7.2/10
95,729
335 user 302 critic

The Butler (2013)

PG-13 | | Biography, Drama | 16 August 2013 (USA)
Trailer
2:02 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

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.

Director:

Writers:

, (article)
Reviews
Popularity
2,965 ( 230)
Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 18 wins & 50 nominations. See more awards »
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Earl Gaines
...
...
Abraham
...
...
...
...
...
...
Mr. Jenkins (as John Fertitta)
...
R.D. Warner
...
Isaac White ...
...
...
White Usher
Edit

Storyline

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 | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

One quiet voice can ignite a revolution

Genres:

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:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 August 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lee Daniels' The Butler  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$24,637,312, 18 August 2013, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$116,632,095

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$176,598,908
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

In the original script, Cecil Gaines meets President Barack Obama. Lee Daniels considered asking the president to play himself. Since the film was shot during the height of the 2012 presidential election, Daniels decided to cast actor Orlando Eric Street in the role instead. The scene was shot but ultimately discarded, and archival footage of the real President Obama was used. See more »

Goofs

During the dinner scene, Cecil claims that Sidney Poitier won the Academy Award in 1968 for In the Heat of the Night. That is not true. It was Rod Steiger who won the Academy Award for the same film. The film also won Best Picture. Poitier won the Award in 1964 for Lilies of the Field, so Cecil may have confused the two. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Donald Trump/Sia (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

We Shall Overcome
Musical and Lyrical adaptation by Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Pete Seeger.
Inspired by African American Gospel Singing, members of the Food & Tobacco Workers Union, Charleston, SC, and the southern Civil Rights Movement.
TRO - (c) Copyright 1960 (Renewed) and 1963 (Renewed) Ludlow Music, Inc., New York
International Copyright Secured Made in U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved Including Public Performance For Profit
Royalties derived from this composition are being contributed to the We Shall Overcome Fund and The Freedom Movement under the Trusteeship of the writers. Used by Permission
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Just fiction
28 December 2013 | by 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.


28 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?
Review this title | See all 335 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

How to Wield a Lightsaber

Legendary sword choreographer Tim Weske teaches our "IMDb Show" Jedis the basics of lightsaber combat. Plus, we break down the origins of some iconic Star Wars creatures.

Watch now