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 622 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: 23 out of 158
  1. Jan 22, 2014
    10
    Probably the most powerful film I've ever seen. The directing is absolutely spot on and the acting is world class. I can't really say too much about this film because I don't want to ruin it, but anyone who wants to watch it I highly recommend it. I can tell this is a film which we'll all still be talking about in 10-20 years time. Expand
  2. Jan 27, 2014
    10
    I was extremely tired and sleepy when I decided to watch de movie. When I finished, the last thing on my mind was my bed. The amazing job of Steve McQueen on making the film the most shocking as possible attached me to the screen from the beginning to the end of the story. 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. Expand
  4. 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
  5. Apr 12, 2014
    8
    A well taken movie. Precise, and to-the-point, although it did feel a little draggy in between. Exceptional performance by Michael Fassbender. Good performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benedict Cumberbatch add to the essence of the movie. The movie did feel like it was already conveying a well known concept, and hence felt slightly boring. Impressive locations and cinematography gave the movie what it needed. Expand
  6. Mar 13, 2014
    7
    A good movie although not great. It overplayed the parts of cruelty and beatings to a disgusting point. The flashbacks in time were confusing and awkward. Great acting on the parts of Salomon and Patsy. Expand
  7. Feb 21, 2014
    0
    the movie message is slavery is bad. For two hours it hammers that message with a sledge hammer till the head ache from all of the excess noise in form of superb but ultimately useless star appearance, needless violence and sexual abuse is unbearable.
    It all has been done before and better. complete misuse of excellent cast.
    Expand

See all 158 User Reviews

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