OK for kids 13+
Well-acted civil rights tale is moving but too formulaic.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lee Daniels' The Butler is a sweeping look at the history of African-American life in the United States, as witnessed by a black butler (Forest Whitaker) who spent three decades working in the White House. Since the movie chronicles the history of the civil rights movement, there are many scenes that portray hate crimes -- like two lynched men hanging from a tree and a black sharecropper being shot for saying one word to his white boss. White Southerners are also shown raping, killing, shooting, burning, intimidating, and otherwise terrorizing black protesters. Adults smoke cigarettes and drink; one character is an alcoholic who has a drink in most of her scenes. There's also some language (one "f--k," plus "s--t" and many racial epithets) and kissing, as well as the suggestion of an affair. Audiences will get an overview of how various presidents felt about race relations, as well as the methods and ideologies of the civil rights movement.
- Families can talk about American history and how it's witnessed by Cecil and his family. Even though Lee Daniels' The Butler is dedicated to those who worked in the civil rights movement, the protagonist is an apolitical butler. Why is his eyewitness account to history so compelling?
- What would you say the movie's main message is about the civil rights movement? Which character are viewers meant to identify with the most?
- What did you learn about the civil rights movement, the history of segregation, or the way that various presidents dealt with race relations? Do you think the movie is entirely accurate? Why might filmmakers take liberty with the facts?
The good stuff
Messages: Cecil and Louis both show how necessary it is to stand up to injustice, even if it's risky or dangerous. The movie chronicles how each president dealt with issues of race and equal rights and stresses that there's dignity in a job well done.
Role models: Cecil and his son, Louis, exemplify two archetypal figures in African-American history: the hardworking black domestic (as Martin Luther King Jr. calls Cecil in the movie) and the civil rights activist who defies inequality with non-violent protest. MLK gives a heartfelt tribute to the importance of African-American service workers. President Kennedy tells Cecil that he never knew how hard African Americans had it until he saw televised scenes of Southern terrorism.
What to watch for
Violence: Many race-based hate crimes, including scenes that show two lynched black men hanging from a tree; a black sharecropper who's shot point blank for saying one word to his white boss; several scenes of white Southerners (including civilians, police officers, and the Ku Klux Klan) beating up, setting fire to, and otherwise terrorizing black civil rights activists; and the notorious D.C. riots of 1968. A cotton worker is raped (off camera). Jackie Kennedy is shown with blood covering her suit after her husband's assassination. Civil rights workers are shot at, burned out of their freedom ride bus, arrested, and ridiculed.
Sex: Married couples kiss and embrace on several occasions -- sometimes in bed. It's suggested that Gloria is having an affair with Howard, who kisses her. Louis is in love with Carol, but they're never shown doing more than kissing briefly. President Carter tells an off-color joke.
Language: Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "ass," "damn," "hell," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "oh my God," and many uses of racial epithets like the "N" word, "coon," and more. One use of "f--k."
Consumerism: Not too many brands are shown, except for Budweiser beer and a Lincoln Continental.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adults drink a lot (particularly Gloria, who's an alcoholic) and smoke cigarettes (accurate for many of the time periods the movie passes through).
Fan Reviews provided by
i laffed i cried- go see it by paetonwooden
went to see the butler for date nite last nite. it was like forest gump in that it followed the life of the main character thru a bunch of historical events. even used some of the same clips from the race riots I think. very good movie. I laffed I cried what more could u ask from a movie? forest whittaker & oprah were outstanding and cuba was hiliarious. must see.
Truly excellent in every way by warnerv
Great historical movie. Forest deserves Oscar. Acting was wonderful, especially Oprah. Great editing and photographs and videos - true videos from the past. Definitely GOOOO. You will learn a lot.
Wonderful Movie! by PeaceCorpsMeri
We laughed, we cried, we felt horrible about our country, we felt proud to be an American. SO much of this is ?history? that I?ve lived, rather Forrest Gump-like, but there were still things I was unaware of and needed to learn. This allowed a view that is important. Not sure it happened; but I know it?s true.
Oprah was a distraction by eastport
The movie was good and moving - especially if you grew up in this period but were too young to appreciate the historical value of the 60's.
The Butler by ellenk1
The Butler is a film based on the life of Eugene Allen, butler to many presidents. Of course, no one could recreate the exact dialogs or feelings of a person; however, this film does a admirable job of representing what could have taken place and the feelings that went with them. It is not a documentary and should not be viewed as such. As an artistic entertainment film it is supurb and based on the events that took place during Eugene Allen's service. I would recommend this film to anyone- acting is great, choreography is excellent, even the make up artists did a admirable job through Ophra's various times of life. The actors who portrayed the presidents were from good to ok. Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy were probably the most realistic; Nixon and Ike were ok but not great. I plan on seeing this film again.
Great movie! Historically sobering by csmarker662
I really enjoyed this movie. Similar to "The Help" in terms of historical context, it is a sobering reminder of history. The acting is superb and it's a definite 'must go' for anyone, especially those interested in history.
Historical Glory by Muerto Cupcake
What a great history lesson. I wish everyone was required to watch these types of stories. they might understand how things really were here in the South. Great acting as it must have been very emotional for the actors to act out some of the racist scenes...wow. Strange how far we have come in this country since and scary how some things are still the same.
The Butler by dmcmfarley
My emotions were absolutely all over the place! I wept several times and as I walked out of the theatre I had to use great control not to weep. A wonderful film that touched on many difficult times in American history. Superb acting, although I must admit that Oprah was Oprah.
The Butler by lagers
What a superb movie...Forest and Oprah should get Oscar nods from their performances. We laughed and cried throughout the movie. This was the best of the year!
Excellent Movie by D-Movie-Queen
Everyone should see this movie; it is amazing to see upfront what goes on behind the scenes with prejudice and bigotry even in the highest office. The acting was superb by Oprah and Forest, the writing was first-rate worthy of an Oscar and Best Movie