User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 154 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 22 out of 154

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  1. Aug 16, 2013
    9
    This movie is so cool..it 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
  2. Aug 20, 2013
    9
    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
  3. Aug 22, 2013
    10
    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.
  4. Sep 12, 2013
    9
    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
  5. Aug 16, 2013
    9
    "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.
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  6. Aug 16, 2013
    10
    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.
  7. Aug 30, 2013
    10
    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
  8. Aug 22, 2013
    10
    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.
  9. Aug 17, 2013
    9
    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.
  10. Jan 17, 2014
    10
    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.
  11. Aug 19, 2013
    9
    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. Collapse
  12. Aug 21, 2013
    9
    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!
  13. May 3, 2014
    10
    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.
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  14. Aug 4, 2014
    9
    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.
  15. Apr 26, 2014
    10
    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
  16. Mar 6, 2014
    10
    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 .
  17. Nov 8, 2014
    10
    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!
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Metascore
66

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
    80
    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
    60
    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
    60
    Manipulative and preachy, The Butler is redeemed by a sensitive performance from Forest Whitaker and the undeniable power of the events it depicts.