12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave Image
Metascore
97

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

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 1077 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0

Trailer

Please enter your birth date to continue:
You are not allowed to view this material at this time.
Autoplay: On | Off

Where To Watch

Stream On
Stream On
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 208
  1. Nov 11, 2014
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Solomon Northup was a free-born man living in Saratoga, New York married with two children. In 1841 he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Viewers should not take Northup's story as something individual. Situations like this happened several times over the course of this horrific period, a clear type of holocaust of the African-American human people.

    If you have already watched Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011) you certainly know that Steve McQueen directs his films with merciless realism. His first two films were very dark and perplexing and so is 12 Years a Slave.

    The main theme of McQeen's film agenda is, I believe, about complex human-beings finding themselves in difficult situations. Bobby Sands, Brandon and finally Solomon Northup. Even though their names don't really matter, because they are just characters who represent the difficulties of our everyday lives.

    The film is a cruel examination of slavery in America and McQueen was probably the best director for this kind of material. His long takes and the objectivity of his camera make the movie seem realistic. The movie as an achievement represents perfection at cinematography, production, costumes and editing. Hans Zimmer score is hypnotic and controls the emotions of the audience. And of course a great screenplay by John Ridley who adapted Northup's memoir and created almost all the dialogue.

    Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a powerful and riveting performance as Solomon Northup. After a good stage career and some decent film performances, Ejiofor takes full advantage of his great talent previously shown in Dirty Pretty Things. This is one of the best performances of all time.

    Behind Ejiofor we see an extremely talented supporting cast full of charismatic and great actors. Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o give career best performances and stand out among Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano and others.

    What an incredible, haunting and touching film it is. Highly recommended for everyone who has the gut to watch the truth in a so tense way. Not only the best movie of the year but also one of the greatest and most important achievements in the history of movie-making.
    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 theThere 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,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 29, 2015
    9
    "12 Years a Slave" is arresting, a film that needs to be watched and is easily the best movie that touches on the topic of slavery. Even more"12 Years a Slave" is arresting, a film that needs to be watched and is easily the best movie that touches on the topic of slavery. Even more so, it is a film that is both informative, extraordinarily emotional, and an incredible eye-opener to slavery's mental destruction to man. Expand
  5. May 25, 2014
    8
    12 Years a Slave was just astounding im at a loss for words of how great of a film this is. Steve McQueen blew me away with this film and if i12 Years a Slave was just astounding im at a loss for words of how great of a film this is. Steve McQueen blew me away with this film and if i had seen this in 2013 no doubt would it had been hard to choose between this and Gravity. Luckally i don't have to pick and that 12 Years a Slave has the best chance to be the best movie in 2014.

    Solomon Northup is a well educated free black man that lives in Saratoga, New York with his family. While his family is off on a trip he decides to work for these people claiming to work for the circus he has dinner with the two men then starts to get sick they help him to his room as he is passing out. He wakes up after being drugged and is told he is now a slave heading to the south.

    He ends up being sold to a man named Ford (Cumberbatch) a small mill owner. Ford takes a liking to Solomon but soon has to sell him to Edwin Epps(Fassbender) a crual and ruthless man so he can pay off his debt. Years go by and we see Solomon trying to survive but with each day and with everything he sees it get's harder harder for him to go on. Plan after plan of his keeps failing and he starts to think he may never go home.

    The movie is so powerful and the unbelievable acting of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender make this film a much watch for everyone I guess for some though it can be hard to watch at times. The cinematography from Steve McQueen was amazing and the Score from Hans Zimmer was breathtaking

    Overall i give it a 8.0
    Expand
  6. Jul 7, 2015
    7
    ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************ 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 208 User Reviews

Trailers

Related Articles

  1. The 25 Best Movies by Black Directors

    The 25 Best Movies by Black Directors Image
    Published: February 18, 2016
    We reveal the best-reviewed movies directed by black filmmakers since 1990.
  2. 28 Best Picture Oscar Winners, Ranked From Worst to Best

    28 Best Picture Oscar Winners, Ranked From Worst to Best Image
    Published: February 18, 2016
    We rank the best picture winners of the past three decades.
  3. The Best Movies of the 21st Century (So Far)

    The Best Movies of the 21st Century (So Far) Image
    Published: February 11, 2016
    Check out our lists of the best (and worst) movies of the century so far, ranked by Metascore overall and in a variety of genres.
  4. 2014 Oscars: Full Winners List + Reviews of the Show

    2014 Oscars: Full Winners List + Reviews of the Show Image
    Published: March 3, 2014
    Read reviews of last night's Academy Awards broadcast, find out which experts and users had the most accurate predictions, and find a full list of winners in all 24 categories.
  5. 2014 Oscar Nominations: Full List and Analysis

    2014 Oscar Nominations: Full List and Analysis Image
    Published: January 16, 2014
    The Oscar nominations are in. What were this year's biggest surprises and snubs? Find a complete list and analysis of nominees for the 86th Annual Academy Awards.
  6. The Best and Worst Movies of 2013

    The Best and Worst Movies of 2013 Image
    Published: January 6, 2014
    There were more great movies released in 2013 than in any year in recent memory. Browse our official lists of the year's highest-scoring movies in a variety of categories, and check out 2013's worst films, too.
  7. 2013 Golden Globe Nominations

    2013 Golden Globe Nominations Image
    Published: December 12, 2013
    Find a full list of the 71st Annual Golden Globe nominations in film and television, and a look at the year's surprises and snubs.
  8. 2013 Film Critic Top Ten Lists

    2013 Film Critic Top Ten Lists Image
    Published: December 8, 2013
    Throughout the coming weeks, we'll be collecting year-end top ten lists from dozens of movie critics and publications. Browse the individual lists and view our composite rankings inside.
  9. 2013 Film Awards and Nominations Scorecard

    2013 Film Awards and Nominations Scorecard Image
    Published: December 3, 2013
    Find a complete list of 2013's major film awards and nominations from dozens of professional organizations and critic associations, as well as a running scorecard of the year's biggest winners. Check daily for updates throughout December and January.
  10. 2013 Fall Film Festival Recap: The Verdict on Films Screening at TIFF, Telluride, and Venice

    2013 Fall Film Festival Recap: The Verdict on Films Screening at TIFF, Telluride, and Venice Image
    Published: September 17, 2013
    Find capsule reviews for the 30 most notable films that debuted during the three major fall film festivals, including upcoming films from Alfonso Cuaron, Jonathan Glazer, Hayao Miyazaki, Jason Reitman, Steve McQueen, Stephen Frears, Bill Condon, Richard Ayoade, Kelly Reichardt, and more.