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Lee Daniels' The Butler (I) (2013)
"The Butler" (original title)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  16 August 2013 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 80,576 users   Metascore: 66/100
Reviews: 313 user | 291 critic | 47 from Metacritic.com

As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.



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Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 16 wins & 47 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mr. Jenkins (as John Fertitta)
White Usher


Cecil Gaines was a sharecropper's son who grew up in the 1920s as a domestic servant for the white family who casually destroyed his. Eventually striking out on his own, Cecil becomes a hotel valet of such efficiency and discreteness in the 1950s that he becomes a butler in the White House itself. There, Cecil would serve numerous US Presidents over the decades as a passive witness of history with the American Civil Rights Movement gaining momentum even as his family has troubles of its own. As his wife, Gloria, struggles with her addictions and his defiant eldest son, Louis, strives for a just world, Cecil must decide whether he should take action in his own way. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One quiet voice can ignite a revolution


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

16 August 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lee Daniels' The Butler  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$24,637,312 (USA) (16 August 2013)


$116,631,310 (USA) (7 February 2014)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


On Gloria's vanity mirror in the bedroom are two pictures of children. One of them is a photo of Oprah Winfrey as a child. See more »


When Cecil talks to Louis at the bus station, as Louis leaves for college, they walk through a motion-activated bi-part sliding door. The scene is set between 1957 and 1961. The first automatic sliding doors were invented in 1960, and were activated by stepping on a floor mat. Motion sensors were developed in the late 1980s. See more »


[first lines]
Cecil Gaines: The only thing I ever knew was cotton. It was hard work.
See more »


Features Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Little Sleep (1957) See more »


Family Reunion
Written by Kenny Gamble (as Kenneth Gamble) and Leon Huff (as Leonard Huff)
Performed by The O'Jays
Courtesy of Philadelphia International Records and Sony Music Entertainment
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Just fiction
28 December 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'd first like to say that Forest Whitaker is a brilliant actor. Had it not been for his artful presence and emotion, this would have been a flop. He deserves 10 stars; the film does not. I'd like to say first that this is not a biopic. There is no Cecil Gaines that worked at the White House. None. This story is loosely (very loosely) based on Eugene Allen who worked at the White House for 34 years. He was from Virginia, never worked in a field, never saw his mother violated nor his father murdered, and did not have a son killed in Vietnam. The film really painted this to be the truth and led patrons to believe it was.

Some of the most patently preposterous casting ever was seen in this film. James Marsden is the only one who even came remotely close. Robin Williams is a horrible Ike Eisenhower. He looks more like Harry Truman on Chemo. John Cusack is a ghastly Richard Nixon. The gross miscasting was very distracting and the cast members exhibited little chemistry. It was if I were watching a poorly edited TV drama in many places.

The civil rights story is fine but we've seen it a hundred times and this parroted many of the good movies already made about this movement. So much of it was clichéd. I would have rather seen a movie about Mr. Allen's interaction with the chief executives than a fictional story about blacks and whites, alcohol abuse, and Jim Crow.

26 of 41 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Why cast Oprah? AndroYoussef
The first time a white man ever stuck his neck out for us? bbb984
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JFK was a pos. malcomx-42598
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