Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 23
  2. Negative: 1 out of 23
Watch On
  1. Reviewed by: Christopher Hemblade
    Spielberg has mounted a courtroom drama to rival the finest Grisham, with a coruscating civil rights debate resonating both within the film and into the present as the audience knows it.
  2. Reviewed by: Michael Sragow
    The movie has tremendous scope and charge and a dense period fabric, along with a volcanic performance by Djimon Hounsou, the West African actor who plays Cinque.
  3. 88
    Thematically rich, impeccably crafted, and intellectually stimulating, the only area where this movie falls a little short is in its emotional impact.
  4. 88
    Sheer power, moral and otherwise. It possesses a massively majestic hero. [10 Dec 1997, p.D1]
  5. Reviewed by: Michael Sauter
    Becomes a too-stately courtroom drama, with the Africans in the dock, the issue of slavery on trial at didactic length, and the top-billed Morgan Freeman as an abolitionist shunted to the sidelines with too little to do. [26 Jun 1998, p. 130]
  6. 80
    Hounsou, a West African model with beauty and presence but no acting experience, carries much of the movie on his broad shoulders with surprising skill and strength.
  7. 75
    What is most valuable about Amistad is the way it provides faces and names for its African characters, whom the movies so often make into faceless victims.
  8. Reviewed by: Sean Wilentz
    Hopkins uncannily projects Adams's suppressed agonies as well as his querulousness, his zest for scholarship as well as his zest for political intrigue, his pragmatism as well as his idealism. [22 Dec 1997, p. 25]
  9. Dwarfed by the enormity of what it means to illustrate, the diffuse Amistad divides its energies among many concerns: the pain and strangeness of the captives' experience, the Presidential election in which they become a factor, the stirrings of civil war, and the great many bewhiskered abolitionists and legal representatives who argue about their fate.
  10. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Alive to the--yes--sometimes humorous, and therefore humanizing, struggles of the slaves and their would-be rescuers to surmount the language and cultural barriers that separate them. [15 Dec 1997, p. 108]
  11. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    Aiming to instruct as well as entertain --- and often struggling to reconcile these two divergent goals.
  12. Cinque, the rebel leader, is played by former model Hounsou, a mountainous figure who speaks in a gutteral roar and seems to embody the rage and confusion of an entire exploited continent.
  13. Despite the Spielberg trademarks, a lavish attention to period detail and the occasional flash of visual potency, this is a picture you never get caught up in.
  14. Scenes go on and on in endless, witless dialogue, ever accompanied by John Williams' hideously gushing music.
  15. There's some excellent comedy early on involving the mutual incomprehension of Africans and Americans, though this eventually gives way to solemn, ethnocentric mush about one African's reading of the story of Jesus, demonstrating as usual that sustained subtlety is hardly Spielberg's forte.
  16. Reviewed by: Tom Meek
    Of the underutilized mega cast, Djmon Honsou shines the brightest. His portrayal of Cinque, the leader of the displaced band of African tribesmen, is devastatingly potent.
  17. What saved "Schindler's List" from this self-conscious nobility was the ambiguity of Oskar Schindler's personality and Spielberg's willingness to treat incendiary material coolly. The lesson he seemed to have learned there, that the strongest stories call for the greatest restraint, is one he has at least partially forgotten here.
  18. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    After an electrifyingly feral opening, the movie settles down into a cogent courtroom drama, with no real cinematic highs but no jaw-dropping lows, either.
  19. 60
    Consistently earnest and well-intentioned but only occasionally moving, despite the efforts of a generally top-notch cast.
  20. Although the movie is moving and even funny in many places, it's also overextended. And composer John Williams's syrupy score practically oozes from your ears on the drive home.
  21. Steven Spielberg's historical drama is more stilted and didactic than its fascinating subject deserves, gathering great emotional force only in a harrowing scene depicting the Holocaust-like suffering of slave-ship captives.
  22. Spielberg uses a more conventional format than he did in the stripped-down black-and-white "Schindler's List,'' and delivers a film that veers between stoic political correctness and mushy pop-Hollywood platitudes.
  23. 30
    A little like looking at pictures without a text to unify them… Prestige filmmaking bereft of inspiration -- sometimes even of the nuts and bolts of craft.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 41 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 9
  2. Negative: 1 out of 9
  1. Nov 27, 2011
    The pace within the film makes it boring in many parts. The pace made it feel slow as well. It has a few inspiring moments and some greatThe pace within the film makes it boring in many parts. The pace made it feel slow as well. It has a few inspiring moments and some great performances which makes it mildly entertaining. Full Review »
  2. Andy
    Jan 20, 2007
    Pretty good but slow at times.
  3. GrantN.
    Jan 16, 2006
    Captivating but it has pacing problems