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12 Years a Slave (2013)

R  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  8 November 2013 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 385,621 users   Metascore: 97/100
Reviews: 651 user | 587 critic | 48 from Metacritic.com

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.



(screenplay), (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)
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Top Rated Movies #181 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 223 wins & 295 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dickie Gravois ...
Judge Turner
Mr. Moon
Mister Mackey Jr. ...


Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life. Written by Fox Searchlight

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

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Release Date:

8 November 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Twelve Years a Slave  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$923,715 (USA) (18 October 2013)


$56,667,870 (USA) (2 May 2014)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Steve McQueen's daughter told him to hire Sarah Paulson after viewing her audition tape because she found her scary. See more »


When Solomon is being sold to Master Ford, the two nude women in the background both have shaved pubic hair, something virtually impossible in the 1840s. See more »


[first lines]
Overseer: Alright now, y'all fresh niggers. Y'all gonna be in the cuttin' gang.
See more »


Referenced in Cat Run 2 (2014) See more »


Run Nigger Run
Collected, Adapted and Arranged by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax
Performed by Paul Dano (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

McQueen's epic is beautiful and tragic anchored by sensational performances...
14 September 2013 | by (New Jersey) – See all my reviews

Read More @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com)

One of the things that have been thrown around for months now is the notion that awards season voting bodies won't respond to it because it's too "difficult" to sit through. Let's define difficult, shall we? Is it difficult to see the first openly gay politician gunned down by his closeted colleague? Is it difficult to see a reformed convict put to death by our country for his crimes? Is it difficult to see a mother choose which one of her children dies during the Holocaust? I'd argue that these answers add up to a resounding yes. Yet, no one threw those phrases of "too difficult" around.

I've watched hundreds of films throughout my short 29-year history and I've seen some difficult cinema. Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" can make anyone quiver in shame as it shows the despicable reality of the Holocaust. Paul Greengrass' "United 93", which is almost an emotional biopic of America's darkest hour, makes me want to crawl up into a ball and cry. And finally, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", one of the highest grossing films of all-time, shows the labor of our sins fleshed out into the beaten skin of an honest man. And still, no one threw these hyperbolic terms out saying, "it's too hard watch." Is it because this is an American tragedy, done by Americans? Is it the guilt of someone's ancestors manifesting it in your tear ducts? I can't answer that. Only the person who says it can. The structure of this country is built on the backs and blood of slaves. But slavery didn't just exist in America, it was everywhere. It was horrifying what occurred for over 200 years and believe it or not, still exists in some parts of the world TODAY.

Now when approaching the powerful film by McQueen and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, there is a resounding honesty that McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley inhabit. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no cheap takes on a side story or character that is put there for time filling or a life-lesson for Solomon to learn. Everything is genuine. Is the film heartbreaking? Oh my God yes. Did I cry for several minutes after the screening? Embarrassingly so. I was enamored the entire time, head to toe, moment to moment.

I have long admired the talent that's been evident in the works of Chiwetel Ejiofor. I've known he was capable of what he has accomplished as Solomon Northup and he hits it out of the park. He has the urgency, worry, and drive to get home to his family and executes every emotion flawlessly even when all hope seems to be lost. Where he shines incredibly are the small nuances that he takes as the story slows down, you notice aspects of Solomon that make him even more believable.

As Edwin Epps, Solomon's last owner, Michael Fassbender digs down deep into some evil territory. Acts as the "Amon Goeth" of our tale, he is exactly what you'd expect a person who believes this should be a way of life to behave. He's vile and strikes fear into not only the people he interacts with but with the viewers who watch. As Mrs. Epps, Sarah Paulson is just as wretched. Abusive, conniving, entitled, and I loved every second of her.

Mark my words; Lupita Nyong'o is the emotional epicenter of the entire film. The heartache, tears, and anger that will grow inside during the feature will have our beautiful "Patsey" at the core. She is the great find of our film year and will surely go on to more dynamic and passionate projects in the future. You're watching the birth of a star.

Hans Zimmer puts forth a very pronounced score, enriched with all the subtle ticks that strike the chords of tone. One thing that cannot be denied is the exquisite camera work of Sean Bobbit. Weaving through the parts of boat and then through the grassroots of a cotton field, he puts himself in the leagues of Roger Deakins and Seamus McGarvey as one of the most innovative and exciting DP's in the business. Especially following his work in "The Place Beyond the Pines" earlier this year. Simply marvelous.

Oscar chances, since I know many of you are wondering. Put the Oscar's in my hands, you have a dozen nominations reap for the taking. Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor, dual Supporting Actresses, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score. There's also a strong and rich sound scope that is present. The sounds of nature as the slaves walk or as Solomon approaches his master's house is noticed. The big question is, can it win? I haven't seen everything yet so I cannot yet if it deserves it or not. I can say, if critics and audiences can get off this "difficult" watch nonsense and accept the cinematic endeavor as a look into our own history as told from a great auteur, there's no reason it can't top the night. I'm very aware that seeing this film along with Steve McQueen crowned by Oscar is nearly erasing 85 years of history in the Academy. Are they willing and ready to begin looking into new realms and allowing someone not necessarily in their inner circles to make a bold statement as McQueen and Ridley take in "12 Years a Slave?" I remain hopeful.

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so... basically the US were worse than the Third Reich? Uwinator
No wonder Blacks hate Whites Tidlefriction
I'm not White or American and this movie made me really ashamed bobloblah
Good film, but the direction/editing kept it from being great for me Goosfrabah
Why didn't Solomon mail the letter himself next time he went into town? alanwald-1
Mistress Shaw img54-1
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