During a recording session, tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues".


George C. Wolfe


Ruben Santiago-Hudson (screenplay by), August Wilson (based on the play written by)
124 ( 9)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 69 wins & 186 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Viola Davis ... Ma Rainey
Chadwick Boseman ... Levee
Colman Domingo ... Cutler
Glynn Turman ... Toledo
Michael Potts ... Slow Drag
Jeremy Shamos ... Irvin
Jonny Coyne ... Sturdyvant
Taylour Paige ... Dussie Mae
Dusan Brown ... Sylvester
Joshua Harto ... Policeman
Quinn VanAntwerp ... Band Singer
Chloe Davis Chloe Davis ... Ma Rainey's Dancer
Mayte Natalio Mayte Natalio ... Ma Rainey's Dancer
Johanna Elmina Moise ... Ma Rainey's Dancer (as Johanna Moise)
Onyxx Noel Onyxx Noel ... Ma Rainey's Dancer

The Legacy of Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman is known for his iconic performances in Get on Up, Black Panther, and his final role in the musical drama Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. IMDb takes a celebratory look at his career in film and television.

Watch the video



Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await trailblazing performer, the legendary "Mother of the Blues," Ma Rainey (Academy Award® winner Viola Davis). Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As the band waits in the studio's claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman) - who has an eye for Ma's girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry - spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories revealing truths that will forever change the course of their lives. Adapted from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play, MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM celebrates the transformative power of the blues and the artists who refuse to let society's prejudices dictate their worth. Directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted for the screen by Ruben ... Written by Netflix

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Everything Comes Out in the Blues.


Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Although Levee is traditionally depicted as a trumpeter, Boseman plays a cornet throughout the film. See more »


Ma Rainey: The blues help you get out of bed in the morning. You get up knowing you ain't alone. There's something else in the world. Something's has been added by that song.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the first part of the credits, actual photographs of the real Ma Rainey and the musicians who inspired the characters in the play are shown. See more »


Referenced in Sky News Breakfast: Episode dated 19 December 2020 (2020) See more »


Deep Moaning Blues
Written by Ma Rainey (as Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey)
Performed by Ma Rainey
Courtesy of Black Swan/GHB Jazz Foundation
See more »

User Reviews

A Play Put On Film
20 December 2020 | by Golden_HopeSee all my reviews

I didn't really know much about this movie going in so i was surprised to find out that it was based on a play but after watching it you can see that fact from a mile off.

The film is soaked in play-like monologues and limited sets and the framing. It works so well. It is such a dialogue heavy movie that it could run the risk of being a little bit slow but it is just that well acted and the dynamics and topics are so well thought out that you find time flying by while watching.

The characters are really 3 dimensional and you understand who they are. This is all backed up by the acting. For the most part everyone in this movie hits it out of the park. i really love Colman Domingo and he really shines in this film. He just has a charm that draws you to any character that he plays. Chadwick was really great too. His emotional scenes really sweep the rug out from under your feet and i really wasn't expecting him to be able to do that he was really great. And Viola Davis is just fantastic. I love how she just dives head first into her characters and just lives in them. It reads so well on screen. She just embodies the role even down to the way she walks is just done to perfection.

There isn't a whole lot of story because it is very character based but it does things to keep it fresh and i found it to be really shocking at times and took turns that you really wouldn't expect.

The costumes are also really well done. I would guess that they would get an Oscar nod because they are fantastic.

I would defiantly see this movie especially if you love character studies and want to feel like you looking though a window into a day in the life of these people.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

18 December 2020 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Black Bottom See more »

Filming Locations:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Netflix See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See full technical specs »

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