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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 80,692 users   Metascore: 66/100
Reviews: 312 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?


Melissa Leo was cast as Mamie Eisenhower, but her scenes were cut. See more »


During the Barack Obama campaign scenes on the porch, Cecil wears an "Organizing for America" T-shirt. "Organizing for America" was the post-inauguration Obama organization, started in 2009. During the 2008 campaign it was "Obama for America." See more »


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


Referenced in Chelsea Lately: Episode #7.189 (2013) See more »


Party Is A Groovy Thing
Written by Frankie Brunson
Performed by People's Choice
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

highest accolades
18 August 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'll start by stating that I'm a 62 year old white male. I did not grow up in the South - but I did live for a year in Louisiana in the early 70's. I lived through every news event that was portrayed in the movie

  • that is, I saw and read about them in the actual news when these

things happened. Many posters on the boards say that the movie is inaccurate. Then they go on to say things like: His name was changed, he didn't have 2 sons, he didn't look anything like Forest Whitaker, Nixon was miscast, etc. True, the details of The Butler's family life have been dramatized. That is called movie making. The movie was historically accurate in every important way. I don't say that every single detail was true, nor am I saying the portrayal of these historical events was 100% exactly as portrayed. But it is far more accurate (and important) than your average popcorn POS that pervades the theaters these days. I want to state that I have rarely, if ever, been as emotionally affected by any movie. It is brilliant, provocative, artistic, and has a social purpose. Like it or not, persons of African descent have been victimized, downtrodden, brutalized, persecuted, tortured, lynched, raped, and murdered - and only because of their skin color. HOORAY to Lee Daniels for making this movie! Hooray to Forest for being a sensitive, intelligent, highly gifted actor. Hooray to Oprah, whose performance is beyond stellar. Hooray to anyone involved with this movie. Not to say that ALL movies have to take you to the places that this movie does. I guess there is a place for Pacific Rim and Wolverine. So if you think that movies have no business delving into our racist and brutal history, then see one of those movies. But to say that this movie is irrelevant or inaccurate - well, as I said I lived through it all. It is not. What it is, is an exceptional, mature movie for those that want a little more than monsters (the fictional kind). My wife and I went through a whole packet of tissues - we were blubbering like fools. BRAVO!!!!! 9 (rather than 10) stars only because the 10 star reviews are often discounted as over- the-top hero worship. But if Ironman, The Avengers, etc are 10 stars (and I liked those), this movie rates 100 stars - because it is 10X better, more important, more relevant, and more thought provoking.

369 of 513 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why cast Oprah? AndroYoussef
The first time a white man ever stuck his neck out for us? bbb984
Why did the director put his own name in the title? Effervesce
Who else found the casting too distracting ? Dubdub1974
What was with the random Obama propganda? starcraftbw88
JFK was a pos. malcomx-42598
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