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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
3,737 ( 161)
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 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:

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

Producer Debbie Allen wanted Steven Spielberg to direct, but it wasn't until Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List (1993)) submitted a re-write, that he agreed to direct. See more »

Goofs

The ensign flying at the back of the Royal Navy ship during the bombardment of the slave fortress is the wrong way around. The Union Flag in the corner is upside down. 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 »

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 »


Soundtracks

Today We Face The Wall
Traditional West African Chant
Adapted by Arthur Abraham (as Dr. Arthur Abraham), El Hadj Malik Sow and Debbie Allen
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Whoever tells the best story wins
4 May 2006 | by mstomasoSee all my reviews

Amistad is a very well crafted, well acted, and well told story. It is also mostly true to the history of events surrounding the Amistad 'mutiny', and the defense of the Africans responsible for it by John Quincy Adams and a young lawyer named Baldwin. I put the word mutiny in quotes because it is absurd to think of people fighting against murder, enslavement and rape as any form of crime. The film is unabashed about showing us the brutality and outrageousness of the covertly institutionalized slave trade that haunted one of America's darkest, most retrograde periods, and pulls no punches about the cultural differences between its victims, its culprits, and those who felt that it was not their problem.

Amistad ranks as one of McConaughey's finest performances, perhaps his best. But nearly the entire cast is blown off the screen by the passionate, sensitive and profound performance of Djimon Hounsou. Hopkins is good as Adams, but what else is new? Though the film does not have a literary feel - it is pure cinema - it is a truly great story featuring bold characters and a deep and simple emotionality which draws its audience in. Alistad has a spirit that can only be described as truthfulness.

Despite his detractors, Spielburg proves again and again that morally decent films with positive messages can be entertaining and artfully crafted.

Highly recommended.


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