Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup ( Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist ( Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.









Film information

Genre: , ,
Starring: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Release date: Oct 18, 2013
MPAA rating: Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality
Official website:
Runtime: 133 min
Movie Reviews:
  • 100
    Boston Globe - by Ty Burr
    12 Years a Slave is to the “peculiar institution” what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a work that, finally, asks a mainstream audience to confront the worst of what humanity can do to itself. If there’s no Oskar Schindler here, that’s partly the point. more

  • 100
    Time Out London - by Tom Huddleston
    What 12 Years a Slave is really interested in is creating an honest, believable experience: in culture and context, place and people, soil and skin. The result can, at times, be alienating. more

  • 100
    NPR - by Bob Mondello
    It is Ejiofor — bewildered, sorely tested, morally towering — whose staggered dignity anchors the film. more

  • 100 - by Andrew O'Hehir
    12 Years a Slave offers no false Hollywood catharsis along with its muted happy ending, because we’re not free from the curse of slavery yet. Looking at it, as it really was, is a start. more

  • 100
    New York Post - by Lou Lumenick
    Well-meaning films like “Lincoln’’ and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler’’ merely scratch the surface compared to the deep and painful truths laid bare by 12 Years a Slave. It’s about time, Scarlett O’Hara. more

  • 100
    Washington Post - by Ann Hornaday
    Intense, unflinching, bold in its simplicity and radical in its use of image, sound and staging, 12 Years a Slave in many ways is the defining epic so many have longed for to examine — if not cauterize — America’s primal wound. more

  • 100
    Los Angeles Times - by Kenneth Turan
    This is impressive filmmaking, but it is not easy to take in. more

  • 100
    New York Daily News - by Joe Neumaier
    McQueen has made a film comparable to “Schindler’s List” — art that may be hard to watch, but which is an essential look at man’s inhumanity to man. It is wrenching, but 12 Years a Slave earns its tears in a way few films ever do. more

  • 100
    USA Today - by Claudia Puig
    The harrowing 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing period drama for the ages. more

  • 100
    Wall Street Journal - by Joe Morgenstern
    Movie audiences have never been presented with anything quite like the intertwined beauty and savagery of 12 Years a Slave. more

  • 100
    Chicago Tribune - by Michael Phillips
    While this is very much a McQueen picture, with visual flourishes and motifs unmistakably his, the historical urgency and staggering injustice of the events keep McQueen and company utterly honest in their approach and in their collective act of imagining Solomon Northup's odyssey to hell and back. more

  • 100
    Rolling Stone - by Peter Travers
    Proving himself a world-class director, McQueen basically makes slaves of us all. It hurts to watch it. You won't be able to tuck this powder keg in the corner of your mind and forget it. What we have here is a blistering, brilliant, straight-up classic. more

  • 100
    The New York Times - by Manohla Dargis
    The genius of 12 Years a Slave is its insistence on banal evil, and on terror, that seeped into souls, bound bodies and reaped an enduring, terrible price. ...

  • 100
    Entertainment Weekly - by Owen Gleiberman
    It's Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together. more

  • 100
    New York Observer - by Rex Reed
    If the best films hold you in a captive vise, entertain you, keep you spellbound and teach you something at the same time, then 12 Years a Slave is outstanding — brave, courageous and unforgettable. more

  • 100
    Time Out New York - by David Fear
    Though McQueen continues to work his themes of suffering and spiritual transcendence, this unflinching, unforgiving drama is not about a slave, but about slavery itself. more

  • 100
    The New Yorker - by David Denby
    12 Years a Slave is easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery. more

  • 100
    Time - by Richard Corliss
    A document that is raw, eloquent, horrifying and essential. more

  • 100
    The Telegraph - by Tim Robey
    Elicits from McQueen a directing job that's compellingly humble but also majestic, because his radical showmanship is turned to such precise, human purposes. ...

  • 100
    Variety - by Peter Debruge
    Though the film brims with memorable characters, the show ultimately belongs to Ejiofor, who upholds the character’s dignity throughout. more

  • 100
    indieWIRE - by Eric Kohn
    More than a powerful elegy, 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing triumph of art and polemics: McQueen turns a topic rendered distant by history into an experience that, short of living through the terrible era it depicts, makes you feel as if you've been there. more

  • 91
    The A.V. Club - by A.A. Dowd
    If there was any doubt that this is a horror movie, Hans Zimmer’s score pounds and roars with dread — the appropriate soundtrack for the madness of history. more

  • 90
    Slate - by Dana Stevens
    It’s the unhappiest happy ending I’ve ever seen, a moment that makes you weep not just for this one man who found his way back to freedom, but for all those men and women who never knew it in the first place. more

  • 90
    The Dissolve - by Scott Tobias
    [McQueen's] film is a tough, soul-sickening, uncompromising work of art that makes certain that when viewers talk about the evils of slavery, they know its full dimension. more

  • 90
    The Hollywood Reporter - by Todd McCarthy
    Perhaps the nature of the story is such that the film can’t help but be obvious and quite melodramatic at times, but it gets better as it goes along and builds to a moving finish. more

  • 88
    ReelViews - by James Berardinelli
    12 Years a Slave is by no means light entertainment but it provides a more worthwhile cinematic experience than about 90% of what's out there and the impressions it leaves aren't easily dismissed or dispelled. more

  • 88 - by Susan Wloszczyna
    A somber, meditative, almost poetic film that delivers the horrors of bondage stripped down and head-on. more

  • 86 - by William Goss
    Ejiofor’s tightly clenched conviction perfectly embodies hope and righteousness against all odds. He gives the best performance of his career to date, and what’s more, he gives “Slave” its bruised, beating heart with every scene. more

  • 80
    Village Voice - by Stephanie Zacharek
    12 Years a Slave works so hard to be noble, but it doesn't have to: Ejiofor is there to do all the heavy lifting. more

  • 75
    Christian Science Monitor - by Peter Rainer
    I wish the truly searing moments in this film were not continually counterbalanced by an overall historical-reenactment stiffness in the presentation. more

  • 70
    New York Magazine (Vulture) - by David Edelstein
    The movie nails all this, and it’s smashingly effective as melodrama. But McQueen’s directorial voice — cold, stark, deterministic — keeps it from attaining the kind of grace that marks the voice of a true film artist. more

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