Share

Watch It

Enter your location to get local movie times + tickets:
On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

12 Years a Slave Review

Movies.com Critics

3.5

Dave White Profile

Beauty, meet Suffering. Now fight. Read full review

Other Critics provided by Metacritic.com

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0
    97

    out of 100

    Metascore®
    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    The harrowing 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing period drama for the ages.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Time Richard Corliss

    A document that is raw, eloquent, horrifying and essential.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Variety Peter Debruge

    Though the film brims with memorable characters, the show ultimately belongs to Ejiofor, who upholds the character’s dignity throughout.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Movie audiences have never been presented with anything quite like the intertwined beauty and savagery of 12 Years a Slave.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    The New Yorker David Denby

    12 Years a Slave is easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    While this is very much a McQueen picture, with visual flourishes and motifs unmistakably his, the historical urgency and staggering injustice of the events keep McQueen and company utterly honest in their approach and in their collective act of imagining Solomon Northup's odyssey to hell and back.

    Read Full Review

  • 90

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Perhaps the nature of the story is such that the film can’t help but be obvious and quite melodramatic at times, but it gets better as it goes along and builds to a moving finish.

    Read Full Review

  • See all 12 Years a Slave reviews at Metacritic.com

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 14 & under

Imperfect but must-see epic drama with major cruelty.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that 12 Years a Slave is a harrowing, moving drama based on a book written in the 1850s by Solomon Northup recounting his experiences as a slave, and it can be difficult to watch. There are scenes that show extreme brutality (beatings, hangings) and rough language (the use of the "N" word), and extreme emotional cruelty. Expect some slave market nudity, plus the sexual assault of a slave by a master. Very young teens and tweens may find it too intense, but older teens should watch it to bear witness to a tragic part of American history.

  • Families can talk about Northup's story: Have you heard of it before? If not, why not?
  • How is this movie different from, or similar to, others that explore the subject of racism and the history of slavery in this country?
  • Do you think the amount of violence in this movie helps viewers get a realistic understanding of the experience of slavery? Or is it gratuitous? Does the fact that the violence is in a historical context make it more (or less) tolerable?

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: No one can take away your dignity or your identity, no matter how hard they try.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Solomon Northup is steadfast: He will not let anyone rob him of his humanity and his central identity. Through decades of strife, he maintains a modicum of hope to fight against his despair. A few other characters display kindness in cruel times, specifically the Canadian abolitionist, Bass.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Characters are strung up on a tree and hanged; in one prolonged scene, one man struggles mightily not to be choked, and it's tough to watch him. Men and women are beaten, sometimes with whips, and publicly, too. The "N" word is hurled left and right; a master forces himself on a slave. Two men engage in a fistfight; another man is stabbed, his body hurled overboard a ship. One close-up shows the bloody aftermath of a horrible, extended lashing.

  • sex false3

    Sex: A woman grabs a man's hand and touches herself with it; it's more sad than sexy. Another scene shows men and women completely naked while "buyers" look them over. A master ogles his female slave.

  • language false3

    Language: "Whore" and the "N" word.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Some wine-drinking at dinner; later one of the men at the table is shown throwing up, as if he has drunk too much.

Fan Reviews provided by

5

12 Years a Slave by joycehannula
This is a powerful story of a free man who is captured and sold into slavery. He is moved from owner to owner, some more just than others. Beautifully filmed. I saw it last night and have thought about it several times already today.

5

Absolutley is movie of the year ! by baileybar
Heart wrenching and emotional this absolutely deserved the Oscar for movie of the year. The acting was superb by all the actors. Hard to watch, but a history lesson for all of us.

5

One of the Best Movie I have seen in a long time. by smssh2012
This movie made me cry, it made me mad and it made me appreciate my freedom. I cannot imagine the pain these people went through. This movie will hit you real hard. I absolutely loved it and will buy it when it comes on DVD. I heard people sobbing in the theater because some of the scenes are really raw. People were literally sitting at the edge of their seats. I was wiping my tears throughout the movie. This movie is depressing but it's very important for us to know what our ancestors went through to give us the life we have today.

5

This is what cinema was made for by cazzamccarthy
Perhaps one of the best movies of all time. Powerful, unnerving and intense. The performances are amazing. If you see one film this year it should be this one.

5

12 Years A Slave. March 27, 2014 by Renex1956
A deeply powerful movie. A disturbing and enlightening story about slavery.....I found it to be unbelievably realistic and raw; a tragic glimpse into a sad chapter in American history.....go see it.

4

Disturbed by drkimyoo
Since I haven't read the book I am not sure how close this movie is to the actual story, however I was disappointed in the lack of "storytelling" regarding emotion of the main character with the exception of sadness and frustration. It is left to the imagination whether or not or to what degree he felt love, compassion, hate, desperation, etc. and what it was in his life that he valued most. Did he miss his wife? Did he suffer over his inability to help others? Did he consider murder? Did he plan escape daily or just the times we saw in the film? The story as a whole depicts how sadly easy it is to program the human mind into believing something so wrong is acceptable. We hope that we have an innate sense of right and wrong, but unfortunately that may be false. It sickens me that there is such wickedness and that a human being could do such things to another human being. But that is the true value of the story and the very valuable lesson we hopefully have learned...

5

12 Years a Slave by judithannmorris
This movie was extraordinary. The acting was superb. The Picture deserves the academy award for best picture, best screenplay, and best director. The actors all deserve academy awards. I would advise everyone to see this. It was sad to hear that the box office take was so low but I am sure that was in the south where they still are fighting the Civil War and believe that the war was fought over state's rights and not slavery. Go see it!

4

Good Story, Well Told by rusciano
This is a compelling story, and is well acted and directed. If you wish to see the horrors of slavery first-hand, it is perfect for that. In the end, however, it is almost anti-climactic, as one knows how it has to conclude. Worth seeing, but I'm not sure it was Best Picture of the Year.

4

12 Years a Slave by chrispcyoung
Excellent movie! Some parts are difficult to watch. Based on a true story from a book written by the actual person, it portrays a very bad and sad part of our history. I can see why it is nominated for an Oscar.

5

Excellent by milkemedia
Very moving film. Makes you think and hopefully nothing like this will ever happen on earth again. Much less the U.S., "Home of the Free".

Advertisement