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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 78,976 users   Metascore: 66/100
Reviews: 310 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?


Matthew McConaughey was cast as John F. Kennedy, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. James Franco was considered to replace him. See more »


Carol Hammie has an obvious piercing hole in her nose. That wouldn't have been fashionable in the 1950's. 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 #7.34 (2013) See more »


Out Of Sight
Written and Performed by James Brown
Courtesy of Universal Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

absorbing and rewarding drama
14 November 2013 | by See all my reviews

The Butler looks at the civil-rights movement from the point of view of ordinary African-American people. The genius of this film is the choice of a white house servant and his life as a focal point to the historical events portrayed.

The drama is both absorbing and emotionally rich. What is surprising is the way that sympathy for Whitaker's central character, Cecil Gaines, is so strong that the events, though sprawling, always resonate as intricate pieces of his life; because of this anchor, the film remains intimate and personal, even when the fate of an entire nation is involved.

Each actor excels here, the reason for this is that they, while obviously being highly talented individuals, are led by a commanding director who knows exactly what he's saying at all times, while keeping all the complexity of his subject matter.

You could say this is an African-American Forrest Gump: the story of an everyman whose fate collides repeatedly with historical figures and events, but The Butler is far more mature and subtle work which, beyond race, questions our roles as men and women in our daily lives. It questions and explores moral responsibility and how from generation to generation we can all search for what is the right moral conduct in the face of opposition, oppression and evil. It also shows how we can make a profound difference in life through dedication, integrity and love.

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

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Recent Posts
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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