The Birth of a Nation - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Birth of a Nation Reviews

Top Critic
Christopher Orr
The Atlantic
October 17, 2016
Parker's film is at its best when he presents his harrowing story straightforwardly.
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Richard Brody
New Yorker
October 10, 2016
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.
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Alan Scherstuhl
Village Voice
October 7, 2016
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.
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Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
October 7, 2016
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
October 7, 2016
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.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
October 7, 2016
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?
Full Review | Original Score: C-
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Barry Hertz
Globe and Mail
October 7, 2016
While The Birth of a Nation certainly has a powerful and important story to tell, it is, ultimately, a story told with little depth or artistry or skill.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
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Adam Graham
Detroit News
October 7, 2016
"The Birth of a Nation" aims for the gut and hits its target. Had it aimed a little higher, it might also have hit the mind, as well.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Dana Stevens
Slate
October 7, 2016
There's a deliberate mythmaking quality to Parker's reconstruction of the real-life Nat Turner, who was a much more morally complex figure than the righteous avenger Parker writes, directs, and plays him as.
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Tirdad Derakhshani
Philadelphia Inquirer
October 6, 2016
A fast-moving, deeply absorbing, and thoroughly exciting directorial debut.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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John Anderson
Wall Street Journal
October 6, 2016
No, the movie can't escape its maelstrom of bad PR, and reviews aren't written in a vacuum either. But lest the point get lost, what Mr. Parker has committed to the screen is a righteously indignant, kinetic and well-acted film.
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Liz Braun
Toronto Sun
October 6, 2016
Despite some over-obvious symbols and heavy-handed soundtrack choices, The Birth of a Nation is a powerful bit of moviemaking about history and the ongoing issue of racial inequality.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
October 6, 2016
The film stands tall on its own merits and deserves to be seen irrespective of the perceived failings of its author.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Richard Roeper
Chicago Sun-Times
October 6, 2016
Parker reaches with both hands for greatness and falls short - but this is nevertheless a solid and strong and valuable piece of work.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Kyle Smith
New York Post
October 6, 2016
It's one of the few important movies to hit cinemas this year.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
October 6, 2016
The real problem is the central character: wearing so many hats at once, Parker fails to communicate the madness and God fever that enabled Turner to mobilize his people in a suicide attack against their captors.
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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
October 6, 2016
Instead of a deep, reflective parable, Parker gives us a midrange History Channel special.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Peter Howell
Toronto Star
October 6, 2016
The Birth of a Nation is a film for alert minds, even those that can't - and shouldn't - forget the past and present behaviour of its maker.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Leah Greenblatt
Entertainment Weekly
October 6, 2016
A flawed but powerfully affecting film by a flawed but undeniably gifted filmmaker.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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A.A. Dowd
AV Club
October 6, 2016
This is very much a debut feature, a passion project from an enthusiastic director still learning the craft.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Matt Zoller Seitz
RogerEbert.com
October 6, 2016
Parker's approach is never dull, exactly. But it's never remarkable enough to overwhelm the suspicion that you're not being told a story here so much as being sold a career.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
October 6, 2016
It tells, unquestionably, an important story that needs to be heard.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Rafer Guzman
Newsday
October 6, 2016
An ambitious, intelligent and unsettling film from writer-director-star Parker.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Ty Burr
Boston Globe
October 6, 2016
There is a movie here amid the uproar and it's worth attending to: powerful but imperfect, both a dramatization of an overlooked chapter in American history and a clichéd gloss on it.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
October 6, 2016
A measured but devastating movie that haunts the imagination and conscience.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
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Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
October 6, 2016
"The Birth of a Nation" certainly has the power of conviction, but the grace of art escapes it.
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A.O. Scott
New York Times
October 6, 2016
The movie, uneven as it is, has terrific momentum and passages of concentrated visual beauty. The acting is strong even when the script wanders into thickets of rhetoric and mystification.
Top Critic
Matthew Lickona
San Diego Reader
October 5, 2016
It's enough to conclude that The Birth of a Nation feels like the work of a passionate amateur who knows the power of the story he's telling but seems careless about how he tells it.
Full Review | Original Score: 1/5
Top Critic
Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out
October 5, 2016
What you will find is a film that toggles between impressive fury and a kind of made-for-TV blandness that does Nat Turner's 1831 uprising -- still controversial -- no favors.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
Top Critic
Rex Reed
New York Observer
October 5, 2016
A conventional Hollywood biopic, punctuated by a fury that sprays raspberry juice all over the camera with enough graphic slash and flash to turn your stomach.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
October 5, 2016
It takes a condition that we have all thought about historically, politically and even dramatically and makes us actually feel it and live it. That's a serious achievement.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Katie Walsh
Tribune News Service
October 5, 2016
Placed under the microscope, "The Birth of a Nation" lacks some originality of thought, but it nonetheless offers the opportunity for necessary discussion.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Cary Darling
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com
October 5, 2016
The film isn't the unqualified stroke of brilliance its Sundance honors might indicate, nor is it the overblown failure its detractors might desire.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
Robert Abele
TheWrap
October 5, 2016
The filmmaking has a certain paint-by-numbers frankness that works in some ways, not in others.
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
October 5, 2016
Other films have taken on the blight of slavery, but Nate Parker throws the knockout punch as people are killed "for no reason but being black," a statement that gives Parker's landmark film the heat of a history that's still being written.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
October 4, 2016
It's a complicated movie about a complex man that courts controversy, both intentional and not. If that doesn't make it a great movie, it makes it a necessary one, now more than ever.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
October 4, 2016
Parker sees the Nat Turner story as righteous wrath, straight, no chaser, not much characterization. Very likely, the real Turner was a more unruly, contradictory and human figure than the icon at the center of things here.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Lindsey Bahr
Associated Press
October 4, 2016
The Birth of a Nation is a fine and promising debut from Parker, who also co-wrote and produced. It also feels very much like a first film, too, unable to reach the lofty artistry that it's striving for.
Top Critic
Stephen Whitty
New York Daily News
October 4, 2016
Whether it's Hollywood's classic "Spartacus" or TV's "Uprising," about the Warsaw Ghetto, few things are more thrilling than seeing a people stand up to an injustice.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Brian Truitt
USA Today
October 4, 2016
A work this powerful would be impressive for any filmmaker, so the fact that this is Parker's first directorial feature is undoubtedly amazing.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
October 3, 2016
I was surprised by how closely it conforms, beat by beat, to the most ruthless Hollywood vigilante template. It's all about insults, emasculation.
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Stephanie Zacharek
TIME Magazine
September 12, 2016
The Birth of a Nation isn't a great movie -- it's hardly even a good one. But it's bluntly effective, less a monumental piece of filmmaking than an open door.
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Alison Willmore
BuzzFeed News
January 28, 2016
Turner deserves this treatment; he deserves a film that doesn't soften the era or apologize in any way for his anger; and he deserves a salute for making it happen.
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Bilge Ebiri
New York Magazine/Vulture
January 26, 2016
More than a movie about a slave rebellion, it's about the difficulty of reconciling the great moral chasms between thought, vision, and deed.
Top Critic
Justin Chang
Variety
January 26, 2016
Debuting writer-director Nate Parker stars in this searingly impressive account of the Nat Turner slave rebellion.
Top Critic
Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter
January 26, 2016
The film offers up more than enough in terms of intelligence, insight, historical research and religious nuance as to not at all be considered a missed opportunity ...