User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 732 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 74 out of 732

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  1. Sep 6, 2014
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. It's a viewing only for those who have the stomach, but the emotional roller coaster ride you take along with Solomon Northup is almost perfect. The character development and other key aspects of the film, make it a must watch. The movie almost plays like a Schindler's list meets passion of the Christ. The one negative thing I can say about the film is the unnecessary brutality at some parts and also how it drawn out. Sooner or later I felt like I've been here and done this for two hours already. Though the movie closes off with a fantastic conclusion to a movie that will leave you hating yourself...especially if your white. Though my ancestress weren't in America during slavery and basically Irish people were slaves years before blacks; you still get that terrible sense you did something wrong. You can take this badly or good. I choose neither. It paints a picture of what we (as whites) did to blacks, which is basically the worst thing ever committed by Americans, and gives it to us. It's a very well down movie and does seem to be one of the best movies of 2013. Overall it has some big flaws but rights itself in the end with a extremely emotional finale. 9.1 Expand
  2. Sep 5, 2014
    10
    12 Years a Slave is brilliant and depressing at the same time.The performances in this movie are simply fabulous and definitely Oscar worthy.A true heart beating drama that leaves you speechless.
  3. Sep 2, 2014
    10
    Disturbing and violent--12 Years a Slave is far frome easy to view. Nevertheless, this film is something that each and every American owes themselves to see. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o shine bright in such a dark world.
  4. Aug 1, 2014
    9
    This was a fantastic film, well written and tremendous performances from all the stars. Far better film than I went in expecting.....................
  5. Jul 21, 2014
    10
    12 Years a Slave is without a doubt,the best film of 2013 - it is emotionally captivating, brilliantly acted, and has a wonderfully heart warming story of a man who faced unfathomable adversity.
  6. Jul 19, 2014
    9
    Una grandiosa película, realizada para hacerte llorar, con maravillosas interpretaciones por parte de sus protagonistas y que muestra una parte importante de la historia norteamericana.
  7. Jun 8, 2014
    9
    Very powerful and it definitely deserves all the praise and awards. A truly real, well crafted, extraordinary piece of cinema, though it may be a hard watch with the racial themes. I love how director Steve Mcqueen can capture a very lengthy shot and make it so powerful and grand in his movies. This movie is epic and well acted.
  8. Jun 5, 2014
    9
    This movie is a masterpiece! Not much more to say. I had to regain my manliness by punching my pillow in the end of the movie. The last time I had tears like that in my eyes was when watching a sad film, those were tears of joy and happiness. No film ever did this to me.
  9. May 16, 2014
    10
    IT ONE OF THOSE FILMS THAT WHOLE WORLD HAS TO SEE!!!!! MUST SEE FILM OF 2013!!!! The performance from the entire were POWERFUL!!!!

    The film that we will never forget!!!
  10. May 9, 2014
    9
    Steve Mcqueen's "Shame" didn't make much sense but "12 Years A Slave" is beautifully made, which tells a heart wrenching story during dark days of American history. Sean Bobbit's camera work is truly beautiful.
  11. May 5, 2014
    10
    Ok, so I was a little late to the party with this film, eh? Well, better late than never, right? Correct, and I'm so glad I finally got to see this phenomenal movie. This movie touched me so differently than other movies have this year. I'm not even a big fan of movies about history, so this movie is for everyone if you appreciate things like this. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in this film does an amazing, flawless performance. They perform each scene wonderfully and the writing/script compliments it all. The whole story is truly sad and touching. A free man gets kidnapped and is sold into the cruel subject of slavery. No movie has portrayed this time period in America as accurately and greatly as this. You know how some lame movies about slavery never really show how brutal the caucasians were to the blacks? This movie has brutal scenes that are NOT easy to watch. I'm not gonna lie. The first master Solomon is sold to is actually not a huge psychopath jerk that you'd think these kind of men would be. Man, the second one though? A HUGE maniacal jerk. Michael Fassbender really shows the audience how cruel this character was. Also, one of my other favorite, best characters is Lupita. Every single character, like I said, is perfect and they're equal in terms of quality. Where it was filmed is also a great setting. I'm telling you though, 12 Years a Slave is a movie that is so sympathetic that it really will touch you and break your heart at times. The ending is something that might even make you shed a tear for this amazing man. I did. Don't you already get the gist that this movie is amazing in every aspect? You should, and if you haven't seen this film yet, I highly advise with all my mind. Like I said, it isn't an easy watch. However, that doesn't mean it isn't WORTH watching, and it is in every, single way. Expand
  12. May 1, 2014
    9
    An amazing journey to a era of slavery, brutality, and a sad true story of a surviver, by the hand of stunning performances, and one of the most recognised director, Steve McQueen is at his very best, but still a bit slow at some sequences.
  13. Apr 21, 2014
    9
    A great, great film about a free man who is abducted and sold into slavery. It is a very sad tale and shows how racist we used to be and how bad slavery really was. A great cast with many great acting performances. Michael Fassbenders character was crazy and he did a fantastic job with his role. A great movie deserving of the best picture Oscar this year.
  14. Apr 18, 2014
    10
    Small scale in its 'sweep', due to adherence to the truth of the story and a refusal to reside in the world of the sensational, the film is no less affecting as a result. Perhaps the intimacy we feel and the respect the film shows us as an audience (rare these days), its play-like nature and quieter moments are indeed its strength. I was totally unsurprised to see it win Best Film (albeit that I think American Hustle was terrific fun and magnificent film-making / acting).
    The scene towards the end... you'll know it if you have seen it.... where there was almost no sense of time nor words.. quite rightly, I have no words for. One of the great 'moments' in the history of film. The film a sa whole cannot sustain that kind of brilliance of course, but what film could? It is still a masterpiece.
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  15. Mar 25, 2014
    9
    The Autobiography of Solomon northup !!

    ** 12 Years Of Slave **

    * This movie which dwells you in the depth of emotions which is caused by suffering and hardship rather than a warm happiness & enjoyment ! this film actually puts you in the place in which you being entertained by sadness and hardship in which you would never have expected or cannot deny being entertained !.This movie
    can literally capture your emotions it makes you feel for those characters in this movie like any other its has a specialty within itself that is unique from others ! .This is one of the greatest movie hands down it has beauty in its own which is both wonderful and outstanding !! .

    * This movie is an autobiography of Solomon northup who is being kidnapped and sold for slavery that eventually turns his life into misery & hardship ! This film was true to its source materials that gave this movie the huge clarity actually it also gave the feel to his suffering and also suffering for others who he associated with ! This movie has both beauty and truth .

    * The Actors Performance was outstanding they stood as the actual generators who generates our emotion when they perform during screen play ! Each and every actors performance stood as pillars for this entire movie ! Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup did and excellent performance so did other actors like Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey ,Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps ,Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford and Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass they gave their respective characters heart and soul for this movie ! .

    * The Characters in this movie is heavily relied upon the performance of the actors as it being performed excellent and wonderful it gives the characters its beauty and brilliance !.

    * This movie is basically less in humor you cannot find any moment that so enjoyable because the story doesn't fit in with humor as it eventually displays emotion which are related with misery and hardship !.

    * This movie is entirely dramatic as its display an amount of clarity and sense of wonder with great screenplay and excellent acting performance that gives this movie its advantage and credit ! .

    * The director of this movie Steve McQueen did an outstanding dramatic movie with great direction & screenplay that make this movie as one of the best autobiographic movies of all the time ! .

    * Overall the movie is outstanding with all the performance it has successfully captured our emotions that gave this movie a sense of wonder , excitement and also sense of satisfaction which makes this entire movie wonderful .

    12 Years of Slave : *********

    (9/10)
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  16. Mar 24, 2014
    9
    ''Fearless!'' ''Unforgettable.'' ''Electrifying.'' ''One Of The Best Films Ever Made!'' This is the movie you should watch in focus. One of the most Important film you're ever going to see.
  17. Mar 21, 2014
    10
    After what feels like twelve hundred lashings, we are left transfixed at the horrors on the screen as a poor young lady has been innocently victimized by the sharp cane of a mean, powerful and perverted land owner. This is just one of the many harrowing scenes in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave – a fruitful and climatic dramatization of Solomon Northup’s novel of the same name.

    This is
    a hard film to call, it is no doubt a grand dramatization in the life of a slave, but is it overtly so? Or does the film focus too much on this epic translation of Solomon’s life to the big screen that it forgets all the other impediments such a landmark should forge? When Brad Pitt enters the scene as a kind-hearted Canadian speaking out against slavery, it seems clearly convenient and perhaps too messianic. Yet, McQueen doesn’t send us half-hearted back to 1841 and rigorously achieves what a film must: let us experience the characters journey. So, despite occasional setback and concern surrounding my observations, this film is ultimately awe-inspiring and you’d have to be a fool not to feel its power and raw emotion.

    Chiwetel Ejiofor (playing Solomon) is the eyes and soul of this film. It is a grandiose performance of tears, adoration, forfeiture and being. Often, McQueen will leave his camera resting on Solomon’s shoulder or waiting just around the corner. We are summoned to live and breath with this character, feel his pain and stare straight into his forlorn soul. A primary example of McQueen escalating tension in this sense is when Solomon is hanged but left dangling with his toes barely touching the ground. There he waits for help, as most ignore him. It is excruciating, we watch Solomon balance himself, as for not would mean death. But, the camera is not always lingering, sometimes it is swirling in circles, to contradict McQueen’s earlier method of creating tension. In this case, it is tension via action, rather than emotion. In this scene, Solomon is forced to whip Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o) – a fellow lady slave – it is a pinical scene and one that hammers home the diseased social order of their sick master Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).

    McQueen’s two previous films have also addressed intense subject matter – In Hunger we experience the hunger strike against the British occupation in Northern Island, and in Shame, a man crippled by sex addiction. The insane acts that human beings carry out on one another is the limelight of McQueen’s work and one shouldn’t be surprised if he picks out subject matter related to Hitler, Stalin or Xianzhong as his next piece of work!
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  18. Mar 20, 2014
    9
    The film's raw textures and brutal imagery fit McQueen's proverbial bill; the only thing more transcendent than the film's story are the acting performances that make it so much more hard-hitting. It's not for the faint of heart, and it wastes very little time getting into detail. If you are familiar with McQueen's other outings, you can imagine that a historical film about slavery won't be all peaches and cream, which some people (clearly) have a hard time digesting. And that's okay, but this is a responsible, balanced film that deserves anyone and everyone's due diligence to view it from the perspective of a historian and not a critic. The statement it makes is going to be there - no matter what - for a movie about slavery. Instead of getting hung up on this notion, immerse yourself in the film and give it every last bit of attention you can give; it's not worth wasting your time otherwise. Expand
  19. Mar 16, 2014
    9
    Lo más curioso de este proyecto es que, varios años antes de 12 Years a Slave, se le había premiado al director Steve McQueen como "Futuro Talento Cinematográfico". Nunca se equivocan. 12 Years a Slave es fiel a los relatos de Salomon Northup y con un reparto exquisito demuestra que hasta el día de hoy se marca y se hace recuerdo de una parte de la historia americana (y del resto del mundo en parte) que nos provoca mirar hacia atrás y sentirnos avergonzados de lo que alguna vez fuimos, pues la película hace mucho hincapié en la falta de humanidad de ese entonces cuando las personas de África eran esclavizadas y maltratadas hasta un punto que resulta imposible. Digna ganadora del Premio Óscar y digna de pagar una entrada para ir a verla. Expand
  20. Mar 14, 2014
    10
    Boring at start. He's just playing the fiddle and white people are dancing and prancing as they are made to. I thought that the movie will stay this way, but when he appears in chains, I told myself: "Oh, this again?". But that thought was killed when a white man suddenly beaten him bloodily until his paddle-thing shattered to pieces. And then I thought to myself, do I still want to watch this? I didn't. It broke my heart into thousands of red splinters. The acting was superb, though dialogue from Platt had room for improvement. Patsey's character was developed exceptionally, perfectly. The movie deserves all praise and hail, and this is a movie (though brutal and sexual), must be watched by your entire family. To let them see the sins of your ancestors. Expand
  21. Mar 14, 2014
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. It takes an emotional toll to watch Steve McQueen’s poignant 2013 BEST PICTURE winner of the Academy awards, adapted from the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man is sold into slavery for 12 years in the antebellum United States.

    As the third feature film from UK auteur Steve McQueen (after HUNGER 2008, 7/10 and SHAME 2011, 9/10), 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a metamorphic achievement for his director competence, comes to grips with the grave source material, and transposes the text into a visually stupefying and inwardly resounding piece of cinematic treasure, compels audience to vicariously undergo the trials and tribulations of Solomon (Ejiofor) and his fellow black slaves, and to corroborate us the price of freedom is hard-won merely 150 years ago, we might say we have far progressed above the stupidity and narrow-mindedness portrays among the white folks in the film, and slavery is rather an antiquated concept, however, whether this self-aware moral improvement has reached its end of line, or 150 years later, when we our progeny harks back, we will be plainly as anachronistic as those pathetic, barbarous and abominable predecessors.

    I digress too far, but I do intend to reiterate the value of this film, not because slavery is obsolete so we contemporaries have no urgency to watch it, in fact, we are in absolute obligation to reflect on those historic iniquity to alert ourselves not to recommit the same error, which we may agree, a large portion of people are treading the same water in the present climate.

    Now, back to the film, McQueen and his team, in particular the long-time DP Sean Bobbitt, are luxuriating in their meticulous composition of each shot, the long-shot of Solomon hung on a tree struggling to life with his toes tipped on the ground while no one care or dare to set him loose (in the background, several slave kids frolicking around) is strikingly daunting to behold, whether white or black, their mentality is ingrainedly impaired; intermittently, the breathtakingly picturesque topographic shots of the southern land (the bayou, the cotton field or the windy woods) seamlessly transition the chronicle into another twist or perturbation.

    The central dramatis personae is electrifying to the core, Ejiofor whole-heartedly radiates in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and every single take lingers on his bubble-eyed physiognomy is unimpeachably soul-stirring, his immaculate dedication oozes Solomon’s despair, angst and persistence. Fassbender, McQueen’s fixed leading man, lends himself to the meaty villain role, the outright racist plantation owner Edwin Epps,the dichotomy of his libido-driven infatuation with the young slave girl Patsey (Nyong’o) and the iron-clad truth she will never be completely his possession, is the centrepiece which culminates in an appalling whipping sequence where McQueen unbendingly fixates on Patsey’s heartbreaking wail and the horrid lacerations, Nyong’o is no doubt meritorious for her Oscar-win with her debut, her final scene when seeing off Solomon to his freedom with both yearning (for herself) and felicity (for him) has been encapsulated with pitch perfect verisimilitude.

    Further on, besides those three Oscar-nominated lucky ones, it is a handful of under-praised but equally memorable performances, Sarah Paulson (Mistress Epps), Alfre Woodard (Mistress Shaw) and Adepero Oduye (Eliza) all steal the limelight when their meagre screen-time is on, Paulson is brilliant with her glacial frigidity and sharp callousness, Woodard nails the most ambiguous role in the film with her composed utterance and Oduye brings about a burst of volcanic theatricality in her tête-à-tête with Ejiofor. By contrast, the other male side players are less prominent, Pitt is the ultimate messiah for Solomon, but reservedly underlit, and Paul Dano is on the verge of being typecast as someone either compulsively creepy or maddening annoying.

    John Ridley’s stern screenplay (the third Oscar win for the film) prunes the prolonged odyssey into a number of key chapters, carves out a clarified narrative arc while enlivening the jaded souls with terse lines full of understated connotations; Hans Zimmer’s score mingles with the movie’s awe-inspiring presentation of a history should never be forgotten, tallies with the credence of viewers’ spontaneity, unobtrusive, but superbly competent alongside this epic voyage, if you can stick to the very end, it is a film can sublimate your moral sentience, and Steve McQueen is a filmic wizard of sublime gravitas, at the age of 45, we can optimistically hope that his best has yet to come.
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  22. PMG
    Mar 9, 2014
    10
    This movie... OH MY GOD, this movie. Okay the only flaw is that the movie never really feels like it took 12 years and aside from that... there are no other flaws. Amazing Acting, an emotionel journey, glories cinematography, a believeble historical seting and one of the most brutal representations of the horror of slaverie. It is difficult to watch, but this is a movie that you must see.
  23. Mar 6, 2014
    9
    A shockingly heartbreaking recreation of a true event in the bleak history of nineteenth century American society, McQueen brings this period piece to life, or deprivation thereof, with talented cast performances on both sides of the divide. Soloman Northup, a free African American, is lured by two circus men who promise him work as a musician. However, his whole world is turned upside down when he wakes up in shackles and on the wrong end of the black slave trade. Not a movie for the light-hearted, it features various scenes of black people being tortured, whipped, raped, and forced to stand still with no clothes on while they are inspected and sold off for a price to their new white masters (the proceeds of which they will never see a dime of). The depressing storyline aside, the film emanates with flowing nineteenth century frocks and settings, but it is Chiwetel Ejiofor as a brilliant solo piece that completes the film. We follow him throughout his 12 years as a slave, and his tight-lipped performance brews an emotional storm of helplessness but also hope in those who watch it. Not being able to speak out much, especially in the company of his various overseers, leaves a lot of work to his body language, and he makes it work. I didn't find Lupita Nyong'o as impressive as the Academy did, and Brad Pitt was inserted in seemingly because he just looks good and wanted to be in his own production. I guess we all would if we had the chance. It's an honest film, worth seeing even if just to experience what it means to be free one day and bound and helpless the next. Expand
  24. Mar 2, 2014
    10
    This was a truly heart breaking beautiful movie. It is definitely oscar worthy. The truth behind the story of this movie just makes me want to cry. Amazing!
  25. Feb 28, 2014
    9
    This review of “Twelve Years a Slave” is late in coming since I, like many others, was reluctant to see it because of its raw and powerful displays of brutality. After all, the film experience should be pleasurable and something to enjoy. Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to view the film on a DVD a friend generously loaned to us. As I watched the film my concerns were indeed realized for some of the scenes were certainly uncomfortable to watch. However It was worth the 10 or 15 total minutes of discomfort to be able to be artistically exhilarated as we saw inhumanity and dignity oppose each other in what was the then mentality and norm of the slave genre and the society that embraced it. The acting of Chiwitel Ejifor, the writing of John Ridley and the direction of Steve McQueen make this a rewarding theatrical experience which the viewer will find difficult to forget or even equal. The film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a cultured and well respected African American northerner, who is kidnapped and then sold into slavery by his abductors and ends up spending 12 years on one or more southern plantations. It’s easy for an audience member, black or white, to identify with the lead character and that is what makes the film work so well. Massive suffering among thousands is a broad and almost meaningless phrase when compared to describing the plight of one individual. It is something the viewer can more readily identify with and understand. I give this film a 9. To those who may still be reluctant to see it, think of it as historical medicine. It will enrich your minds and help us understand even more the oppression and bigotry that once infected our nation. Expand
  26. Feb 28, 2014
    10
    My wife and I ended up watching this movie pretty much on a whim after hearing a few things, and it turns out that that was a great move. The movie is quit good, so if you're on the fence for whatever reason it's an entertaining, sad, and eye-opening movie worth your time.
  27. Feb 28, 2014
    9
    It's always interesting to see a movie based on real events. Some of them are breathtaking, so it is but in a heart-wrecking way. It is not like someone who lost at sea for months or someone who trapped on an island for years. It is slavery, very cruel and harsh form of torture that takes one's freedom away.

    This true story occurred back in 1841, nearly 170 years ago. A New Yorker
    Solomon Northup, a born-free black American was kidnapped and sold into slavery. So his journey into the dark world begins after he was assigned to work in various fields. It was incredible and unbelievable sad journey of those 12 years till he gets his freedom back.

    After the movie 'Shame' Steve McQueen retained his favourite actor Michale Fassbender to play in a prominent role for the third time for this historical epic drama. As usual, he became the ambassador to McQueen's movie along with great performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The movie was captured in beautiful places of Louisiana. The unknown supporting cast was also given great support with their small roles in the story.

    It was a good adaptation, but dialogues were very weak. There's no strong lines said anywhere in the movie or any memorable and rememberable. I believed the movie transformed exactly as the book says, I mean the original edition one. This movie is not appreciable for its contents because it was evilfull, but for bringing back the truth to the todays audience. It was acknowledgeable hard work for the cast and crew. So this movie will be recognised in big stages that mean the Oscar is not far away to fetch for McQueen and Chiwetel.
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  28. Feb 25, 2014
    10
    I cried... Several times. I think it is very appropriate to start my review by saying those words. In an age where showing our emotion in public is apparently a taboo. Needless to say, apart from a few heartless sods, I was not the only one who left the local theatre wiping tears from my cheeks. Putting it simply, 12 Years A Slave is superb. The way I see it, this should become the staple period-piece film. It is a film that shows us a dark, visceral story of a point in time that the American government would much rather sweep under the rug.

    It is a triumphant story of loss and despair, but also of remarkable perseverance and resolve.
    The simplicity of the plot leaves the weight of its success on the individual scenes and phenomenal writing. The great cast and setting meld together perfectly.

    In a year of phenomenal films, 12 Years A Slave comes out on par with many others, if not slightly above.
    I hope that in a few years, this might be the film that is shown in history classes. It is not something that should be watched for the sake of the film, it is something that has to be watched because of the horrific times which its characters live in.

    A 10 out of 10.

    Jack Valentine
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  29. Feb 23, 2014
    10
    12 years a slave is not a regular movie ... it's a slavery experience that force your mind to think about similarities between you and "Blat", and by the end asking yourself, Am I really free or just a slave with different master and instructions?...
  30. Feb 23, 2014
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. 12 years a slave is not a movie for the weak hearted. The Movie is an unbelievably true account of the horrors of slavery and it will make you uncomfortable to say the least. Everyone in the cast delivers wonderful performances that further add to the power of the beautiful and vivid imagery that transport you through the journey of Solomon Northup. A freeman who is wrongfully sold into slavery and spends 12 years in the slave trade. Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a wonderfull yet subtle performance as Northup that further enriches the visual beauty of the movie and helps stay away from the stereotypes of other slave movies that have been over dramatized. Expand
Metascore
97

Universal acclaim - based on 48 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 47 out of 48
  2. Negative: 0 out of 48
  1. Reviewed by: Emma Dibdin
    Jan 14, 2014
    80
    Visceral, vital and anchored by its earnest performances, this is a potent portrait of a shameful historical truth.
  2. Reviewed by: Ian Freer
    Jan 6, 2014
    80
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Nov 7, 2013
    100
    There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours.