User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 154 Ratings

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

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  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.

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.