Metascore
97

Universal acclaim - based on 48 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 845 Ratings

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 47 out of 48
  2. Negative: 0 out of 48
  1. Reviewed by: Tim Robey
    Sep 14, 2013
    100
    Elicits from McQueen a directing job that's compellingly humble but also majestic, because his radical showmanship is turned to such precise, human purposes.
  2. 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.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Oct 16, 2013
    100
    It's Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together.
  4. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Oct 17, 2013
    100
    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.
  5. Reviewed by: Steve Davis
    Oct 31, 2013
    100
    Brutal yet elegant, 12 Years a Slave is a beautifully rendered punch to the gut about the most shameful chapter in American history.
  6. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Oct 17, 2013
    90
    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.
  7. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Sep 13, 2013
    50
    Steve McQueen's film practically treats Solomon Norhtup as passive observer to a litany of horrors that exist primarily for our own education.

See all 48 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 25 out of 191
  1. 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
  2. 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
    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
    Expand
  3. Oct 18, 2013
    10
    Chiwetel Ejiofor is so impressive in this incredibly intense, visceral film. (When it ended, nobody in my theater moved for a period of time,Chiwetel Ejiofor is so impressive in this incredibly intense, visceral film. (When it ended, nobody in my theater moved for a period of time, and there was no round of applause mostly, it seemed, because of the shock of it all. Clapping didn’t seem like the right thing to do.) The fact that we experience the story from the perspective of a kidnapped free man makes the film instantly relatable. I was so happy to have watched all of Tom Fontana’s excellent “Copper” which features an African American civil war veteran doctor living in New York, and all of his family’s struggles in Five Points. Solomon, a New Yorker kidnapped from Washington DC, could be any of us. The Southern landscape as it likely existed in those days provides such a beautiful-yet- eerie backdrop to this movie. What I particularly appreciate the fact that all the shots are confined you never see very far into the distance. There’s never any perspective on things. When the boat transporting the kidnapped south moves, you see the paddlewheels. On the plantations, you see the three or four acres where the slaves live. You never get any aerial shots, which is so effective in giving you a disoriented, lost feel. Even if Solomon wants to escape, he has no idea where the hell he is, and neither do we. The acting in general is uniformly excellent. Fassbender? Wow. Not since Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List has an actor put out so completely for the detestable guy role and to such great effect. Expand
  4. 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
    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)
    Expand
  5. Nov 22, 2014
    8
    12 Years a Slave couldn't be more real. It really captures what the world was like at that time. Solomon Northup was portray beautifully and12 Years a Slave couldn't be more real. It really captures what the world was like at that time. Solomon Northup was portray beautifully and I'm glad that this film managed to capture the Oscar for Best Picture, its a very worthy film. The ending has one of the most intense scenes that I've seen in any movie, I won't spoil it, because its amazing. It must have took a lot of studying in order to create this film. I may have to go out and read Northup's book now. Expand
  6. Mar 21, 2014
    7
    I had very high expectations for this movie this movie when I saw all of the trailers and it certainly did not live up to those standards inI had very high expectations for this movie this movie when I saw all of the trailers and it certainly did not live up to those standards in the slightest. I was expecting so much more and it did not deserve best picture or best supporting actress in the oscars. Jennifer Lawrence from American hustle was much better than Lupita Nyongo, and American hustle, Dallas buyers club and captain Phillips were all better than this movie. The constant repeat of the same scene just to waste time was really useless. I thought Fassbenders performance was great but overall..One of Steve McQueens more disappointing films and I'd give it 7/10 at a big push! Expand
  7. Sep 25, 2014
    0
    This is the most boring film I have seen in many years. Too loud a soundtrack, poor and indistinct diction, no story line, wooden acting, andThis is the most boring film I have seen in many years. Too loud a soundtrack, poor and indistinct diction, no story line, wooden acting, and filled with unnecessarily graphic violence. The film appears to have been made purely to shock the audience, whereas this viewer simply found the whole film a waste of time, and wishing he was anywhere but in the cinema. Not an experience I would wish to repeat. Expand

See all 191 User Reviews

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