The Birth of a Nation (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Birth of a Nation (2016)



Critic Consensus: The Birth of a Nation overpowers its narrative flaws and uneven execution through sheer conviction, rising on Nate Parker's assured direction and the strength of its vital message.

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Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities--against himself and his fellow slaves--Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

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Nate Parker
as Nat Turner
Armie Hammer
as Samuel Turner
Penelope Ann Miller
as Elizabeth Turner
Jackie Earle Haley
as Raymond Cobb
Mark Boone Jr.
as Reverend Zalthall
Aunjanue Ellis
as Nancy Turner
Dwight Henry
as Isaac Turner
Esther Scott
as Bridget Turner
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Critic Reviews for The Birth of a Nation

All Critics (235) | Top Critics (46)

Parker's film is at its best when he presents his harrowing story straightforwardly.

October 17, 2016 | Full Review…

A seriously damaged and inadequate movie ... its defects reveal traits of character-arrogance, vanity, and self-importance-that exert an unfortunately strong influence on Parker's directorial choices.

October 10, 2016 | Full Review…

If you forgive him enough to see it, The Birth of a Nation offers a troubling tangle of the personal and historical. But above all else it's commercial, an entertainment of purpose and some power.

October 7, 2016 | Full Review…

The Birth of a Nation is a flawed but fairly compelling chapter of the American story that powerfully resonates with how that story is playing out today.

October 7, 2016 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The highly charged arena into which this film about America's bloodiest slave revolt arrives gives it a cachet that, in artistic if not sociological terms, it does not really merit.

October 7, 2016 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

What if the way to honor Nat Turner is to pay attention to artists who aren't shackled by the Academy's limited definition of what a black Best Picture winner is allowed to discuss?

October 7, 2016 | Rating: C- | Full Review…
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Audience Reviews for The Birth of a Nation

There is great material for a powerful drama here, but director Nate Parker tries too hard to soften it and avoid any controversies regarding his hero's actions - which is a pity considering that they are perfectly understandable in view of the horrible suffering he endures.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A pretentious and poorly made biopic, The Birth of a Nation lacks passion and focus. The story follows a slave named Nat Turner who becomes a preacher and ends up leading a rebellion. Unfortunately first time writer/director Nate Parker doesn't do a very good job at developing the character or establishing his motivations. And there are a number of plot holes that makes the storytelling rather clunky. However, the production values are really good, and there are some fairly solid actors in the cast, including Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller, and Gabrielle Union. The Birth of a Nation clearly has high aspirations, but it ends up being an incoherent mess.

Dann Michalski
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer


The Birth of a Nation is a powerful work, but it's a disturbing one as well. As a document that challenges racism and white supremacy, it is most assuredly a step in the right direction. Nat Turner was hanged and given no formal burial. We are told (not shown) that he was then decapitated, quartered, and skinned. Soon after his death, attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray published The Confessions of Nat Turner. If you thirst for more of his story, I would suggest that. This film functions as a cinematic memorial that celebrates his memory. It also recounts a historical event and honors the legacy of Nat Turner. He was an early champion of civil rights - in a not-so-civil manner. He deserves a biography. Yet his story is told in broad strokes with plot points invented for dramatic effect (i.e. Nat Turner's wife was never gang raped by slave patrollers. Nor was it the final inhumanity that inspired him to riot). It's an emotional experience but not necessarily a wholly factual one.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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