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Generally favorable reviews- based on 154 Ratings

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  1. Negative: 22 out of 154

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  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. Expand
  4. Oct 1, 2013
    This movie is well done and Forest Whitaker gives a great performance, but I'm giving it a 1 because it just undeniably racist. Okay reference Obama great that's cool, first black president is a big deal I understand that. When you say that Reagan, one of the greatest presidents ever, was a racist...that pisses me off. There is no reason to have put that in the story. It's wrong and frankly just a low, pointless act of racism. White people can't do anything about it though but just wow, based a true story? Right, this is why racism still exists. Expand
  5. Aug 18, 2013
    I thought as a movie it was okay. I just get aggravated with the constant reliving of what went on before my time & the constant slap in the face agenda to depict all white people as racist. I think if you want white people to respect the black race then they need to quit reliving their past & give us the respect we deserve. We have come a long way since the 60's & this type of movie only sets us back. We all know the times of slavery were horrible. I never would had treated anyone like the slave owners of that time; no matter their race. I would not have owned slaves in the first place! Not all white people have that mentality. I am from the south & was never taught to hate someone because of their race. I am real disappointed that a film like this was made to keep the hatred of blacks towards white people alive! Expand
  6. Sep 24, 2013
    The film tries to connect the history of race relations and the story of a family. It fails to do so. It trivializes and vulgarizes everything it touches. The cameo appearances backfire badly--Robin Williams and Alan Rickman are spectacularly miscast. Forest Whitaker is extraordinary, and his work redeems the family story but cannot do much for the political history. One critic has called The Butler more of a history lesson than a film. It utterly fails to do justice to our common and very different histories. Expand
  7. Oct 1, 2013
    Great story with unique vantage and fine actors, but too didactic and a bit contrived, as if Cecil were a black Forrest Gump. Makeup is horrific and got in the way of the film
  8. Nov 24, 2013
    This is a moving chronicle of a semi-fictionalized White House butler as seen through the civil rights movement. It has a fantastic montage (or maybe more like a series of intercut scenes) of the black staff at the White House and the Freedom Riders in Alabama. It was one of the more amazing intercut sequences I've seen. I teared up twice during this movie. Whitaker is great.

    This movie
    is also an over-the-top melodrama. It is so melodramatic that, even given the subject matter, I'm calling it melodramatic.

    So I think a 6 is about right.

    The movie is a biopic/history series of events, with a few threads tying it together. But given the subject matter, I can't really fault it for not having a more traditional structure or conventional dramatic arc. If you're interested in the premise, go see it.
  9. Sep 2, 2013
    Somewhat enjoyable film. Just Oprah needs to get the facts straight. If Hollywood could come up with a historical movie and actually get all the facts right I would give that movie a 10 even if it were not the most entertaining movie ever made. This revisionist history lesson is one step over Forrest Gump in accuracy. Of course it has to end with Oprah's little baby she helped create called Obama. I am surprised he did not make a cameo with all the free press. That with the butler having retired during the Reagan years. Oh and of course lets knock Reagan too in the movie because all white people in the film are reduced to a level of the Jefferson's neighbor in a 70's sitcom. Expand
  10. Aug 16, 2013
    This movie is so stars a rich black lady who plays a butlers wife. It has all kinds of great drama and history facts and civil rights (Black Power!). I love how the people playing the white president made them look like complete ignorant racist dotting idiots. My only complaint is I wish Jayz was on the soundtrack or maybe lfrench montana to add some spunk to the setting. This movie will warm you heart and make you cry about how far we have come as a nation from all stupid white people who have all come before the great Obama. Yes WE CAN YES WE CAN! Expand
  11. Nov 17, 2013
    Interminable plod through America's civil war movement seen through the experiences of a Butler serving several presidents over many years in the White House. The film cannot escape the feeling of being fake, trivialised and manufactured in its self important telling of an awful chapter in American History. It also feels very second hand with key events mostly being depicted via archive footage, mainly on a TV screen. Also, as soon as anything bad or dramatic happens the obligatory music kicks in for added impact often with that reliable crutch, the gospel choir at hand. This has the effect of producing schmaltz rather than gravitas.
    A starry cast, generally playing presidents or first ladies to mixed success, give a cough and a spit and are gone. However, anyone expecting (as I did) for this to be a more serious expose of White house politics will be sorely disappointed. This is first and foremost about the Butler and his family. The film has a lot to say potentially, but ultimately, due to the story's priorities very little is actually said. Forrest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey are undeniably good, but this is Oscar bait work to be sure. For a really natural and un self conscious performance just watch the far superior Lupita Nyong'O in the artistically much better 12 years a slave. No grand standing here, just great work! On the technical side the film is nothing special. The cinematography at times has a grainy look to it and it's definitely far too long. By the film's close I felt that I had aged with the two leads and lived the history.
  12. Aug 20, 2013
    Lee Daniels' The Butler is an incredible film shown through the eyes of a man who served the country in a profound way, while having a son who see's many things in the world differently. It is one of the best films of the year so far. A
  13. Sep 6, 2013
    Long and tedious. Two stars maybe. Fair acting. Good film clips. Dull in parts and way too long ..Save your money. Definitely not worth the money or time.
  14. Oct 21, 2013
    Great acting but rank revisionist history. Seems to demonstrate more the writer's political philosophy than any actual fact. He needed a Whitehouse full of racists till the annointed one appears. When they didn't exist, he makes a racist when none exists. 5 for Forest Whitaker, 0 for Daniel Lee. Negatives for the horrible smear job it does on good leaders. And another negative for casting Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagon. Why not just cast a white supremacist as Malcolm X. Expand
  15. Sep 10, 2013
    Great (true) story, great acting, great movie. I enjoyed Lee Daniels' the Butler very much. It's a fascinating film that will give you chills for sure. Anybody can enjoy this film, except for children of course. 8/10 MUST SEE!
  16. Aug 22, 2013
    For all its contrivances, though not many, this is one great film on race that tells the story in a way that has never been told before. Every performance is outstanding. I suggest you bring an entire box of tissues.
  17. Jan 9, 2014
    The Butler is a very touching and easy to follow movie, because despite it treats a difficult topic like racism in the US, it is shown in a simple way, reduced to a family and the job of the father. The interesting thing is how similar is this film with the previous one of Lee Daniels, Precious. In both movies the protagonist fights between three worlds, Precious was debating with her traumatic past, the inescapable present and the fantastic other reality where she is a star. Here Cecil lives between his job as a butler, where he only serves and never talk or react to the opinion of white people; his home life, where his wife feels abandoned and his child has revolutionary thoughts; and all the movements against racist practices that starts all over the country. Another topic that deserves to be mentioned is how this picture evaluates two forms of changing the world and point out that if you want to accomplish something you must be open to other possibilities even if is necessary to go back on ones word and recognize an error. Add to all these, a magnificent performances of Whitaker and Oprah, thrilling action sequences, elaborated script, a great direction; and you get an amazing film. But what it lacks in the story (in contrast to Precious) is more shocking reality and a best use of the illumination, music and camera. Expand
  18. Jan 16, 2014
    Lee Daniels’ enterprising biographic saga of Cecil Gaines (Whitaker), a black White House butler who serves eight presidents (based on a true story), was a substantial Box Office triumph back in October, and the talking point converges on its all-star cast, in particular the varying presidents and historic personages’ impersonation and an Oscar-baiting role for Oprah Winfrey’s big screen return, 15 years after BELOVED (1998).

    I’m not a naysayer of Daniel’s sordid THE PAPERBOY (2012, 6/10), but his trademark sepia-tone does precipitates the visual fatigue in spite of its retrospective homage, and the sketchy account of different presidents comes shortchanged as trite and uninspiring. The mainstay, nevertheless, is undeviatingly unraveled around Cecil’s dissidence against his radical son Louis (Oyelowo), underpinned by a very Oparhesque slap during an inopportune family dinner, until the belated conciliation. Cecil’s reserved discretion stems from his childhood trauma in the southern cotton field, but fortuitously he is discovered by an obnoxious officer to work in the White House (this part is schematized hastily and deficient of rationality, it must be more rigid procedures to be recruited as a staff there).

    So infused with the prerogative of serving the most powerful men in the country and a decent lifestyle, Cecil involuntarily leans on a more conservative slant of the equity movement for black folks, since most presidents he serves hold a strong attitude to change the status quo, he cannot understand why his son cannot be a bit patient but it is another lay of the land out of his comfy home; Louis is a foolhardy fighter, but he has a perspicuous mind, chooses to leave before he is immersed too deep into the Black Panther fanatic. It is not that all these happenings aren’t inviting, but in the film, Daniels only skims on the surfaces of the phenomenon, it is certainly a too wide time span and too many ramifications for one film to entail both comprehensively and attentively.

    Whitaker is brilliant and the MVP here, an ideal husband, a conscientious butler and an apolitical observer, underplays his character with subtle nuances, his two different facades, although the script dare not give him too much to handle just as life should be, his presence is a spectacle to watch. Oyelowo, a rising star deserves more leading roles, is another praiseworthy member from the bulky cast, while Winfrey’s part, is no Monique in PRECIOUS (2009, 8/10), a pedestrian housewife with alcohol problem scarcely has anything new to offer. What are the remainders after the transient merry-go-around of star-popping? I guess for me it is John Cusack’s fake nose and Cuba Gooding Jr.’s smug-face, and the film itself is an underachieved FORREST GUMP (1994, 9/10) wannabe.
  19. Dec 22, 2013
    What story did Lee Daniels want to tell? Instead of telling a personal story of the man Cecil and his family, Lee Daniels seemed to give us a history lesson of the 20th century that Cecil had nothing to do with. With so many characters and going back and forth between all the major events at the time, the movie loses its focus of telling an incredible journey.
  20. Dec 26, 2013
    The main character is nice and passive, but there is nothing more to him. Trying to build this grand story around him wasn't very necessary because he did absolutely nothing. If you want to tell the evolution of African Americans fight for justice this was not the way to go about it. The cast is so large that you either forget half of them or only remember them for their amateur performances. There isn't much to hate about this film, but it just didn't have anything to say that felt worthwhile. Expand
  21. Sep 12, 2013
    I really liked this movie... It was well acted and had a great story attached to it. It was, however, sad to see such a self absorbed society that treated people so poorly. I must say that I find it inspirational how this man lifted himself above the reproach of such a cruel society. I was impressed with his moral out look and his tenacity to stay focused on importance of job and family even though he had to fight through much racism. This is a great movie. Expand
  22. Jan 16, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Affermare che la montagna ha partorito il topolino potrà essere banale, ma il modo di dire viene subito in mente dopo aver assistito a questa fiera delle occasioni sprecate. Il racconto della vita di Cecil Gaines, dalle piantagioni di cotone degli anni Venti dove la schiavitù non era ancora finita all’elezione di un presidente nero, era sulla carta interessante perché consente di raccontare la difficile strada verso la parità della gente di colore attraverso gli occhi di un uomo che passa la maggior parte del suo tempo fra i bianchi, anzi nel cuore stesso del loro potere, la Casa Bianca. Cresciuto sottomesso e con una professione che richiede discrezione e invisibilità, Cecil si fa scorrere addosso la vicenda storica della ribellione della sua gente nella quale si infila invece con convinzione il figlio Louis che ne paga le conseguenze nei confronti della legge (botte e prigione) e del padre, che gli sarà per lungo tempo lontano. Ispirato a una figura realmente esistita, il protagonista è una brava persona che lavora sodo ed è attaccata alla famiglia, ma che fa carriera sottomettendosi e non ribellandosi per poi accorgersi troppo tardi che nella sua vità ci poteva essere spazio per qualcosa di più. Ecco, da tutto questo po’ po’ di spunti, il regista Lee Daniels e lo sceneggiatore Danny Strong ricavano un film quasi del tutto piatto dal punto di vista emozionale (la cosa più appassionante è, di gran lunga, il trailer) per colpa anche di una struttura troppo frammentata fatta di brevi momenti che qua e là tendono a ripetersi, come nel rapporto tra Gaines e la moglie Gloria. Non sempre è efficace neppure lo sfruttamento dei momenti topici che si intrecciano alla vita di Cecil: gli assassinii di Kennedy e Martin Luther King sono poco più che accennati e l’esistenza di un secondo figlio, Charlie, sembra servire solo a indicare che, ah sì, c’è stata anche la guerra del Vietnam. Le amnesie (clamorosa l’assenza di Malcolm X, citato di passaggio in una battuta) e le distorsioni storiche del cinema statunitense non hanno mai impedito di fare dei bei film, ma qui la visione è abbastanza superficiale da far sì che, ad esempio, i presidenti sembrino un po’ tutti uguali: apprezzabile la scelta di non ricercare la somiglianza a tutti i costi, ma restano figure bidimensionali con la sola eccezione del Nixon un po’ troppo affezionato alla bottiglia di John Cusack. L’attore è solo uno dei tanti che appaiono solo pochi minuti in un cast davvero esagerato che va da Robin Williams (Eisenowher) ad Alan Rickman (Reagan) e da Vanessa Redgrave (la padrona del piccolo Cecil) a Jane Fonda (probabilmente la migliore nell’impersonare un’energica Nancy Reagan), mentre un po’ più di spazio lo hanno Cuba Gooding Jr e Lenny Kravitz nei panni degli amici e colleghi del protagonista. La prestazioni degli attori è, comunque, la nota più positiva del film e questo vale soprattutto per i ruoli principali. Un dimagrito Forest Whitaker dimostra anche con Cecil Gaines di essere un interprete assai sottovalutato e, accanto a lui, Oprah Winfrey dà vita a Gloria con sorprendente gusto e sensibilità, costretta prima a sopportare le assenze del marito e poi a cercare di mediare tra lui e il figlio (David Oyelowo). Sono loro che, dando profondità ai rapporti interfamiliari igrazie a scene in cui anche la scrittura è più efficace, attirano comunque l’attenzione dello spettatore: certo, se il film terminasse con la presa di coscienza di Cecil sarebbe meglio, ma la pleonastica coda obamiana (che pure odora un po’ di propaganda) ha un suo senso nella chiusura di una fase storica in cui sono vissute e si sono confrontate due anime all’interno della comunità nera degli Stati Uniti. Forse un giorno qualcuno ci racconterà tale confronto con più efficacia, ora possiamo accontentarci di questo elegante (buona la fotografia di Andrew Dunn, incalzante la partitura di Rodrigo Leão) ma un po’ prolisso bigino Expand
  23. Aug 16, 2013
    "You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve." Such are the instructions Cecil Gaines receives as he embarks on his daunting new job at the Eisenhower White House in "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
    But of course Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker in a moving, grounded performance that anchors the film and blunts its riskier excesses, hears and sees everything.
    And that means that over
    more than three decades on the job, he has a Forrest Gump-like view not only of the White House under seven presidents, but of the long arc of the civil rights struggle in 20th-century
    Much has been said about this movie's potential future as an Oscar powerhouse. The speculation is natural especially given its star-studded cast but it takes away from the more important discussion of its simpler virtues, as an absorbing film that has the potential to teach a new generation (and remind an older one) about these crucial events.
    The story is inspired by a Washington Post profile of Eugene Allen, a White House butler from 1952 to 1986. Some anecdotes remain, but much is different. Most importantly, Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong create a father-son dynamic between Gaines and a rebellious older son, Louis (a terrific David Oyelowo) that serves as a backdrop against which the civil rights struggle can play out through the eyes of black characters, not white ones, for a refreshing change.
    This is done most strikingly in a key montage in which Cecil and his fellow White House workers set up an elegant state dinner, china and crystal and all, while down South, Louis is protesting at a segregated lunch counter, leading to a harrowing confrontation.
    But the story begins in 1926, with the death of Cecil's own father at the hands of the barbaric son of a landowner on a Georgia cotton farm. The elderly landowner (Vanessa Redgrave, beginning the celebrity cameo parade) takes Cecil into her home, where he first learns to be a butler how to act, she tells him, like the room is empty even when he's in it.
    Years later, working in a Washington, D.C. hotel, Cecil is noticed by a White House official, leading to a job there. His wife, Gloria, is immensely proud. Gloria, as you may have heard, is played by one Oprah Winfrey, and her performance is often restrained and quite moving. To her credit, you're not thinking "Wow, Oprah!" in every scene; that in itself is no small triumph.
    Not all the star performances are successful. When we first see Robin Williams as Eisenhower, his head bald, it almost feels like we're about to witness a "Saturday Night Live" skit. Williams doesn't overdo it, but the casting choice seems forced.
    James Marsden, on the other hand, is a good choice as John F. Kennedy, with his handsome grin, boyish demeanour and Boston drawl. Liev Schreiber is amusing if a little broad as LBJ, and John Cusack is interesting as Richard Nixon, even though he looks nothing like him. Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda, making the most of her one scene, make a surprisingly satisfying Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
    But what makes the film work, finally, are the soft-spoken Whitaker, whose dignified portrayal rivals his Oscar-winning work in "The Last King of Scotland," and the powerful Oyelowo, whose Louis progresses over the years from determined and brave to angry and cynical, and ultimately to a seasoned older man.
    Their relationship gives structure to the broad story of civil rights in America a story crucial to tell, and crucial to hear. Daniels and company may not have made a masterpiece, but they have made a film you should see.
  24. Aug 21, 2013
    I wanted to see more about the travails of a black butler in the (literally) White House. Instead, we focus on his private life--and, more importantly--the life of his eldest son. Still, this ploy allows us to march down the long hard road of civil rights pioneers. This is a great history lesson for young blacks and for any and all Americans as well. Lots of cameos (who knew Alan Rickman could make such a good Ronald Reagan?) but the two leads provide most of the acting kudos in this timely film. Collapse
  25. Dec 24, 2013
    Just got around to seeing ‘Lee Daniel’s The butler’ and in short; it was a moderately entertaining picture, with a possible identity crisis. The movie arbitrarily shifts from being a history lesson on racism, a teaser with various presidential cameos and a moving family drama. With very good performances from Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo, it finds much success as a dynamic family drama; but the rest was a mixed bag. From the odd casting choices of the presidents to the haphazardly told story of 20th century racism in America, much of it just didn’t quite jell. However, I would like to stress on the quality of those performances, which carries this film up steep slope. That’s what largely made this a decent watch. Expand
  26. Aug 16, 2013
    A powerful movie that illustrates the tragedy of racism and the struggle for equal rights through the life of one man and his family. Forrest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey are outstanding in the lead roles.
  27. Aug 30, 2013
    What a great movie! Great acting, writing and directing. I haven't seen a movie that I couldn't take my eyes off in a long time. This movie is worth an Oscar. Cecil is a great actor. He is a great storyteller. I appreciate great work he put in the movie. It made me cry to learn what these people went through and it made me feel grateful for the way it is now. It shows you that America is becoming the best country now. Let's be grateful that all the people in this past made this change happen. All hate and segregation.. The people in the past changed that and made America into one. Overall, it is a masterpiece movie that I will always remember in my heart. Expand
  28. Nov 20, 2013
    Four words: So much wasted potential. First, the good. Whittaker was fantastic as always, as was the actor who played the older son. The cinematography is fantastic, and some scenes are extremely well done. The problem I had with this film was that it was actually two different films: the story of the real person on which this was based on(which is quite interesting without the fictionalization) and the Civil Rights epic with the story of the father and the son. Both would have been excellent films had they been done separately, but together, it just ends up an oscar-bait-y mess. The all-star casting feels way too gimmicky and doesn't really work (I mean, Oprah? Really? Plenty of talented actresses would kill for that role and would have done a far better job) Expand
  29. Aug 18, 2013
    “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is the supposedly true story of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Nixon, Ford and Reagan. With a screenplay by Danny Strong based on an article by Wil Haygood, the film stars Forest Whitaker in the title role with Oprah Winfrey and a number of leading actors who, with obvious and sometimes annoying make-up nose jobs, playing the respective Presidents The film, directed by Lee Daniels, is 2 hours and 15 minutes long and I guess has to be in order to cover so much history.. Sometimes, though, in an attempt to do the subject justice, the length of the film becomes a problem. Many scenes are drawn out and beg for better editing.. Mr. Whitaker plays the role with finesse and skill and he is totally believable (Academy take note) and others with whom he works do proper portrayals as well. The problem with the film is that, in many instances, there really is no proper seque from one “chapter” or administraton to the next. Titles are used to tell us what era we are in because the script fails to do adequately. Nevertheless, the film attempts to depict life as a black person living (and dying) in the major portion of the 20th Century and, to that end, it succeeds admirably. The indignities and abuses hurled upon our fellow countrymen because of their color is shameful and hits home as the butler works by day in a white White House and goes home at night to his black environment and black reality.. The movie, for these reasons, digs deep and is worthy of our viewing time. I give the film an 8 because few films I have seen have left me with such a feeling of understanding and compassion for a race of people that deserved so much more and have, unfortunately, received so much less. In addition, it affords the viewer a sort of "fly on the wall" look at the inside the White House and of those who occupy it. Expand
  30. Sep 6, 2013
    I really enjoyed this film. I liked the story it was interesting. I generally liked the characters. Was the film perfect no. Do I think this is an amazing film by any means. No. Could this film perhaps have done better and/or shown certain things a certain way. Yes. But for what we got I think The Butler is a pretty enjoyable film. It kept me engaged, something I cannot say for some movies, and if you are looking for a film to see during the dry September than I say check it. It’ll be interesting to see if this film gets any Oscar nominations. Expand
  31. Aug 22, 2013
    A masterpiece film showing a different view of America in the 1950`s. Excellent acting, directing, and production. A must see film for those ho lived then and for younger also.
  32. Feb 15, 2014
    This movie deserves praise just because Forest Whitaker carries the film so nobly and gracefully in his role of the fictitious butler, Cecil Gaines. It is too bad that the producers saw fit to so drastically change the story of the real-life butler, Eugene Allen, who served in the White House for 34 years until his retirement in 1986. I'm sure his story would have been fascinating enough without trying to fit in the history of the civil rights movement in the background. In any event, the film did not do justice to the long and complicated story of the civil rights movement. I'm not sure any fictional film could do it justice. From 1987 to 1990, PBS broadcast a 14-hour documentary on the civil rights movement, entitled Eyes on the Prize. I would think fourteen hours is the minimum to cover such a complicated and lengthy subject area.

    It was interesting to note Robin Williams in the role of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Cusack in the role of Richard Nixon, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan (with Jane Fonda as Mrs. Reagan). The make-up and the similarity to the real presidents were remarkable; nevertheless every famous actor was clearly recognizable and there was the risk of the film almost becoming parody. Vanessa Redgrave and Mariah Carey have small roles. Also surprising, Oprah Winfrey, as the wife of Cecil Gaines, making a comeback for the first time in years in a truly dramatic role in a feature film. She is perhaps too famous and too much a familiar face to turn up as a fictional character in a film. When the film did a little montage of television programs to speed up time and show how African-Americans became influential icons of fashion, music, and dance, I almost expected to see a snippet from an Oprah Winfrey show. The real Oprah had to be omitted given the circumstances, but she should have been there.

    There were some interesting moments, such as Martin Luther King (Nelsan Ellis) explaining that the role of the black domestic was actually an extremely important role in black American history because of the trust and closeness that developed between white employer and black employee, which in fact went against all racial stereotypes. In the film, King concludes that the role of the black domestic was in fact the role of the subversive, an interesting take on the menial domestic positions blacks were forced into for so many decades.

    In spite of the film's flaws, there are not many quality films that give so many black actors such a wonderful opportunity to both strut their stuff and to document black suffering in America at the same time.
  33. Sep 1, 2014
    An inspiring story of epic proportions that isn't quite as grand as it makes itself out to be. Notable performances from Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda; however, the talented cast doesn't quite pull off the individuals which they portray.
  34. Jul 14, 2014
    This is a well done movie. I am going to be honest......I actually almost cried during this movie. It was really touching,as you had characters that you care about and a wonderful story. A really good film that I like
  35. Jan 7, 2014
    O filme se ergue graças a boa atuação de Forest Whitaker, que leva o filme nas costas
  36. Jan 13, 2014
    You can call it as this year's 'The Help'. This historical drama speaks about an Afro-American orphan kid, which is loosely based on a real person's story. The movie looked more like a television movie than a silver screen movie, but somehow worked very well for me. A man's journey passing through different generation about 90 years of life was remarkably showed in this 2 hours cinema.

    The movie focuses on a white house butler called Cecil Gaines. His journey from a farmland to he become a most notable butler who witness changing presidents for the times. Not only it describes his story, but also the historical events that happened in his time during the services he provide for the house. It totally blew me away to know a man who saw vast changes in history, from black people's slavery to become a president of the new world. It is a rare kinda movie like the movie 'Benjamin Button', I loved it.

    From the director who gave impressive 'Precious' has made this movie as well and proved his skills for the second time. The transformation of the period of times from one to another was really well cinematiced. You might require to be watched other movies about Martin Luther King, JFK, Nixon, Vietnam war et cetera to understand the other side of the story other than from Cecil's perspective of history. It was just a thought I am giving you, so this movie will work for those who got no knowledge about those stuffs. Definitely it will be one of a prominent movie in the career for both, Forest Whitake as well the director.
  37. Aug 17, 2013
    This is definitely an Oscar worthy film. It is a powerful story set on the terms of racism, segregation, equal rights etc. The only difference is that it's made right. It's truly a wonderful story spanning over 30 years in the life of a simple black butler. Overall, I smell Oscar worthiness. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel "TheMovieManLife" for all things movies.
  38. Oct 5, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. The Butler was a very good film, but it does have its flaws. I highly praise the performances of Forest Whitwaker, Oprah, and David Oyelowo. I also like how this filmed portrayed the past presidents of the United States. This movie actually had me rooting for Forest Whitwaker's character Cecil Gaines. A boy born in the 1920's that later became a butler for the White House. The only problem is Cecil Gaines ISN'T REAL. This story was real, but some of the characters and the events weren't. I didn't find out until after the movie some stuff wasn't real. David Oyelowo gave an amazing performance as the freedom fighting son of Cecil Gaines, Louis Gaines, but here lies another problem, he wasn't real either. Although Louis wasn't real, the events that he was involved in in this film were like the burning of the freedom bus. I highly praise the fact that Lee Daniels went out of his way to walk us through all the non-fictional events of this film and how Cecil Gaines had to go through them. Overall this was a good film but it kind of dragged on for a while during the end. Overall: 7.5/10 Expand
  39. Aug 17, 2013
    Though some of the casting choices seemed odd (John Cusack as Richard Nixon???), the principals of the film were in fine form. Forest Whitaker stars as the man who served as a White House butler during eight administrations, quietly watching the Civil Rights movement unfold. For me, however, the real standouts though were Oprah Winfrey (his wife), Terrence Howard (his neighbor), David Oyelowo (his oldest son) and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.

    For the first half of the film, I was entranced by the scenes involving the fight for civil rights, but didn't embrace the central characters (mostly Whitaker) like I wanted to, BUT the last 45 minutes packed a punch that took me by surprise. Some amazing scenes close out this film, elevating it from "good" to "very good". History, politics, great acting and a "mute" Mariah Carey make this a must-see film. ***1/2 (out of 4)
  40. Jan 17, 2014
    Even though most of the events in this film were greatly exaggerated from the actual events of the man who inspired the film, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” tells an engaging and dramatic story and is overflowing with talent from an exceptional cast.
  41. Aug 19, 2013
    A gripping piece on the black-American experience over the last 80 years and the trials and tribulations gripping the republic as they correspond to the politics of our leaders in the coinciding timeline of a career employee of the White House and his family. My wife and I cried for the latter half of the movie as well as the 20 minute ride home afterwards (we couldn't go through with dinner plans as our eyes were swollen nearly shut). Finally, a substantial piece on the life and times on the struggles of the on-going civil rights movement. A must see for all generations, all races & creeds. As MHP states "the struggle continues", The actor who plays Louis Goins should easily get an Oscar nomination as should Cuba Gooding Jr.. Some critics seem to miss the point of the movie it is not about the life of a butler but rather the persecution of a minority by the majority over the past decades. Expand
  42. Aug 21, 2013
    My wife and I thought the movie was excellent. It showed the change in attitudes in both the white and Black communities over decades very well. And it hade heart!
  43. May 3, 2014
    Rarely does a film come along that gets every element of history in it so precise and accurate as the 'Lee Daniel's The Butler' does.

    "Lee Daniel's The Butler"-- originally called "The Butler", but changed after a brouhaha with copyright claims-- is a masterpiece. Lee Daniels (Precious) directs with such certainty of the material he brings to the screen that you forget these are actors
    in a movie. Speaking of that, each and every cast member did a good job here. I especially liked Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan and Liev Schreiber as LBJ.

    This movie mixed drama, wit, and humor into a smart script by Danny Strong that never felt forced or ill-conceived. The acting was tremendous, with an Oscar-worthy performance by Forest Whitaker. And, to my surprise, Oprah was actually very good as an actress in this movie! I mean, to be honest, I didn't know what to expect when I heard Oprah would be in this film!

    Overall, the film went through each time period and showed events with real emotion, accuracy, and thoroughness. This is a great film that could also be labeled as a historical biopic.
  44. Nov 9, 2013
    From the eyes of a 16 year old. This is an extremely well done movie that was based off of true story. Please ignore anyone who gave this movie a rating anything lower than a six. Yes, the movie has a lot of racist remarks, but quite frankly it is also one the most realistic movies I have ever seen made about that time period. The only complaint I have is a few suggestive references that I felt were unnecessary and took away from the seriousness of the move. I recommend anyone willing, to go see it ASAP. Expand
  45. Aug 4, 2014
    This film received a lot of praise and flack from the critics, but when you get down to it, its a simple story of a man who has lived through many eras of black oppression. I was blown away by the star appearances and it is a grand reminder to us all of the strife people faced throughout the civil rights movement.
  46. Jan 16, 2014
    Lee Daniels' The Butler is an emotional ride through the great character scope of its lead. It has an uneven narrative between father and son, but strong performances and emotion more than makes up for that.
  47. Apr 26, 2014
    I somehow was unable to see this movie while it was in the local cinema. I bought home from Red Box and watched it with my 94 year white southern mother. We both enjoyed the film immensely. There is so many films that are such a waste of time and money, this is not one of those. The film does a brilliant job in the time allotted of showing the continuum of historic events that "The Butler" live through with his family. Expand
  48. Mar 6, 2014
    i love forest whitaker in this great movie . it tells compasion and sort of like 12 years of slave . and it is very great to learn about what its like and see and feels what its like how someone who live in south had to deal with the way they where treating with .
  49. Mar 13, 2014
    A fair movie with good performance by Forrest Whitaker. Unfortunately it is another attempt at fanning the racist fire. President Reagan was not a racist in my opinion.
  50. Nov 23, 2014
    Lee Daniels' The Butler es una película que tiene una historia muy interesante con buenas actuaciones por parte de todos los actores, en general es una buena película de drama.
  51. Nov 10, 2014
    Lee Daniels' The Butler is an emotional ride through the great character scope of its lead. It has an uneven narrative between father and son, but strong performances and emotion more than makes up for that.
  52. Nov 8, 2014
    For Once Good Triumphs Over Evil In Real Life! The Butler, whose real name is Eugene Allen, is one of the strongest men I have ever heard of in the 50+ years I've been living on this earth! I can only imagine the psychological strength it must take to keep one's self-control when you are confronted by so much evil, shallowness and contempt. Forget about politics for a moment, this film is the psychological study of a man who is the ultimate survivor! And if I was ever imprisoned someday in a Concentration camp this is the kind of man I would want to have in the bunk next to mine!

    In the very last scene there was a quite an ironic moment when out of all the Presidential tie clasps The Butler had to choose from he decides to wear LBJ's! President Johnson domestic agenda accomplished so much it defies comprehension: The passing of major civil rights bills, huge aid increases in education, the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, urban renewal programs, the Clean Air Act of 1963, the Wilderness Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Public Architectural Barriers Act, the Public Broadcasting Act, beautification programs, development aid for depressed regions throughout the United States, a wide-scale fight against poverty and the removal of obstacles to the right to vote, in addition to the creation of the Head Start program and the Food Stamps program. Let us not forget the passage of the Gun Control Act (and he was from Texas, for God's Sake!) Under Johnson, NASA conducted the Gemini manned space program, developed the Saturn V rocket used by the Apollo and Skylab programs and made the first manned Apollo program flights. KEEP IN MIND JOHNSON PUSHED ALL THIS THOUGH CONGRESS IN LESS THAN 6 YEARS! I don't want to minimize the evil President Johnson did in Vietnam, but no President has done more for every American LIVING TODAY than LBJ and the Democratic Congress under his leadership! Every four years, I literally pray for a domestic policy version of LBJ to win the White House! To date, President Obama comes closest with his expansion of health care insurance and getting us through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

    For those conservatives who believe Ronald Reagan is ready for sainthood, he did more harm than good. Sure he was a nice guy, but I could care less about how nice he was. Even he admits he was on the wrong side of history! What more do you want? The irony is that by today's crazy Republican party standards Reagan would be considered a flaming liberal!

    The Butler is a synopsis of some of the most important moments in United States history witnessed by one incredibly brave man! A film people will be watching 100 years from now!

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: Jenny McCartney
    Nov 20, 2013
    The Butler might bite off more history than it can chew, but it packs a sustained emotional punch, more than a pinch of wit, and a superb performance from Whitaker as a man burning with passion beneath his immaculate, repressed exterior.
  2. Reviewed by: Trevor Johnston
    Nov 12, 2013
    The result isn’t as powerful as it should be. But it’s still cheering to see a film whose moral journey has little to do with the usual Hollywood chestnut of white middle-class consciousness-raising.
  3. Reviewed by: Simon Braund
    Nov 11, 2013
    Manipulative and preachy, The Butler is redeemed by a sensitive performance from Forest Whitaker and the undeniable power of the events it depicts.