Metascore
97

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

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 754 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: 26 out of 182
  1. 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?... Expand
  2. Jan 21, 2014
    10
    There is very little I can say about this film that hasn't already been said: The acting is easily the best of this year, maybe even of the last decade, the story is effectively gut & heart-wrenching, and Steven McQueen brings just the right amount of visual panache and gritty realism to do the story justice. I cried. I cried every time I saw it.

    It's about time American cinema stopped being afraid of our history with Slavery. And while that description isn't perfect (Steve McQueen is british, after all), it definitely signals a HUGE step in the right direction. There are demons everywhere, and this film is unafraid to throw its main character into the heart of darkness Northup actually experienced.

    It may be hard to stomach at times, but every American (at least) should see this movie. It is a masterpiece.
    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, 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. Collapse
  4. 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
  5. Jul 25, 2014
    8
    12 Years Slave es una película de drama convincente y con un guión atractivo, y que aunque la película le falto un poco de chispa, no dejo de ser un buen drama. Expand
  6. Mar 11, 2014
    7
    It's an OK film, but more historical fiction than history. Most characters are black and white (no pun intended) and the only one showing some complexity was the plantation owner played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The screenwriters mostly used violence and cartoon injustice to get you to sympathize with the protagonists and the ending was a bit too sugary and expected for my taste. 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, 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 182 User Reviews

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