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
Disturbing by lorette30
I found this movie highly disturbing. I know it is part of history, but I had to walk out due to the graphic details of shocking abuse.If you are at all sensitive to this kind of violence, don't go to the movie!!
Must see but be prepared by mfsheff
A very heart wrenching account of slavery before the Civil War. The acting is tremendous. What was so obvious to me was the fact that man could be so cruel to other human beings. Slavery was horrific and I am glad we have moved past it but we now need to behave as human brothers instead of separate races. This film brings that home.
True to book by jimperk
I saw this right after finishing the book, and was pleased to see that they stayed true to it. Obviously there were scenes which had to be condensed or removed, but they were done without altering the story or the message Mr Northrop intended in his memoir. He would be proud.
!2 Years a Slave by dc8857
Brilliant film by director Steve McQueen. My choice for the best picture at the Oscar's in March. 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejifor as Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America. He plays northern fiddle player caught in a trap, shaihaied to the deep south. It's deeply moving picture, full of spiteful whites. Slaves caught the never ending struggle of brutal beatings and hangings. Not for the faint of heart. Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano) and Michael Fassbender, an alcoholic sadist who owns a cotton plantation. (Kudos goes to Fassbender!) And, of course, to Chiwetel Ejifor for playing a delicate balance between rage and submissiveness. I cried at end when Solomon Northup meets his family after experiencing hell. GO SEE IT!
a must see by stanley_kubrick
this is the history that is not taught - but must be exposed. Superb directing, great casting, fantastic screenplay adaptation - well deserved Oscar.
Intense by leeglenda57
We liked it. It was very well done but disturbing. Acting was excellent.
The truth hurts. We're glad we did not live in that era. It's not for everyone.
We totally understand the Oscar nominations.
12 Years a Slave by jwjonessr
Overall: disturbing and difficult to watch.
The acting was superb, the set was outstanding and the length about right. Everyone should see this, regardless of your political beliefs and social background. The story line is a part of our history and gives perspective to how far we've come. It would be instructive to know the percentage of situations like this movie portrays and the opposite reality.
This movie should be for adults and older teens only.
Phenomenal Film! by cpeace67
This film shook me up. There were moments when I couldn't watch and others that I couldn't look away. One of the most profoundly moving and accurate portraits of one of the biggest human tragedies in American history. I don't think anyone can argue that slavery was a horrifying stain on our human psyche, a stain that remains for many in this land of the free. I recommend this movie to anyone who wishes to understand the toll of the savagery that took place and how even in the midst of this brutal experience, African-Americans survived. A remarkable story of courage, heartache and heartbreak. I was left speechless!
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.
Another powerful movie concerning slavery by chicagofan51
This is a powerful film regarding slavery. It showed the brutality of it and how unethical Americans were back in the day. It makes you wonder: "how is America so great?" The acting is very good in this film as I expected. The Oscar nominations are deserved. A must go for those who love learning the history of America but can handle the truth. I enjoyed the film, but at the same time, the content made me angry and want to question everything. Essentially, the film did it's job.