12 Years a Slave

Critics Consensus

It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 365

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 140,296

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Movie Info

In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one malevolent owner (Michael Fassbender), he also finds unexpected kindness from another, as he struggles continually to survive and maintain some of his dignity. Then in the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon's life forever.

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Critic Reviews for 12 Years a Slave

All Critics (365) | Top Critics (64) | Fresh (348) | Rotten (17)

  • It speaks to the courage and resilience of one man, the savagery of many, and the potential, for both good and for ill, in us all.

    January 13, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • McQueen depicts the horrific experiences of Solomon Northup, the free man kidnapped and sold into slavery, in utterly unflinching fashion. The film's strength lies in its frankness and avoidance of either sentimentality or Quentin Tarantino-style irony.

    January 13, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • In its own saintly manner, it's as exploitative as anything critics accused Django Unchained of being, minus Tarantino's eye for idiosyncrasy and sense of humor.

    January 13, 2015 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • The film tells an irresistibly powerful story, in a way that does not shirk the horror. It is unbearable to watch at times, but that is as it should be.

    January 13, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • A film that, despite its surface simplicity, proves to be riven with contradictions to the point of incoherence.

    January 13, 2015 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Ejiofor projects extraordinary integrity, even nobility - and he holds the camera magnificently. It's a deeply inward, deeply felt performance, surely a cert for one of the many Oscars this film must win.

    January 10, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 12 Years a Slave

  • Dec 27, 2019
    Soul shattering and then... mending.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2016
    There are so many movies that has had a huge impact on our world as we know it, and unfortunately, not so many people watch these movies. This, however, is a movie that I believe should be shown in history classes in school's because, this really is a movie that everybody should watch. Steve McQueen once again shows us his beautiful range in this beautiful movie that surely is a so-called masterpiece.
    Lasse G Super Reviewer
  • Sep 14, 2015
    So much more than the "white guilt" label it's unfairly gotten. Steve McQueen continues to prove himself as one of the best working directors today. It's his most mainstream movie to date but this proves to me that he really know what he's doing and is careful in his selection of what to make. Everything about this movie is exceptional.
    John K Super Reviewer
  • Feb 23, 2015
    I was expecting more from this movie. While it was a very sad film, it was very slow-moving at times.
    Erin C Super Reviewer

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