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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 79,037 users   Metascore: 66/100
Reviews: 311 user | 291 critic | 47 from

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 (

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?


First inspired by a feature article published November 7, 2008, in the Washington Post: "A Butler Well Served by This Election." See more »


In the long shot of the White House dated 1957, the fence along Pennsylvania Avenue has concrete barriers. They were installed after the Beirut bombings in 1983. In a later scene, using an old film image, the barriers aren't there. See more »


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


Features Barney Miller (1974) See more »


Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed On Freedom
Arranged by Clark J. Knighten
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

It could have been much better
19 August 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Although the movie is based on a true story, a story that is very interesting, the producers couldn't leave it alone. Instead, they tampered with it so much that they made such an interesting story, uninteresting.

The only bright spot in the movie is Forest Whitaker. Given what he had to work with, he did a superb job of playing Eugene Allen. Allen was a humble man and Whitaker captures that humility. Originally, Denzel Washington was selected to play the part but it is unlikely that Washington, as good an actor as he is, could portray a humble man.

One of he big weaknesses in the film was the supporting cast. Oprah Winfrey was miscast as the butlers wife. That really distracted from Goines. Oprah came across as much too strong a personality as if the film was centered around her instead of Goines and her acting was mediocre. In real life, the story was about Allen, and not about his wife, but Oprah made the film as much about her as Allen. There are two explanations for writing the story to include Oprah. Either, the producers wanted her star power, or more likely, they needed her money to produce the film and had to cast her in the movie to get it.

Other than the strong performance by Whitaker, about the redeeming thing about the movie is that at least viewers are aware of the basic theme of the story, as fictionalized as it is, is that there was a butler of color that served eight presidents, was invited by one president to an official dinner, and got to see a man of color elected president. But we all could have learned that if it had been made a TV documentary rather than a crappy movie.

73 of 131 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
Who else found the casting too distracting ? Dubdub1974
What was with the random Obama propganda? starcraftbw88
Why did the director put his own name in the title? Effervesce
How was Warner able to supress the Black staff's salaries for so long? angus052394
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