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12 Years a Slave

Drama . History . Biography

In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty as well as unexpected kindnesses Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

Actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor , Michael Fassbender , Benedict Cumberbatch , Paul Dano , Paul Giamatti , Scoot McNairy , Lupita Nyong'o , Adepero Oduye , Sarah Paulson , Brad Pitt , Michael Kenneth Williams
Directors: Steve McQueen
Country: USA
Add a Review

Steve Persall
Tampa Bay Times

There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours.

Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic

The acting is outstanding, the direction assured if straightforward. 12 Years a Slave is a history lesson of the best type. It’s brilliant. But, more crucially, it’s important. It’s brutal truth that demands to be seen.

Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle

12 Years a Slave has some of the awkwardness and inauthenticity of a foreign-made film about the United States. The dialogue of the Washington, D.C., slave traders sounds as if it were written for "Lord of the Rings." White plantation workers speak in standard redneck cliches. And yet the ways in which this film is true are much more important than the ways it's false.

Lawrence Toppman
Charlotte Observer

Most nations, ours included, still tolerate some form of slavery or indentured servitude. And 12 Years shows the cruelty of denying not only someone’s freedom but his identity. Take away the essence of a human being – whether he’s in fetters or not – and you destroy him.

Calvin Wilson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ultimately hopeful, but uncompromising in its commitment to exposing a tragic chapter in history.

Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald

One of the best things about 12 Years a Slave is that McQueen renders all the characters with the same depth and complexity as his protagonist.

Steve Davis
Austin Chronicle

Brutal yet elegant, 12 Years a Slave is a beautifully rendered punch to the gut about the most shameful chapter in American history.

Mike Scott
New Orleans Times-Picayune

There's something Shakespearean about it. From the case of mistaken identity (though willfully mistaken) to the formal, old-fashioned language to the tragic tone in which it is all swaddled, this is Shakespeare by way of the Deep South.

Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer

It speaks to the courage and resilience of one man, the savagery of many, and the potential, for both good and for ill, in us all.

Ty Burr
Boston Globe

12 Years a Slave is to the “peculiar institution” what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a work that, finally, asks a mainstream audience to confront the worst of what humanity can do to itself. If there’s no Oskar Schindler here, that’s partly the point.

Tom Huddleston
Time Out London

What 12 Years a Slave is really interested in is creating an honest, believable experience: in culture and context, place and people, soil and skin. The result can, at times, be alienating.

Bob Mondello

It is Ejiofor — bewildered, sorely tested, morally towering — whose staggered dignity anchors the film.

Liam Lacey
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Far from the push-button catharsis offered by most Hollywood redemption tales, the work is sober and deliberate, a mix of visceral intensity and artful design.

Andrew O'Hehir

12 Years a Slave offers no false Hollywood catharsis along with its muted happy ending, because we’re not free from the curse of slavery yet. Looking at it, as it really was, is a start.

Lou Lumenick
New York Post

Well-meaning films like “Lincoln’’ and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler’’ merely scratch the surface compared to the deep and painful truths laid bare by 12 Years a Slave. It’s about time, Scarlett O’Hara.

Ann Hornaday
Washington Post

Intense, unflinching, bold in its simplicity and radical in its use of image, sound and staging, 12 Years a Slave in many ways is the defining epic so many have longed for to examine — if not cauterize — America’s primal wound.

Richard Roeper
Chicago Sun-Times

Unflinchingly directed by Steve McQueen, led by Ejiofor’s magnificent work, 12 Years a Slave is what we talk about when we talk about greatness in film.

Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times

This is impressive filmmaking, but it is not easy to take in.

Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News

McQueen has made a film comparable to “Schindler’s List” — art that may be hard to watch, but which is an essential look at man’s inhumanity to man. It is wrenching, but 12 Years a Slave earns its tears in a way few films ever do.

Claudia Puig
USA Today

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

Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal

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

Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune

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.

Peter Travers
Rolling Stone

Proving himself a world-class director, McQueen basically makes slaves of us all. It hurts to watch it. You won't be able to tuck this powder keg in the corner of your mind and forget it. What we have here is a blistering, brilliant, straight-up classic.

Manohla Dargis
The New York Times

The genius of 12 Years a Slave is its insistence on banal evil, and on terror, that seeped into souls, bound bodies and reaped an enduring, terrible price.

Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly

It's Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together.

Rex Reed
New York Observer

If the best films hold you in a captive vise, entertain you, keep you spellbound and teach you something at the same time, then 12 Years a Slave is outstanding — brave, courageous and unforgettable.

David Fear
Time Out New York

Though McQueen continues to work his themes of suffering and spiritual transcendence, this unflinching, unforgiving drama is not about a slave, but about slavery itself.

Roger Moore
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

McQueen and his stellar cast take us on a difficult journey, an odyssey that will make you want to avert your eyes. It is to their great credit that we don’t.

David Denby
The New Yorker

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

Richard Corliss

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

Tim Robey
The Telegraph

Elicits from McQueen a directing job that's compellingly humble but also majestic, because his radical showmanship is turned to such precise, human purposes.

Paul MacInnes
The Guardian

Stark, visceral and unrelenting, 12 Years a Slave is not just a great film but a necessary one.

Peter Debruge

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

Eric Kohn

More than a powerful elegy, 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing triumph of art and polemics: McQueen turns a topic rendered distant by history into an experience that, short of living through the terrible era it depicts, makes you feel as if you've been there.

A.A. Dowd
The A.V. Club

If there was any doubt that this is a horror movie, Hans Zimmer’s score pounds and roars with dread — the appropriate soundtrack for the madness of history.

Chris Willman
The Playlist

This revolving door of graphically rendered brutalities might feel like its own punishment if not for an array of astonishing performances that’s practically a one-stop Oscar-nomination shopping spree.

Dana Stevens

It’s the unhappiest happy ending I’ve ever seen, a moment that makes you weep not just for this one man who found his way back to freedom, but for all those men and women who never knew it in the first place.

Scott Tobias
The Dissolve

[McQueen's] film is a tough, soul-sickening, uncompromising work of art that makes certain that when viewers talk about the evils of slavery, they know its full dimension.

Todd McCarthy
The Hollywood Reporter

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.

James Berardinelli

12 Years a Slave is by no means light entertainment but it provides a more worthwhile cinematic experience than about 90% of what's out there and the impressions it leaves aren't easily dismissed or dispelled.

Susan Wloszczyna

A somber, meditative, almost poetic film that delivers the horrors of bondage stripped down and head-on.

William Goss

Ejiofor’s tightly clenched conviction perfectly embodies hope and righteousness against all odds. He gives the best performance of his career to date, and what’s more, he gives “Slave” its bruised, beating heart with every scene.

Emma Dibdin
Total Film

Visceral, vital and anchored by its earnest performances, this is a potent portrait of a shameful historical truth.

Ian Freer

Falling between the twin pillars of the art house and prestige period flick, 12 Years A Slave is history lesson as horror film, powerful, visceral and affecting. And after years of being great in everything, Chiwetel Ejiofor shines in a lead worthy of his immense talent.

Stephanie Zacharek
Village Voice

12 Years a Slave works so hard to be noble, but it doesn't have to: Ejiofor is there to do all the heavy lifting.

Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor

I wish the truly searing moments in this film were not continually counterbalanced by an overall historical-reenactment stiffness in the presentation.

David Edelstein
New York Magazine (Vulture)

The movie nails all this, and it’s smashingly effective as melodrama. But McQueen’s directorial voice — cold, stark, deterministic — keeps it from attaining the kind of grace that marks the voice of a true film artist.

Ed Gonzalez
Slant Magazine

Steve McQueen's film practically treats Solomon Norhtup as passive observer to a litany of horrors that exist primarily for our own education.

Add Soundtrack

1. My Lord, Sunshine ( Performer: Roosevelt Credit and David Hughey )

2. The Devil's Dream ( Performer: Tim Fain )

3. Trio in B-flat, D471 ( Performer: Tim Fain and Caitlin Sullivan )

4. The Old Promenade ( Performer: Tim Fain )

5. Money Musk ( Performer: Tim Fain )

6. Run Nigger Run ( Performer: Paul Dano (uncredited) )

7. Awake on Foreign Shores ( Performer: Written and Colin Stetson )

8. Apache Blessing Song ( Performer: Written and Chesley Wilson )

9. Cotton Song ( Writer: Solomon Northup )

10. Miller's Reel ( Performer: Tim Fain )

11. Yarney's Waltz ( Performer: Tim Fain and Caitlin Sullivan )

12. O Teach Me Lord ( Performer: Tami Tyree, Roosevelt Credit, David Hughey, and Dan'yelle Williamson )

13. John ( Writer: Solomon Northup )

14. Roll Jordan Roll ( Writer: Solomon Northup )

15. Solomon ( Performer: Hans Zimmer Itunes )

16. Roll Jordan Roll (feat. Chiwetel Ejiofor) ( Performer: Topsy Chapman Itunes )

17. Little Girl Blue ( Performer: Laura Mvula Itunes )

18. Misery Chain (feat. Joy Williams) ( Performer: Chris Cornell Itunes )

19. Move (feat. Fink) ( Performer: John Legend Itunes )

20. Driva Man ( Performer: Alabama Shakes Itunes )

21. My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise) ( Performer: David Hughey & Roosevelt Credit Itunes )

22. Washington ( Performer: Hans Zimmer Itunes )

23. Devil's Dream ( Performer: Tim Fain Itunes )

24. What Does Freedom Mean (To a Free Man) ( Performer: Cody ChesnuTT Itunes )

25. (In the Evening) When the Sun Goes Down ( Performer: Gary Clark Jr. Itunes )

26. Queen of the Field (Patsey's Song) ( Performer: Alicia Keys Itunes )

27. Freight Train ( Performer: Gary Clark Jr. Itunes )

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