glad I saw this movie if just for the fact that I am ignorant of the Civil Rights movement and what it meant to real live people and in fact, I think that's when this movie came alive: when the Freedom Riders and the Black Panthers took the stage. That these kids might be at odds with their conservative-let's-not-rock-the-boat parents was a revelation. Weird casting choice for presidents (John Cusack as Nixon? Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower?) managed to nonetheless work. I didn't remember that Reagan was such a butt-head about race. Forest Whitaker, the Big O, are great.

Bathsheba Monk
Bathsheba Monk

Super Reviewer

Lee Daniels' The Butler Quotes

– Submitted by Caleb D (20 months ago)
– Submitted by madi E (24 months ago)
– Submitted by Lucas B (24 months ago)
– Submitted by Kathy O (2 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss Lee Daniels' The Butler on our Movie forum!