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12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

2013
Drama
History
2h 14m
Your probable score
Avg Percentile 65.62% from 6346 total ratings

Ratings & Reviews

(6346)
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Rated 13 Nov 2013
40
1st
This is bad. This is really bad and I'm confused as to why I'm the only one who thinks so. Look, we don't just get to say "Man, those slave owners were some sadistic assholes!" and stamp racism and slavery as done. Arts job is to articulate complexity - not simplify it. This was The Passion of The Christ - Slavery Edition.
Rated 10 Apr 2014
90
97th
One can criticise this movie for going for the 'easy drama' by tackling slavery, but that doesn't take away from the fact that 12 Years a Slave is gut-wrenching, uncomfortable, captivating and exhausting. Masterfully crafted with stellar performances. I want a movie about slavery to make me feel like utter crap, which is precisely what happened. So many small character moments that have so much to say about the struggle to simply survive.
Rated 12 Nov 2013
8
80th
Ejiofor hanging from that tree with his feet barely touching the ground as McQueen's camera is just fixated on him is one of the most dark and beautiful scenes I have ever seen. Still haunting me and I loved it for that.
Rated 05 Jun 2014
35
19th
What this film shows is that reasonable fidelity to historical research is not at all incompatible with Hollywood falsification: virtually every scene, every piece of acting, every narrative decision, is determined by generic convention, much more so, for example, than in that other cinematic sacrificial ritual, Gibson's PASSION OF THE CHRIST. In other words, despite everything, any traumatypical intentions are undermined by the stereotypical presentation, which is why it was so easily praised.
Rated 20 Jan 2014
30
12th
This movie is not heavy handed. It is the fist of God, pressed against your forehead, with the word "SLAVERY" scrawled across the knuckles in red. I am very tired of movies which take slave-owners, Nazis, and other historical boogey men and treat them like cardboard monsters. These were real people just like you and me. Slavery is obviously bad, but it was a complex issue in the 1850's. That complexity would make for an interesting movie. This black and white bullshit is fucking boring.
Rated 02 Mar 2014
70
65th
Is this subject matter too touchy to make a quick joke? Let me try one here...no, my wife's shaking her head no. I'm going to leave this one be for now.
Rated 05 Jan 2014
7
68th
Vastly different from McQueen's other 2 films which caught me off guard honestly. It was good but it was missing that one really amazing scene to push it over the edge to great for me. Every white actor in here isn't really anything special. In fact, they can be quite distracting via overacting. But it's Ejiofor's movie and he carries it admirably.
Rated 18 Nov 2013
95
92nd
The most impressive thing is its insistence on lingering. Where other filmmakers might elect to cut, McQueen and company force the viewer to dwell on what's in front of them. The movie doesn't let you off lightly. It isn't fleeting. It shows the darkness and never lets you up for air because to do so would be weak and dishonest.
Rated 02 Jan 2014
65
64th
Pretty good in many cases, but Hans Zimmer's score is fucking terrible and ruins any scene it's used in. The worst is the part about twenty minutes in when the abductees are being transported and yet there's this loud, thundering battle music playing. What the fuck? The movie is essentially a full letter grade worse because of how negatively the score affects the rest of the film.
Rated 22 Jan 2014
10
7th
Torture porn & shaming to get an Oscar - my favorite combo. To 12 Years a Slave, slavery and racism are only historical curiosities to be taken advantage of. The movie doesn't have anything meaningful to say and, as usual, tries to obscure this with jarring jumps back and forth in the timeline. As luck would have it, the movie leaves a neat back door to the viewer by insinuating that the tragedies can be blamed on them bad apples down south.
Rated 25 Dec 2013
65
39th
... so you're telling me that a free man was captured and sold into slavery. Why Sir, you almost make it sound as if slavery was a bad thing. THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION!
Rated 26 Oct 2013
100
99th
This anti-Django Unchained shows how wrongheaded that film was (however fun it may have been). There are no evil "Uncle Toms" & house negroes here - only humans forced 2 claw their way through a world where obscene callousness & cruelty are mandatory and relative. The film may be the most considered exploration of the varied faces monsters can take in an inhuman system; a light on how life for all but the most despairing of slaves was an endless series of choices between the lesser of 2 evils.
Rated 21 Feb 2014
4
33rd
Ejiofor's powerhouse performance and a few nifty technical touches (off-kilter framing etc.) are not as much weighed down as bulldozed by a morally simplistic tale told with a thematic heavy-handedness that beggars belief given McQueen's previous work. The feud with Dano's cardboard cutout character, the flashback to Northup not standing up for a slave before he himself became one and several other scenes drive home the message with all the storytelling subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Rated 27 Nov 2013
50
36th
Cheap looking film with one of the most unsubtle scores I've heard and a lead performance that always felt off by a few degrees. A parade of famous white actors come through to torture our lead, but you know things will be fine once the executive producer shows up. The Viola Davis scene is pretty much the only one I bought into in the whole movie, the rest felt like a community theater production in the spirit of Von Trier's Manderlay.
Rated 02 Feb 2014
98
97th
Beautiful. Excellent. Just magnificent. This is one movie that makes for uncomfortable viewing. Not for everyone, and while 12 Years a Slave is hard to watch almost from minute one, this is one movie that is beautifully filmed on all bases. Directing, writing, filming, acting, all just beautiful. Steve McQueen is an excellent filmmaker and the leads are as incredible as all get out. Definitely taking home some Academies.
Rated 23 Nov 2013
40
38th
Never really grabbed me. After hearing all of the gushing reviews I was ready to be wowed but it never happened. I'm interested in reading the book, I think reading the author's voice directly would have more impact on me than the film did. I didn't really learn anything either. I feel a documentary would be more interesting and informative. It's sort of The Passion of the Christ of slavery. You're supposed to weep and be moved but I didn't and wasn't.
Rated 01 Jan 2014
81
88th
Masterful behind the camera, especially with the violent scenes. The acting is also superb, however as a whole this failed to resonate as deeply as it should have.
Rated 02 Nov 2013
90
92nd
Transcendent cinema, par for the course for McQueen. With wildly dynamic crescendos and diminuendos of tone, from the fading embers of a small dying fire to the vicious crack of a whip on innocent skin, with the deftest mastery of audio/visual poetry, the emotions of Solomon's journey hit you where you're human. Ejiofor does what we always knew he could and more, and Fassbender portrays a man of such exemplary evil that he defines the injustice of a history we cannot escape. Damn, Steve McQueen.
Rated 03 Jan 2014
57
12th
Despite the film-maker's back-log, this felt to me a highly conventional Oscar-baitory period piece that falsely appears to be using history to illustrate contemporary politics. The way this film has been designed comes across as so standard and even, with basic cinematography, overused orchestral score, ordinary performances, and a script that's formulaic down to the small details. There's hardly any grey here amongst the harsh whites and blacks.
Rated 18 Jan 2014
75
62nd
Brilliantly made but rather "by the numbers" "Isn't slavery terrible?" drama, which for the most part left me uninvolved, despite the excellence on display. That changed near the end, but this is a movie we have seen all our lives and says nothing new, albeit the slavery of a free man WAS a new angle. Like "Chalkeater" I too was reminded of "Passion of the Christ; The Slave edition". Ramming brutality down throats seems to be some directors only color palette at the expense of real emotion.
Rated 22 Nov 2013
8
93rd
Steve McQueen continues to grow as a filmmaker. This is an intense and brutal and fascinating and gripping and, at moments, beautiful film. A ton of interesting little subplots lurking at the edges of the narrative. The cinematography and performances are beyond reproach. The whole thing feels immense and important. The only critique I'll offer is that when Brad Pitt showed up it was pretty jarring in a "Hey, it's Brad Pitt!" way.
Rated 06 Jan 2014
45
31st
As soon as Shame raised my expectations of the director, 12 Years lowered it back. Stewball nailed it, necessity for the making of this film right now doesn't exist.
Rated 20 Jan 2014
4
70th
The heart of 12 Years a Slave isn't found in any of its unflinching sequences of violence, physical (Patsy's whipping) or emotional (Eliza's separation from her children). It's in that devastating conversation between Patsy and Solomon where she asks him to favor her with her own death. Slavery, legitimized by complicit whites and "benevolent" owners, has left her with so little hope that all she dares to dream of is a merciful end - and poor Solomon is left to feel guilt that he can't grant it.
Rated 03 Jan 2014
75
93rd
12 Years A Slave and Chiwetel Ejiofor doesn't age a day! Also, I think Paul Dano should only play scummy/creepy characters from now on as he's doing a great job.
Rated 29 Nov 2014
65
37th
Instead of just telling the damn story they'll haul you over long, close takes and deep, deep stares. They'll make you wallow in misery and ache for the plot to go an inch further. If you're white - tough luck. They have this one scene for you, where they even break the fourth wall to better hammer the guilt for all what's happening on screen home. Could be so much more, alas at least we have the Fassbender's performance managing to transcend somewhat the one-dimensional role he got to play.
Rated 26 Jan 2014
55
44th
I was quite surprised by the shallowness of the story. It continues the alarming custom of dehumanizing the bad guys. Apart from that, there are some very good performances, especially from the leading actor. The camera work makes the film visually interesting and the story is constructed well. Still the film moves way too slow at some points. Also, who thought it would be a good idea to cast Brad Pitt?
Rated 16 Mar 2014
92
98th
Masterful directing and acting propels this pretty simple tale into something pretty phenomenal. Painful to watch at times but it does not fall into the trappings of over dramatizing (if thats even possible with such insanely grisly subject matter). Steve McQueen is going to be a pleasure to watch grow as a filmmaker.
Rated 18 Feb 2014
94
98th
A truly powerful movie. McQueen keeps improving and Ejiofor delivers a once in a career lead role. Filled with great supporting roles too, much more than just Fassbender.
Rated 24 Jan 2014
50
29th
probable score 80, my score --> 50 . are you kidding me?! how forced and pretentious was that? okay it has its moments, but that music drowned scenes and actors trying too hard sometimes, just made steve mcqueen look like an ameteurish director. even though the movie has not much to say, it just could not make me listen. contrived.. sorry steve mcqueen, but total fail on that. and sorry for the great fassbender too, because jared leto will get the oscar for best supporting role for sure
Rated 16 Jul 2014
2
11th
whatever. there's nothing really wrong with it, just paint by numbers. at least they focused on black people themselves, rather than feeling the need to have endless candlelit bedroom scenes of white couples having Serious Discussions about the ethics of slavery. though they did have a white saviour in the end. yes, true to story, but it's tedious and timid. and don't remind me of that horrendous speech the saviour gave.
Rated 07 Aug 2020
90
77th
This might sound off, but I never felt how loathsome slavery really was. I mean I knew it intellectually, but never FELT it the way I felt it after watching 12 Years a Slave. That so many in the US dislike this film shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did.
Rated 17 Apr 2015
38
23rd
America has yet to make a serious movie about slavery, and this is no exception. I don't really care what it's based on - in the bottom line this is a superficial tear-jerker, lacking any sort of claim to realism.
Rated 10 Nov 2013
92
89th
This film is an essential piece of cinema to witness as it truly shows the viewer a clinical view of the sheer brutality generations of slaves had to face. With its strong performances, moving soundtrack, and methodical yet beautifully rendered cinematography, this film is going to prove to be an unstoppable force during Awards season for sure (and it has every right to be). I left the theater feeling depressed, yet very pleased with my experience.
Rated 01 Jan 2014
80
77th
There were parts in this where everyone started talking like a stage production of Old-Timey. Felt like an animal when I chortled when Fassbender's wife beams that poor girl in the face with a decanter BUT besides my idiot ramblings this was a powerful testament to how blech the South is. Brad Pitt's character is Brad Pitt
Rated 16 Oct 2013
77
94th
This was brutal and unflinching and one of the best films of the year. McQueen has a knack for blending acute style and cinematography with realistic and honest portraits of human life, and he was in full form. The performances were top notch, especially Ejiofor, Nyong'o, Fassbender, and Paulson (and Alfre Woodard's brief cameo was brilliant). Above all, this is a truly important movie. This film should be the required follow-up to any screening of Gone With the Wind.
Rated 28 Feb 2014
6
46th
There are about 45 minutes in this film that floored me; maybe it was a coincidence (it wasn't), but they came after Benny C. picked up a rifle, looking cool as ever. In that time, Fassbender gives the best performance of the year so far, the tone and atmosphere hit their peaks, and, in that time, 12 Years A Slave is actually quite good. However, when you were on either end of those 45 minutes, all you got was the laziest conclusion ever, a chunky script, and a film that's been made before.
Rated 24 Nov 2013
99
98th
Definitely the most emotional film of 2013 so far, 12 Years A Slave is essential viewing. Gripping, ruthless, brutal and full of beautiful cinematography and based on a harrowing true story this film could not sweep this years awards season, but it could go down as the best representation on film of America during that period of time. Lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender, the film is excelled by the big name stars playing smaller roles in order to make this film a complete experience.
Rated 20 Jan 2014
45
13th
Switching back and forth ceaselessly and always suddenly between the most unnecessarily emotionally performed, cheesiest cliché-dialogue ever and McQueen-realism this movie tells a tale of "slavery sucks"-redundancy and underwhelming torture porn using shallow as fuck characteres in a mostly random sequence of scenes. I believe movies are capable of a little bit more. I'm actually surprised I didn't hate this movie. But superficially I still dig McQueens style, so what are you gonna do...
Rated 20 Oct 2013
100
94th
A free man captured and forced into slavery. Sometimes uncomfortable to watch, but to look away would be a disservice. This heart wrenching, brutal look at one of America's darkest periods is a must watch. McQueen, in his best film yet, shies away from nothing, and it makes for an emotional and intense movie. Ejiofor gives the performance of a lifetime as Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave will either leave you speechless or in tears when the credits roll.
Rated 28 Jan 2014
80
92nd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdKVX45wYeQ
Rated 13 Feb 2014
38
12th
I'll give this film the credit of being beautiful. The cinematography is a feast with it emphasising the horrific actions taking place in a beautiful setting. However its a problem if that is what you come out of the theatre thinking of that instead of the horror of slavery (obviously its intention). It would be like leaving shindler's list and saying" gosh! Doesn't Warsaw look great in black and white!" The acting was poor and hammy with C lacking range. Could write a lot more on why it fails.
Rated 06 Mar 2014
91
85th
Pros: Really great acting all around. Fittingly tense atmosphere. Effective use of silence. Makes the slow pace work. Cons: More of an educational piece than an entertaining movie - but some (a lot of) people would benefit from watching it. Could use an extra hour.
Rated 05 Oct 2018
65
42nd
An aggressively safe film - none of the settings do much more than parrot the usual portrayal of slavery in media to keep reminding us that hey maybe that was not a very good thing. The obligatory Benedict Cumberbatch good white master and the Brad Pitt white savior were just embarrassing.
Rated 04 Jan 2014
80
85th
What could have been weepy and Oscar-hungry (not that it won't win any) becomes, in the hands of McQueen, a harrowing document of US slavery. The cinematography is achingly beautiful, the cast is uniformly strong (Ejiofor, Fassbender and Nyong'o stand out) and the emotional impact is undeniable. Not every trap is avoided (the cameo of good ol' Brad as an angelic blonde savior, the sometimes grating score, the stereotyping of some whites) but, as a whole, the picture packs a mighty punch.
Rated 07 Jan 2014
82
35th
I don't get all the hype and all these raving reviews. For me it's a decent movie with an irritating score, with Fassbender as great as always, otherwise all characters are one dimensional. This was just way too polite and gentle on the subject matter for my taste. Finally someone should have the guts to make a shockingly honest and brutal movie about slavery. Steve McQueen should have been locked in a room for a few weeks with Shion Sono and Gaspar Noe before shooting this one.
Rated 30 Jan 2014
95
98th
Just an amazing, powerful movie that is superbly acted and directed. There are scenes that are in this movie that are emotionally draining and impeccably shot. Chiwetel is amazing in this, and Michael Fassbender is just truly terrifying and masterful in his performance that continues to show that he may be one of the best in acting going forward. This is definitely up there for one of my favourites for the Oscars now.
Rated 11 Mar 2014
94
96th
Even after watching the film, I find it difficult simply to comprehend the privations and inhumane sufferings of the black characters. I've only seen a few films in my life with the raw emotionality of McQueen's undertaking here. I consider it a credit to him that I found myself hating the people who perpetuated slavery more than I ever thought I could. The twisting of Scripture into a tool of oppression only heightened this.
Rated 25 Jan 2014
53
12th
McQueen's passionate film about an important (and shameful) subject finds individual moments of power, but is unfortunately burderned by a far too narrowly focussed screenplay which never casts an eye over the society which created and condoned (in some cases continues to condone) this sort of treatment to the "outsider". The pain & humiliation of Solomon is made clear in the opening scenes, and we never really move outside of this for the nearly 2.5 hour running time. A missed opportunity.
Rated 29 Jan 2014
8
78th
Sublimely acted yet not the punch in the gut I had hoped for, more of a fragmented melodrama that recounts significant events of Northup's life at its own convenience. But it aims for -- and achieves -- a high degree of realism as it portrays the measure of man's inhumanity with unflinching intensity.
Rated 05 Jan 2014
9
92nd
Fantastic, powerful, emotional. Everything works so well together as a whole; the acting, direction, cinematography, production design, costumes, everything. McQueen's style is great, and the film feels realistic and honest - the end result is definitely one of the best this year, a favourite.
Rated 05 Jan 2014
70
69th
"12 Years A Slave" is a strong, emotionally engaging film, benefiting from the powerful lead performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor. The ending in particular is very touching and the whole film is a provocative, no-holds-barred cry for freedom. Still, I must say that I found the picture to be slightly monotonous: apart from the beginning and the ending, the rest is only mildly absorbing - and at times way too familiar (maybe the memories from 2012's "Django Unchained" are still fresh).
Rated 01 Jan 2014
91
97th
A haunting and masterfully executed film of a brutal history of the USA. Brilliant scenes and shooting, strongly directed and bravely acted.
Rated 22 Nov 2014
48
44th
Parts of this felt like... torture porn. That they were showing violence to... make people feel bad rather than to tell a story. And there was too much gazing into the distance.
Rated 01 Feb 2014
90
93rd
Very powerful and remarkable indeed but still missing that last little piece that makes a film mind blowing. Just a little too objective and not very challenging. Everything else was perfect including Fassbender and Ejiofor. Watching that duo will be etched into my mind for a long time.
Rated 13 Dec 2013
80
80th
More mainstream Oscar-bait'ish and straightforward/borderline simplistic than Mcqueen's previous pictures, but he is still in full command of the medium and as unflinchingly honest as in Hunger - again he finds poetry in suffering - making it the essential film on slavery. And the acting is beyond belief (minus a small turn from Pitt!). It needed more Michael K. 'Omar' Williams, though.
Rated 09 Nov 2013
76
92nd
Stunningly powerful performances by everyone involved. It's rare to see that much talent put on full display. Combined with McQueen's unflinching gaze and beautiful cinematography, as well as Northup's devastatingly true story, this is sure to go down as one of the essential film on slavery. The movie up to the partial hanging and watching Solomon get his freedom are flawlessly captivating.
Rated 19 Feb 2014
37
44th
The novelty of the source-material seems to be more appealing than the actual content, because this film comes off as a weakly narrated and melodramatic Oscar-bait - and it's difficult to respect a film and a filmmaker that tries so hard to appease that uninteresting bunch of old white men. *Preview*: #14#, story, ratings, cast.
Rated 12 Jan 2014
78
95th
Excellent film! Really well acted from an all star cast! Detailed scenes of torture make you flinch and you care about every single character! I imagine this will pick up several awards due to the subject matter and I think its well deserved!
Rated 15 Apr 2014
75
75th
It feeds on melodrama a little too often to really become the masterpiece the Academy claims it to be.
Rated 27 Jan 2014
38
16th
For an auteur like Steve McQueen (proven by his past films, especially Shame), this was incredibly lazy film-making. Supporting characters are either over-acted by their high-profile players (Dano, and Fassbender to a lesser extent) or under-written (Giamatti and Cumberbatch). Why couldn't the script explore these areas of the story a little bit more? Instead, we're treated to the dullest telling of a fascinating story. The synopsis of the story is more intriguing than the film itself.
Rated 22 Feb 2014
95
91st
For all its punishing imagery that could trick the viewer into thinking this is another conventional, guilty Hollywood melodrama, the heart of 12 Years a Slave is in the subtle sufferings of the soul and the cold detachments of humanity caused by the ideas which allowed slavery to stand with justice by its side which are amazingly conveyed by a plethora of tragic performances. Ejiofor, Nyong'o and Fassbender are all Oscar-worthy. McQueen's most conventional, yes, but his finest nonetheless.
Rated 20 Jan 2014
90
85th
My mother went to see this in the theaters but walked out half way through because "why do they have to keep on bringing up bad memories? They should just leave it in the past." In other news, my sister has a new boyfriend, "but at least she's not shacking up with some Indian." So, how was YOUR Christmas?
Rated 29 Dec 2013
80
70th
There is so much technical and creative brilliance found here. The film makes great use of juxtaposition in a number of places (screaming and crying over top of biblical preaching, for instance), and it is filmed in a subtle, nigh-perfect way. Others have mentioned it, but the shots of Ejiofor hanging from the tree on his toes waiting to be released are seriously intense. I don't find myself as overwhelmed with love for this movie as others seem to be, but I recognize its brilliance nonetheless.
Rated 16 Feb 2016
80
80th
A very accurate depiction of slavery with really good acting and an unexpected celebrity ;)
Rated 16 Nov 2015
70
83rd
12 Years a Slave is technically excellent in terms of cinematography, direction, score and tone. The film is also helped by a strong narrative and stellar performances from the entire cast. It wasn't as "hard to watch" as I initially believed, though it felt as much a critic of capitalism and greed as it did about slavery. Alas, the "12 years" felt under-addressed (though this probably payed of in pacing) and portraying Northup singularly as a hero diminished believability and the film's impact.
Rated 06 May 2015
18
78th
If I don't give this a really high review, am I racist?
Rated 22 Jan 2014
48
43rd
Two hours of straight-up human suffering. There is some interesting material here but a huge chunk of it is over-acted, overwrought oscar bait. At least it's better than Django.
Rated 07 Sep 2013
100
97th
Steve McQueen continues to make emotionally devastating dramas. With "12 Years a Slave" McQueen goes into more traditional filmmaking than what he delivered with "Hunger" and "Shame," but aside from being a period drama his use of raw, graphic visuals remains at the forefront. Might be the most honest slavery story to be told in the cinematic universe. Performances across the board are brilliant, with Fassbender, Ejiofor, Paulson and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o putting out work deserving of Oscars.
Rated 02 Mar 2014
70
40th
The acting is top-notch, but I can't give much praise beyond that. Maybe I just don't "get" it, but is all of the acclaim simply because this is a movie about slavery? There have been better slavery movies which didn't get half as much acclaim. The story just sort of muddles along with very few "wow" moments and, I normally wouldn't say this about a movie I'm not very big on, the runtime needed to be about an hour longer.
Rated 10 Nov 2013
95
97th
Fantastic. It incessantly puts you through the emotional wringer, and while it's not an easy watch it's certainly a rewarding one. There are multiple wonderful performances, flawless direction, and perfect cinematography. My only real complaint was how the film expressed time passing. Had the film not had "12 Years" within the title I would never have known how long he was in captivity. A small but sort of important complaint big picture-wise.
Rated 06 Mar 2019
75
71st
The movie is fantastic on a technical level. Ejiofor delivers a believable fight for survival. Fassbender and Dano play great assholes while Cumberbatch's performance does nothing for me. Everyone is sweating in the Georgia heat and so are you in your seat.
Rated 14 Jan 2014
62
53rd
McQueen's ability to frame characters physically agonizing for a long period of time -- the quasi-hanging, that close-up showing Solomon in a scene in which lighting drastically diminishes, the torture showing near explicit violence -- approaches history with a look weighed (thanfully) on personal sorrow. The main problem here is that we've heard this soundtrack before on Shame. But, hey, thank God there is no romance, white heroes or big, phony changes in the characters' routines.
Rated 20 Feb 2014
88
98th
Fantastic! Beautifully directed, great narrative and matched with a perfect cast and score. Fassbender, Ejiofor and Nyong'o delivers long-lasting emotional performances that moves you to tears. At times it can be an uncomfortable watch, but Solomon's soul and spirits guide you through it. This one man tragedy will probably haunt you long afterwards.
Rated 03 Aug 2014
0
0th
2 fukin bad it wasnt longer
Rated 03 Jun 2014
80
87th
Chiwetel is great of course, but I felt I knew where the movie was going all along and Paul Dano always play this type, right? It feels a bit like torture porn to me. It clearly shows us the cruelty of slavery, but it severely lacks insight in why such cruelty was not only legal, but so commonly practiced (at least according to this film it was). It is the kind of horrible stories about the human kind we've all heard before and I don't in particular feel the need to be reminded of.
Rated 22 Mar 2014
85
92nd
Simply put, 19th century America was a hellish place for non-whites. This doesn't bother with the whys of slavery or take the circuitous route of artistic or moral abstraction to soften the blow of the subject matter. It thrusts into the heart of darkness. The hypocrisy of a man reading scripture and owning slaves. The way the camera lingers on the expressions of Solomon or Patsy like a voyeur while comforting noises of cicadas and children playing frames this perverse reality.
Rated 02 Apr 2014
85
82nd
Pretty good despite the fact Hans Zimmer apparently thought he was doing the score for the fifth Pirate's of the Caribbean movie. Fassbender should've won for best supporting actor his performance really stole the show for me.
Rated 19 Jun 2020
97
96th
A masterpiece of filmmaking, what 12 Years a Slave does best is to let atrocities speak for themselves. Whatever emotional response you have while watching is not manipulated or coerced, and that lack of persuasion speaks volumes when the film still brings you on the verge of tears in its opening minutes. McQueen's directorial choices make the film an epic of horrors and brutality, while the cast's overall performance creates a human connection between those regarded as inhuman and the viewer.
Rated 26 Jan 2014
60
52nd
It felt like a real slave story, nothing like I've ever seen. Great cinematography and overall directing, but i couldn't really connect with the story, I don't know why. Sometimes it reapeted itself too much.
Rated 20 Jan 2014
95
94th
best of the best
Rated 05 Feb 2014
88
94th
Some critiques of this film focus on its narrow story & inability to explore broader sociological issues, but I really don't know what people were expecting? The clue's in the title: "A Slave". This is one mans story and never tries to be anything else. The cast are all supurb, but what made me love this was McQueen's direction; his wonderful camerawork (Patsey's lashing scene, wow!), and his supurb use of sound and music (Zimmer's score is a masterpiece). Truly excellent.
Rated 28 Sep 2016
93
90th
Unflinching in its portrayal of slavery, 12 Years a Slave is a moving film with powerful performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o.
Rated 22 Feb 2014
80
86th
Chi-we-tel E-ji-o-for, hang-ing from a tree! Ah-(Academy-ass-)-em K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Snarkily tweaked children rhymes aside, this is great filmmaking. One is tempted to sigh at the prospect of watching a message movie, but no need! McQueen, Ejiofor, Bobbitt and Zimmer make sure that this becomes as engaging as it is obviously Oscar-worthy/Academy-pandering. So why complain that we've already been sitting through plenty of films of "this type" when it just might be the best film about slavery so far?
Rated 30 Jan 2014
85
81st
excellent filmmaking! some of the characters seem quite conventional & even cartoonish (both villains & heroes), which comes as a somewhat unpleasant surprise in a Mcqueen movie. But from what I've heard it's not any different in the 1853 memoir, so that's that. And it needed indeed more Michael K. Williams. And less Brad Pitt.
Rated 27 Jan 2014
4
51st
Criticizing this film because it doesn't show the slavers as "real people" has got to be one of the stupidest comments I've read in a while. The Butler, which was even more blunt, tried doing that with no success at all. 12YaS is far from a perfect movie, as it's admittedly rather monotonous and touching in some all-too-familiar ways. However, the cold brutality with which the events are depicted makes this a far more honest and meaningful watch than like-minded films on the subject. Whatever.
Rated 04 Jan 2014
80
88th
McQueen once again gets the best out of his actors. Except for the executive producer, who storms in and saves the day as himself - with a weird looking amish beard.
Rated 28 Sep 2013
20
41st
"Steve McQueen's impersonal approach to his subject matter isn't solely to blame for the failure of 12 Years a Slave, a safely anecdotal mosaic closer in spirit to Edward P. Jones's The Known World than to Toni Morrison's radically constructed Beloved." - Ed Gonzalez
Rated 20 Jan 2014
70
53rd
Well written, well filmed, well acted (by Ejiofor anyway; less so by some of the others), with a couple of fantastic scenes... but overall it feels like just another conventional Hollywood historical drama. I might be jaded when it comes to violence and brutality on the screen, but I thought this felt tame and lacked punch and emotion in that aspect. It also does a rather poor job at conveying the passing of time - feels like it took place over the span of maybe a year, instead of 12 years.
Rated 11 Nov 2013
84
86th
Where to start? My immediate thoughts go to Pasolini's "Salo." I'm just going to go ahead and say that McQueen is probably the greatest director to debut in the 21st century thus far.
Rated 21 Jan 2014
70
37th
Being a fan of the director's previous work and hearing how brutal, visceral and emotionally draining this is, I was expecting something truly earth shattering. It simply wasn't. It was an accurate depiction of slavery, true, but it always felt so distant. I wanted intimacy, but what I got instead was a relatively indirect, almost academic, depiction of the events. There were a few nice shots of Solomon's face that conveyed the emotional depth I was craving, but they were few and far between.
Rated 21 Jul 2022
90
88th
It's an incredible film that's absolutely difficult to watch and recommend.
Rated 13 Dec 2013
87
88th
McQueen depicts the systematic institutionalization of oppression and the unbelievable will to live through it, but without stating it outright. Its strength is in what it doesn't do: epiphanies and revelations don't happen on-screen, and it doesn't succumb to the cliches of slavery dramas, because it doesn't need to overuse sweeping camerawork and boisterous music cues to provoke an emotional response. It's realism through minimalism. It's not an epic, but it is, silently, a masterpiece.
Rated 30 Nov 2013
90
92nd
It will haunt you, it will mesmerize you, but most of all, 12 Years A Slave will impact you in ways few movies can these days. We usually think of movies as a form of entertainment, but films of this magnitude, executed as well as this, are much more. Its importance can never be questioned.
Rated 09 Feb 2014
60
54th
Beautifully shot, but ultimately a bit boring. Compared to Shame and Hunger, it's a huge disappointment.
Rated 17 Apr 2015
93
86th
Yikes, brutal movie. I don't think I could hold up as well as a lot of the people who were victims of slavery, and for that I give them this score of 93 to the movie about them to appease their suffering.
Rated 25 Jan 2014
7
61st
A key scene is the hanging of our male lead. How you react to this setup will dictate your thoughts on this movie's strategy on how to illuminate the issue of slavery. No doubt, far smarter and more sensitive -and sensible- movies can be made on this topic.
Rated 10 Feb 2014
60
41st
Now, I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of Django Unchained, but that somehow had more going for it than this. While McQueen manages to create some great scenes, the manichean struggle between good and evil just doesn't fit the subject matter. On the contrary it flattens it and the film is less effective for it. I missed a bit of "I like the way you die, boy! *Boom chika boom chika boom*" to freshen things up. On the plus side: It's always a joy to see Paul Dano getting kicked to shit.
Rated 20 Jan 2014
92
86th
It's exactly as brutal and unflinching as I'd anticipated. A harrowing, powerful and unforgettable memoir of one of humankind's most despicable failings. The cinematography works slow, arduous wonders as Solomon's trials grow ever more unbearable. It's a difficult film to watch, and it's all the better for it; Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the stellar cast and crew behind them deserve all the praise they're getting.
Rated 26 Apr 2016
8
80th
The significance of the mid-narrative opening scene still isn't clear as it's returned to later on, but it's the only thing that doesn't connect in this affecting and well-acted (Fassbender is a highlight) period piece. McQueen's direction is laudably and fittingly unrelenting and inaccessible, with achingly long takes (see Solomon's tiptoe hanging) and unflinching scenes of violence (see Patsy's whipping). Bursts of tense music also add emotional nuance to the typical sentimental soundtrack.
Rated 11 Nov 2013
95
88th
Probably one of the more important films ever made.

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