Generally favorable reviews - based on 47 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 47
  2. Negative: 0 out of 47
  1. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Aug 15, 2013
    The Butler is a remarkable, even exhilarating movie not for its inherent Gump-itude but for the social portrait that gimmick allows.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    Aug 15, 2013
    This is an important film presented as mainstream entertainment. It’s a great American story.
  3. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Aug 15, 2013
    A brilliantly truthful film on a subject that is usually shrouded in wishful thinking, mythmongering and outright denial.
  4. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Aug 15, 2013
    Whitaker’s performance reveals a man who unobtrusively changes white people around him – perhaps without trying or even knowing it – through his demeanor and ability.
  5. Reviewed by: Chris Cabin
    Aug 11, 2013
    With the film, Lee Daniels quietly pushes his talent for hashing out visceral, violent emotions into unexpected dramatic terrain.
  6. Reviewed by: Chris Nashawaty
    Aug 7, 2013
    As Cecil, Whitaker is mesmerizing. The actor seems to shrink into his imposing frame, summoning a performance of quiet, bottled-up force.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 147 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 50
  2. Negative: 4 out of 50
  1. Tac
    Aug 18, 2013
    Predictable message movie. Save your money and watch it at home so you can fast forward through the boring parts. Oprah is better as a talk show host.
    Wierd casting choices aside from Forrest Whitaker who was good.
    Full Review »
  2. Aug 22, 2013
    Aside from casting Jane Fonda as Mrs. Reagan, this movie failed to show the greater struggle over adversity. Perhaps, this is because it was a quick-moving period piece. Oftentimes, the misplaced humor downplayed the next scene which may have been tragic and/or historic. Scenes where occasionally confusing due to a jump in time and reference point.. The storyline contributed to the movie's disappointment; that is-it wasn't a story about an employee in the White House, but the story of that employee's personal life. This movie reminded me of a Hallmark special. Full Review »
  3. Aug 16, 2013
    It has been a long time since Hollywood had made a family saga spanning 90 years but it hasn’t been that long since ‘based on a true story’ has been distorted and changed and Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ does both. The screenplay is by Danny Strong telling 3 different stories that sometimes gels and other times remain separate and apart. The first story is about Eugene Allen, here named Cecil Gaines, and played by Forest Whitaker, who was the butler at the White House during 8 administrations, with stunt casting of presidents and first ladies. The second story is of his marriage to Gloria Gaines, played by Oprah Winfrey, and his two sons Louis and Charlie, played by various actors at different ages (in real life they only had one son), while the third story is the history of Black America, Black Americans and the fight for their civil rights ending in 2008 with Obama, the president elect.

    There are major roles played by Cuba Gooding, jr., Terrence Howard, James Holloway, Yaya Alafia, Elijah Kelly, David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz, Colman Domingo and Clarence Williams 3rd all doing better than good jobs.

    Most adults will be familiar with all the civil rights pictures, some recreated, some shown in their original TV stories, such as sit-ins, Freedom Riders, the Black Panther Party, Blacks being hit with water hoses and Black people being put in jail while it might be a good, and new, lesson to those under 35.

    The stunt casting has Robin Williams as President Eisenhower, Liev Schreiber as President Johnson, James Marsden playing John Kennedy, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as President and Mrs. Reagan, John Cusack as Nixon, Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy and Nelson Ellis. There are appearances by Mariah Carey, Vanessa Redgrave, David Banner and Alex Pettyfer.

    Forest Whitaker holds the picture together, while Winfrey as his wife gives him solid support. The director, Lee Daniels, loses control of the 3 separate stories, not melding them as well as he should, but does go for the tear ducts and manipulates the audiences feelings. The production values covering the decades of costumes, make-up, hair designs and set designs are first rate from beginning to end.

    The bottom line is that you who lived through the events won’t be able to avoid the feelings but you will feel tricked by the corny screenplay.
    Full Review »