12 Years a Slave

Metascore
97

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

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 931 Ratings

Your Score
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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 199
  1. 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 willBoring 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
  2. Jan 16, 2014
    10
    Blown away by this film. ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY! I was expecting a slow and sappy story, but it's intense. The acting, especially a particularBlown away by this film. ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY! I was expecting a slow and sappy story, but it's intense. The acting, especially a particular scene towards the end, is phenomenal. Micheal Fassbender deserves Best Supporting Actor over Jared Leto (and yes, I have seen Dallas Buyers Club). In 10 years, this movie will end up on AFI's top 100 movies and will probably be at least top 50. It's that good. I warning you though, there are some tough scenes to watch. You may need a tissue box. 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. 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
  5. Feb 27, 2015
    8
    So I finally got around to seeing 12 Years a Slave, and now that I've wiped the tears from my face, I can tell you I was a littleSo I finally got around to seeing 12 Years a Slave, and now that I've wiped the tears from my face, I can tell you I was a little disappointed!

    Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I watched it. I liked certain things about the directing (like the fact that McQueen didn't plaster the movie with music) but the whole thing, the whole production, struck me as somewhat empty. There weren't those little details that bring a story, and especially a time period, to life. Life in the slave quarters, in particular, was lifeless. You can argue that that's because all the slaves were reduced to zombies, but I think it might be more a lack of imagination on the writer's part. In general I felt that where the source material didn't give any information, the movie-makers failed to fill in the gaps without resorting to cliche. I definitely want to read the autobiography now, though.

    In a weird way it was like a melding of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto (or however you spell it). 12 Years had the lingering sadomasochism of the Passion (Polansky proved you don't need to dwell on torture to make an audience feel it), at the same time it was a rousing survival story like Apocalypto. How can you not root for Platt! Every time he got his hands on some sneering racist villain I cheered! But I was disappointed in the end, because say what you will about Mel Gibson, he knows how to conjure up the weirdness of a different world.

    Also, you gotta love how Brad Pitt, who produced the movie, gave himself the best white role.
    Expand
  6. Jun 22, 2014
    7
    12 years a slave is a good film that could have been a great film, it is well worth watching and the conclusion is fantastic, but they somehow12 years a slave is a good film that could have been a great film, it is well worth watching and the conclusion is fantastic, but they somehow felt the need to try just a little bit too hard, when the subject matter is more than powerful enough.

    Chiwetel delivers an excellent performance - as always, yet I don't believe that the movie deserves the shining critical acclaim it has received.
    Expand
  7. Mar 3, 2014
    0
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Boring movie. (YAWN) I don't know how the one chick won an oscar when she was barely on screen for not even a full 20 minutes. This movie made me wanna punch everyone and where in hell did Brad Pitt come from??? 1/2 before the movie is over he just shows up. Too many scenes where we see dude, staring at who knows what, for way to long. There are better movies about slavery out there. This is not one of them. I don't understand what all the hype is all about. All I know is that I want my minutes back that I wasted on watching this boring film. Expand

See all 199 User Reviews

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