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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 385,278 users   Metascore: 97/100
Reviews: 652 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?


12 Years a Slave is the first film from a black director to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Second film in a row, following Argo (2012) to win Best Picture and a screenplay Oscar without the Best Director Oscar. Fifth film with a numbered-title to win Best Picture, following It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). Twelfth movie to win Best Picture with only three Oscars. A list that includes Casablanca (1942), Midnight Cowboy (1969), The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1976), Crash (2004) & Argo (2012). See more »


There are water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), an invasive aquatic plant native to South America, floating in the swamp. Water hyacinth were not introduced to North America until 1884, when they were exhibited (and subsequently released) during the World's Fair in New Orleans' Audubon Park. See more »


[first lines]
Overseer: Alright now, y'all fresh niggers. Y'all gonna be in the cuttin' gang.
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Roll Jordan Roll
Written by Nicholas Britell
Performed by Topsy Chapman (uncredited) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (uncredited)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Abducted to a Southern hell
22 September 2013 | by (Old London, New England) – See all my reviews

Considering the social and economic importance of slavery in America's history, the scarcity of serious films depicting the daily life of slaves in the Confederate States is significant - especially since the after-effects from this shameful episode still echo through the culture. '12 Years a Slave' is based upon the memoirs of Solomon Northup, who endured a hellish period of enslavement in Louisiana, which is backed up by legal records.

The story begins with him living with wife and children in upstate New York as a free man and respected member of his community. After being lured to Washington by a couple of con-artists who promised him work, he was subsequently drugged, locked in chains, viciously beaten, stripped of his identity and shipped to New Orleans to be sold into slavery. Over the next twelve years, he was owned by two men who treated him in contrasting ways. The first was a relatively civilized fellow, but the plantation's half-witted manager was threatened by Northup's superior intelligence. Their mutual dislike produced a dangerously volatile situation, and unwilling to lose his investment, Northup's owner re-sold him to a neighbor. This unbalanced individual regarded his slaves as property to be used for pleasure and profit, which caused them to live in perpetual fear that his capricious moods would flare into sadistic lust or rage at any moment.

It's noteworthy that a British director has become one of the few filmmakers to delve deeply into this subject, and the combination of John Ridley's powerful script and McQueen's directorial skills has inspired exceptional performances from the entire cast. Their dramatization of Northup's experiences is both riveting and uncomfortable to watch, as the film depicts the perverse nature of a society that permitted such a barbaric system. Hopefully it will reach a large US audience, who will learn how a privileged Southern elite cruelly exploited their fellow humans in order to acquire greater wealth for themselves.

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Message Boards

Recent Posts
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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