12 Years a Slave (2013)

# 11242 IMDb TOP250 #199

12 Years a Slave (2013

taglineThe extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup

Director: Steve McQueen

Stars: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Giamatti

Biography, Drama, History (2h 14min)


Rated 8.1 after 563,151 votes, 96% postive reviews on 25-Jan-19.

Won OscarWon OscarWon OscarNominated for OscarNominated for OscarNominated for OscarNominated for OscarNominated for OscarNominated for Oscar
Won 3 Oscars. Another 235 wins & 326 nominations


In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.


Steve McQueen (director) Chiwetel Ejiofor Dwight Henry Bryan Batt Ashley Dyke Kelsey Scott Quvenzhané Wallis

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup), Dwight Henry (Uncle Abram), Dickie Gravois (Overseer), Bryan Batt (Judge Turner), Ashley Dyke (Anna), Kelsey Scott (Anne Northup), Quvenzhané Wallis (Margaret Northup), Cameron Zeigler (Alonzo Northup), Tony Bentley (Mr. Moon), Scoot McNairy (Brown), Taran Killam (Hamilton), Christopher Berry (Burch), Bill Camp (Radburn), Mister Mackey Jr. (Randall), Chris Chalk (Clemens), Craig Tate (John), Adepero Oduye (Eliza), Storm Reid (Emily), Tom Proctor (Biddee), Marc Macaulay (Captain), Vivian Fleming-Alvarez (Mulatto Woman), Michael Kenneth Williams (Robert (as Michael Kenneth Williams)), Douglas M. Griffin (Sailor), John McConnell (Jonus Ray), Marcus Lyle Brown (Jasper), Richard Holden (Fitzgerald), Rob Steinberg (Parker), Paul Giamatti (Freeman), Anwan Glover (Cape), Benedict Cumberbatch (Ford), James C. Victor (Buyer (as J.C. Victor)), Liza J. Bennett (Mistress Ford), Nicole Collins (Rachel), J.D. Evermore (Chapin), Paul Dano (Tibeats), Michael Fassbender (Edwin Epps), Sarah Paulson (Mistress Epps), Lupita Nyong'o (Patsey), Andy Dylan (Treach), Deneen Tyler (Phebe)...

From the same director


John Ridley (screenplay by), Solomon Northup (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)

Produced by

Dede Gardner (producer), Anthony Katagas (producer), Jeremy Kleiner (producer), Steve McQueen (producer), Arnon Milchan (producer), Brad Pitt (producer), Bill Pohlad (producer), John Ridley (executive producer), Tessa Ross (executive producer), Bianca Stigter (associate producer)



One of the things that have been thrown around for months now is the notion that awards season voting bodies won't respond to it because it's too "difficult" to sit through. Let's define difficult, shall we? Is it difficult to see the first openly gay politician gunned down by his closeted colleague? Is it difficult to see a reformed convict put to death by our country for his crimes? Is it difficult to see a mother choose which one of her children dies during the Holocaust? I'd argue that these answers add up to a resounding yes. Yet, no one threw those phrases of "too difficult" around.

I've watched hundreds of films throughout my short 29-year history and I've seen some difficult cinema. Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" can make anyone quiver in shame as it shows the despicable reality of the Holocaust. Paul Greengrass' "United 93", which is almost an emotional biopic of America's darkest hour, makes me want to crawl up into a ball and cry. And finally, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", one of the highest grossing films of all-time, shows the labor of our sins fleshed out into the beaten skin of an honest man. And still, no one threw these hyperbolic terms out saying, "it's too hard watch." Is it because this is an American tragedy, done by Americans? Is it the guilt of someone's ancestors manifesting it in your tear ducts? I can't answer that. Only the person who says it can. The structure of this country is built on the backs and blood of slaves. But slavery didn't just exist in America, it was everywhere. It was horrifying what occurred for over 200 years and believe it or not, still exists in some parts of the world TODAY.

Now when approaching the powerful film by McQueen and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, there is a resounding honesty that McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley inhabit. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no cheap takes on a side story or character that is put there for time filling or a life-lesson for Solomon to learn. Everything is genuine. Is the film heartbreaking? Oh my God yes. Did I cry for several minutes after the screening? Embarrassingly so. I was enamored the entire time, head to toe, moment to moment.

I have long admired the talent that's been evident in the works of Chiwetel Ejiofor. I've known he was capable of what he has accomplished as Solomon Northup and he hits it out of the park. He has the urgency, worry, and drive to get home to his family and executes every emotion flawlessly even when all hope seems to be lost. Where he shines incredibly are the small nuances that he takes as the story slows down, you notice aspects of Solomon that make him even more believable.

As Edwin Epps, Solomon's last owner, Michael Fassbender digs down deep into some evil territory. Acts as the "Amon Goeth" of our tale, he is exactly what you'd expect a person who believes this should be a way of life to behave. He's vile and strikes fear into not only the people he interacts with but with the viewers who watch. As Mrs. Epps, Sarah Paulson is just as wretched. Abusive, conniving, entitled, and I loved every second of her.

Mark my words; Lupita Nyong'o is the emotional epicenter of the entire film. The heartache, tears, and anger that will grow inside during the feature will have our beautiful "Patsey" at the core. She is the great find of our film year and will surely go on to more dynamic and passionate projects in the future. You're watching the birth of a star.

Hans Zimmer puts forth a very pronounced score, enriched with all the subtle ticks that strike the chords of tone. One thing that cannot be denied is the exquisite camera work of Sean Bobbit. Weaving through the parts of boat and then through the grassroots of a cotton field, he puts himself in the leagues of Roger Deakins and Seamus McGarvey as one of the most innovative and exciting DP's in the business. Especially following his work in "The Place Beyond the Pines" earlier this year. Simply marvelous.

Oscar chances, since I know many of you are wondering. Put the Oscar's in my hands, you have a dozen nominations reap for the taking. Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor, dual Supporting Actresses, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score. There's also a strong and rich sound scope that is present. The sounds of nature as the slaves walk or as Solomon approaches his master's house is noticed. The big question is, can it win? I haven't seen everything yet so I cannot yet if it deserves it or not. I can say, if critics and audiences can get off this "difficult" watch nonsense and accept the cinematic endeavor as a look into our own history as told from a great auteur, there's no reason it can't top the night. I'm very aware that seeing this film along with Steve McQueen crowned by Oscar is nearly erasing 85 years of history in the Academy. Are they willing and ready to begin looking into new realms and allowing someone not necessarily in their inner circles to make a bold statement as McQueen and Ridley take in "12 Years a Slave?" I remain hopeful.

Memorable quotes

Solomon Northup: I don't want to survive. I want to live.

7 total 


This purported nonfiction story, based on a memoir written in 1853, was also the source for the 1984 made-for-TV movie, American Playhouse: Solomon Northup's Odyssey (1984), which starred Avery Brooks.

8 total 


Won 3 Oscars. Another 235 wins & 326 nominations 
Academy Awards, USA • Golden Globes, USA • BAFTA Awards • Screen Actors Guild Awards • AACTA International Awards • AARP Movies for Grownups Awards • Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA • Acapulco Black Film Festival • AFI Awards, USA • African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) • Alliance of Women Film Journalists • American Cinema Editors, USA • American Society of Cinematographers, USA • Art Directors Guild • Austin Film Critics Association • Awards Circuit Community Awards • BAFTA/LA Britannia Awards • BET Awards • Black Film Critics Circle Awards • Black Reel Awards • Boston Online Film Critics Association • Boston Society of Film Critics Awards • British Society of Cinematographers • Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards • Capri, Hollywood • Casting Society of America, USA • Central Ohio Film Critics Association • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards • Chicago International Film Festival • Cinema Bloggers Awards, Portugal • Cinema for Peace Awards • Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain • CinEuphoria Awards • Costume Designers Guild Awards • Críticos de Cinema Online Portugueses Awards • César Awards, France • Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards • David di Donatello Awards • Denver Film Critics Society • Detroit Film Critic Society, US • Directors Guild of America, USA • Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards • Empire Awards, UK • FICE - Federazione Italiana Cinema d'Essai • Film by the Sea International Film Festival • Film Independent Spirit Awards • Florida Film Critics Circle Awards • Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) • Georgia Film Critics Association (GFCA) • Gold Derby Awards • Golden Schmoes Awards • Golden Trailer Awards • Gotham Awards • Guardian Film Awards, UK • Guldbagge Awards • Hamptons International Film Festival • Hollywood Film Awards • Hollywood Post Alliance, US • Houston Film Critics Society Awards • Humanitas Prize • IGN Summer Movie Awards • Image Awards • Indiana Film Journalists Association, US • Indiewire Critics' Poll • International Cinephile Society Awards • International Online Cinema Awards (INOCA) • International Online Film Critics' Poll • Iowa Film Critics Awards • Irish Film and Television Awards • Ischia Global Film & Music Festival • Italian Online Movie Awards (IOMA) • Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards • Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards • London Critics Circle Film Awards • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards • Mill Valley Film Festival • Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA • MTV Movie + TV Awards • National Board of Review, USA • National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA • Nevada Film Critics Society • New York Film Critics Circle Awards • New York Film Critics, Online • North Carolina Film Critics Association • North Texas Film Critics Association, US • Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards • Online Film & Television Association • Online Film Critics Society Awards • Palm Springs International Film Festival • PGA Awards • Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards • Richard Attenborough Film Awards, UK • Robert Festival • Russian National Movie Awards • San Diego Film Critics Society Awards • San Francisco Film Critics Circle • Sant Jordi Awards • Satellite Awards • Screenwriters Choice Awards, Online • Seattle Film Critics Awards • SESC Film Festival, Brazil • Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards • St. Louis Film Critics Association, US • Stockholm Film Festival • Toronto Film Critics Association Awards • Toronto International Film Festival • USC Scripter Award • Utah Film Critics Association Awards • Vancouver Film Critics Circle • Village Voice Film Poll • Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards • Women Film Critics Circle Awards • Women's Image Network Awards • World Soundtrack Awards

Other titles

12 Years a Slave (France) • 12 años de esclavitud (Spain) • 12 Anos de Escravidão (Brazil) • 12 let v retezech (Czech Republic) • 12 hronia sklavos (Greece) • 12 év rabszolgaság (Hungary) • 12 anni schiavo (Italy) • Zniewolony (Poland) • 12 Anos Escravo (Portugal) • 12 ani de sclavie (Romania) • 12 godina robovanja (Serbia (alternative title)) • 12 Yillik Esaret (Turkey (Turkish title)) • Twelve Years a Slave (USA (alternative spelling))



Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality


Argentina:16 / Australia:MA15+ / Brazil:14 / Canada:14A (Alberta/British Columbia/Manitoba/Ontario) / Canada:13+ (Quebec) / Finland:K-16 / France:Tous publics (with warning) / Germany:12 / Hong Kong:IIB / Hungary:16 / India:A / Ireland:15A / Japan:PG12 / Mexico:B15 / Netherlands:16 / New Zealand:R16 / Norway:15 / Philippines:R-13 / Portugal:M/16 / Singapore:M18 / South Korea:15 / Sweden:15 / Switzerland:16 / Thailand:15 / UK:15 / USA:R (certificate #48296)


Regency Enterprises (presents), River Road Entertainment (presents), Plan B Entertainment (as Plan B), New Regency Pictures (as New Regency), Film4 (in association with)


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