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
Messages: No one can take away your dignity or your identity, no matter how hard they try.
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: 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: 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: "Whore" and the "N" word.
Consumerism: Not applicable
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
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.
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.
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.
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A "MUST SEE" MOVIE BASED ON A TRUE STORY by anitaml921
My husband and I enjoyed the movie. Although quite brutal at times, the movie still depicts what happened back in the 1800's. It's a piece of history that all viewers should be aware of. The movie evokes a lot of passion onto viewers because of the many injustices brought forth in the movie.
12 Years A Slave by jacooper12
This was a powerful and historical movie. It presents an importantant perspective of the true cruelties of enslaving African-Americans. Slavery had no positive or moral justification.
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...
12 Years a Slave by lgimmeson
This was a good movie if you can stomach the cruelty and injustice that was given to the African American people in this time period. Some parts are hard to watch but overall it is a very good movie with great acting by all. Brad Pitt has way to small of a part in this movie but his impact is monumental. This is a true story so is hard to imagine what this poor man had to endure in his life. It is the type of story that I was still thinking about the next day. It is a sad story but very well played.
Worthy of every Award it gets! by starrygirl2003
What an outstanding movie! The realism of what slavery was like back in the 1800s is really evident in Steve McQueen's mastery of directing. Great acting from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Luptia Nyong'o. Even Brad Pitt's minor role was well done.
May not be suitable for kids, but definitely worth every penny you spend! This should win best picture!
Touching and well done movie by Rebecca S
A very well done movie. Embarrassing that this took place in America and what an eye opening movie. The actors really did justice to the characters in this film.