Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 65

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 51,106


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.5/5

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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.

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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
Darren E. Burrows
as Lieutenant Meade
Allan Rich
as Judge Juttson
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 Baby
Edward Appiah
as Followolo
M.S. Kaleiwo
as Kaleiwo
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News & Interviews for Amistad

Critic Reviews for Amistad

All Critics (65) | Top Critics (14)

  • The narrative perils are daunting in this little-known true tale of a bloody slave-ship rebellion in 1839 and its jumbled aftermath in the U.S. judicial system.

    Jan 9, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Mike Clark

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • In short, a wordy courtroom drama which seldom progresses beyond ciphers, stereotypes and salutary slogans.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

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

    Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Brief moments of visceral fire allow glimpses into the rousing movie this could have been.

    Apr 17, 2001 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • As Spielberg vehicles go, Amistad -- part mystery, action thriller, courtroom drama, even culture-clash comedy -- lands between the disturbing lyricism of Schindler's List and the storybook artificiality of The Color Purple.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Amistad


Authentic but slow moving courtroom drama about slavery in the US. Given the emphasis on wise and humane court decisions it's actually worth revisiting in those dire times. The acting is top notch, espcially Hounsou sticks out in his breakthrough role. There is a sequence in the middle about the treatment of slaves on their way over from africa that belongs to Spielberg's most sickening scenes, up there with the landing in the normandy. At least the satisfying ending makes up for all that rage.

Jens S.
Jens S.

Super Reviewer

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
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


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

jay nixon
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
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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