LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award (R) nominated Lee Daniels (PRECIOUS) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy (R)-award winning Danny Strong (GAME CHANGE). (c) Weinstein









Film information

Genre: , ,
Starring: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Release date: Aug 16, 2013
MPAA rating: Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking
Official website:
Runtime: 2 hr. 6 min.
Movie Reviews:
  • 88
    Slant Magazine - by Chris Cabin
    With the film, Lee Daniels quietly pushes his talent for hashing out visceral, violent emotions into unexpected dramatic terrain. more

  • 83
    Charlotte Observer - by Lawrence Toppman
    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. more

  • 83
    Entertainment Weekly - by Chris Nashawaty
    As Cecil, Whitaker is mesmerizing. The actor seems to shrink into his imposing frame, summoning a performance of quiet, bottled-up force. more

  • 80
    Arizona Republic - by Bill Goodykoontz
    Make no mistake, Daniels is gunning for awards here; the movie has that sheen, that Big Important Feel. But the performances keep it grounded. Let someone else decide winners and losers. Just enjoy “The Butler” for the sometimes-moving experience it is. ...

  • 80
    Village Voice - by Stephanie Zacharek
    Daniels is that rare contemporary filmmaker who's not afraid of melodrama. The Butler is so old-school it feels modern: Stylistically, it could have been made 30 years ago, but its time is now. more

  • 75
    USA Today - by Claudia Puig
    Authentic emotion competes with manufactured sentiment for the heart of Lee Daniels' The Butler. more

  • 75
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch - by Joe Williams
    With Whitaker, Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong pulling the strings, The Butler can take a bow. more

  • 75
    Tampa Bay Times - by Steve Persall
    It's rare to wish a movie were an hour or two longer, when it already feels an hour longer than it is. more

  • 75
    indieWIRE - by Eric Kohn
    The Butler carries an authenticity that sustains it through its cloying stretches. more

  • 70
    Slate - by Dana Stevens
    The director’s sometimes absurd bravado — along with Forest Whitaker’s grave, wise performance in the title role — is what gives this outsized and sometimes lumbering film its irrefutable emotional power. more

  • 70
    New York Magazine (Vulture) - by David Edelstein
    Crudely ­powerful. You can object to the thuggish direction and the script that’s a series of signposts, but not the central idea, which is genuinely illuminating. more

  • 70
    Variety - by Scott Foundas
    There’s no denying, though, that Daniels knows how to push an audience’s buttons, and as crudely obvious as The Butler can’s also genuinely rousing. By the end, it’s hard not to feel moved, if also more than a bit manhandled. more

  • 67
    The A.V. Club - by Ben Kenigsberg
    As history, The Butler’s parade of famous moments and figures is superficial to the point of trivialization, reducing years of turmoil to glib sound bites. But in its square, melodramatic way, the movie has a serious point to make. more

  • 64 - by Laremy Legel
    Full of truth that's ultimately diluted by a lack of focus. more

  • 63
    Rolling Stone - by Peter Travers
    It's watching Cecil open his eyes, in Whitaker's reflective, powerfully understated performance, that fills this flawed film with potency and purpose. Striving really does bring its own glory. more

  • 63
    Miami Herald - by Rene Rodriguez
    Lee Daniels’ The Butler is creaky and sentimental and schmaltzy. The movie lacks any of the unhinged qualities of Daniels’ previous films (The Paperboy, Precious, Shadowboxer). more

  • 63
    New York Post - by Lou Lumenick
    Although director Lee Daniels dials things down a bit here, subtlety is not what he does. That strategy worked for “Precious’’ but turned his more recent “The Paperboy’’ into a feature-length howler. more

  • 63
    Movie Nation - by Roger Moore
    The patchwork story and pacing robs The Butler of the wit and heart that might have made it a companion piece to the far simpler and more powerful “The Help.” Daniels settles for a soapy, preachy American history version of “Downton Abbey.” more

  • 60
    Wall Street Journal - by Joe Morgenstern
    The butler, Cecil Gaines, is a fictional creation, an African-American Forrest Gump who bears special witness to the civil-rights movement while serving on the White House staff under seven presidents. The contrivance is stretched to its breaking point over a running time of 132 minutes; some of the episodes cross a different line from almost plausible to downright silly. That's not the whole story, though. ...

  • 60 - by Andrew O'Hehir
    Lee Daniels’ The Butler is big, brave, crude and contradictory, very bad in places and very good in others, and every American should see it. more

  • 60
    Time Out New York - by Keith Uhlich
    Viewers familiar with Daniels’s idiosyncratically vulgar work might be disappointed that there’s little here that compares to Nicole Kidman loosing a yellow stream on Zac Efron’s jellyfish stings in "The Paperboy" (2012). more

  • 60
    The Hollywood Reporter - by Todd McCarthy
    Inspiring if not inspired, Lee Daniels' The Butler is a sort of Readers' Digest overview of the 20th century American civil rights movement centered on an ordinary individual with an extraordinary perspective. more

  • 58
    The Playlist - by Kimber Myers
    Lee Daniels’ The Butler could be an important film that comes at a time where race is still a challenging topic for America, but it succeeds less as a film than as a history lesson. more

  • 50
    San Francisco Chronicle - by Mick LaSalle
    A nice idea for a movie, but has a mostly silly script and some of the craziest and most laughable casting imaginable. But the movie's main challenge is a simple one: It is very difficult, next to impossible, to build a movie around an inert, inactive character. more

  • 40
    The Dissolve - by Nathan Rabin
    Instead of committing wholeheartedly to telling the story of a single family, Daniels gets distracted trying to tell the story of our nation’s complicated racial history. more

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