7.3/10
70,525
243 user 88 critic

Amistad (1997)

Trailer
2:32 | Trailer
In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.

Director:

Steven Spielberg

Writer:

David Franzoni
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Popularity
4,058 ( 57)
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 39 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Morgan Freeman ... Theodore Joadson
Nigel Hawthorne ... Martin Van Buren
Anthony Hopkins ... John Quincy Adams
Djimon Hounsou ... Cinque
Matthew McConaughey ... Roger Sherman Baldwin
David Paymer ... Secretary John Forsyth
Pete Postlethwaite ... Holabird
Stellan Skarsgård ... Tappan
Razaaq Adoti ... Yamba
Abu Bakaar Fofanah Abu Bakaar Fofanah ... Fala
Anna Paquin ... Queen Isabella
Tomas Milian ... Calderon
Chiwetel Ejiofor ... Ensign Covey
Derrick N. Ashong Derrick N. Ashong ... Buakei
Geno Silva ... Ruiz
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Storyline

Amistad is the name of a slave ship travelling from Cuba to the U.S. in 1839. It is carrying a cargo of Africans who have been sold into slavery in Cuba, taken on board, and chained in the cargo hold of the ship. As the ship is crossing from Cuba to the U.S., Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), who was a tribal leader in Africa, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. They continue to sail, hoping to find their way back to Africa. Instead, they are misdirected and when they reach the United States, they are imprisoned as runaway slaves. They don't speak a word of English, and it seems like they are doomed to die for killing their captors when an abolitionist lawyer decides to take their case, arguing that they were free citizens of another country and not slaves at all. The case finally gets to the Supreme Court, where John Quincy Adams (Sir Anthony Hopkins) makes an impassioned and eloquent plea for their release. Written by M Parkinson, Sarasota, FL, USA

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A true story. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some scenes of strong brutal violence and some related nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie prompted a lawsuit by writer Barbara Chase-Riboud, who alleged the screenplay for this movie plagiarized her book "Echo of Lions", a fictionalized account of the Amistad incident. The book had been pitched to Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Amblin executives met with Chase-Riboud, turned down that project, then made this movie. Amistad writer David Franzoni had previously been hired, by a different production company, to write a screenplay based explicitly on "Echo of Lions", and his Amidstad script replicated fictional elements, characters, and situations invented by Chase-Riboud. Spielberg's lawyer called the suit baseless, and disparaged the Chase-Riboud book, while Franzoni claimed he'd never read it. The suit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount, on the condition the author make statements publicly supporting the movie. See more »

Goofs

When the Africans are loading up on fresh water, an American ship cruises by with a long stream of water pouring from the side, presumably discharge from a pump or engine. The discharge is near the water line, it's not raining, and the sea is calm. Even under those conditions, the water on deck would flow over the side, not form a long stream. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ruiz: [to Pedro Montes] That one wants us to sail them back. That one thinks he can sail all the way back without us.
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Crazy Credits

The events depicted did not historically occur at Fort El Morro See more »

Alternate Versions

The board of film censors of Jamaica have excised the opening scenes, depicting a violent slave uprising on a ship, from all copies of the film released in Jamaican theatres. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Chump Change (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Dry Your Tears, Afrika
(Choral text of Dry Your Tears, Afrika)
Exerpted from the poem by Bernard Dadié
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User Reviews

 
A film unfairly compared to box office winners that should have received far more recognition.
10 December 1998 | by BACK-2See all my reviews

I do not attend more than a handful of movies a year at a theatre. I rent far more videos, Amistad being one of them. As I recall, Amistad did not wow the theatrical audiences big-time. But the expression "big-time" seems to indicate numbers of dollars and attendees. I am also a big fan of Anthony Hopkins and remember him as a compelling actor long before his Oscar role. I believe that he and the African actor Djimon Hounsou should have been seriously considered for acting awards. I don't recall that any were given or even suggested. The cinematography, set decoration, lighting, and editing were extraordinary. I was reminded that interior spaces in the 1830's were not garishly lit Hollywood sets with dramatic shadows. Perhaps the costuming was a bit overdone. Many of the actors appeared "dressed". The most emotionally devastating episodes for me were the barbaric transporting and drowning of the slaves. I literally held my hands over my face as these scenes unfolded. I hope this film lives on to become a classic. My respect for Spielberg's artistry has been taken to another level. Other viewers have commented on static qualities of this film. Well, folks, This was not "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Judgement at Nuremberg"; it was historic filmmaking in more than one way. It was accurate, literate, and not politically correct or incorrect. Bravo, Dreamworks!


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Mende | Spanish | Portuguese

Release Date:

25 December 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amistad See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$36,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,573,523, 14 December 1997

Gross USA:

$44,229,441

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$44,229,441
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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