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Amistad (1997)

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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
3,346 ( 703)
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 9 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 Geno Silva ... Ruiz
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Storyline

Amistad is the name of a slave ship traveling 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, 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 makes an impassioned and eloquent plea for their release. Written by M Parkinson, Sarasota, FL, USA

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Freedom is not given. It is our right at birth. But there are some moments when it must be taken. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Mende | Spanish | Portuguese

Release Date:

25 December 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amistad - Das Sklavenschiff See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$36,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,661,866, 14 December 1997, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$44,175,394, 5 April 1998

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$16,200,000, 15 March 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

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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Did You Know?

Trivia

In real-life, Roger Sherman Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey) was an older, and more experienced lawyer than his character is in the movie. A grandson of Roger Sherman (signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), Baldwin was in his late 40s, and a member of the Connecticut State Senate when he took the defense of the Amistad captives. After the Amistad case, Baldwin was elected Governor, and later U.S. Senator for the state of Connecticut. He died in 1863. See more »

Goofs

Martin Van Buren was never photographed while in office, and in 1839 photography was extremely new technology and not widespread. The first president to be photographed while in office was Van Buren's immediate successor William Henry Harrison in March 1841. Van Buren was photographed in 1845, well after he had left office, but he was not wearing a sash as depicted in the movie. Former Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were also photographed that same year. 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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Referenced in 500 Questions: Episode #1.2 (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean
(1843)
Traditional
Written by David T. Shaw (uncredited)
Arranged by Thomas A. Beckett (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An amazing story of history and freedom
16 February 2008 | by lastliberalSee all my reviews

While theatergoers in 1997 were being amazed by special effects on another ship, this magnificent story given to us by the master director Steven Spielberg gives us the true story of our country and what it means to be American.

We are not free as long as one of us is in chains. As John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) so eloquently put it, "...what are we to do with that embarrassing, annoying document, The Declaration of Independence? What of its conceits? "All men created equal," "inalienable rights," "life, liberty," and so on and so forth?" The Civil War was, indeed, the last battle of The American Revolution.

What a cast! You can search for Fool's Gold or you can watch Matthew McConaughey in her greatest performance as the lawyer who risked it all.

Djimon Hounsou may Never Back Down this year, as he certainly didn't in this film.

Morgan Freeman certainly knows about "Freedom: A History of Us" and he helped the Africans find theirs.

One of the very best films I have ever seen.


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