Tensions rise when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927.


George C. Wolfe


Ruben Santiago-Hudson (screenplay by), August Wilson (based on the play written by)
136 ( 113)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 74 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 | Plot Synopsis


It would be an empty world without the blues. See more »


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?


With this film, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson become the first persons of color to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. See more »


Levee: Life ain't shit. You can put it in a paper bag and carry it around with you. It ain't got no balls. Now death... . death got some style. Death will kick your ass and make you wish you never been born. That's how bad death is. But you can rule over life. Life ain't nothing. Nigga talking about life is fair and ain't got a pot to piss in.
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 »


Hear Me Talking to You
Written by Ma Rainey (as Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey)
Produced and Arranged by Branford Marsalis
See more »

User Reviews

In memoriam
18 December 2020 | by gsygsySee all my reviews

First things first. Chadwick Boseman gives a performance like nothing you've ever seen. The rest of the cast, led by the legend that is Viola Davis, is, as might be expected, tip-top, but Mr Boseman flies ever higher in every scene.

The film is based on a famous play by a great playwright who chose to write with a sense of melodrama that can still work in the theatre but somehow feels dated when transfered to the screen. The camera has to cope with the sheer size of performance necessary to capture set-piece speeches, which go against the grain of image-led cinema. Renowned Broadway director George C Wolfe gets the actors to the right temperature, but then has to find a way to make the project cinematic. The solutions here, apart from minimal opening out from the claustrophobia of the recording studio setting, are some mobile camera work and quite a bit of nimble editing. Curiously, though, these strategies simply emphasise the work's stage origins. What do work are the close-ups. They bring us closer to the characters than can ever happen on a stage. With an ensemble as fine as this one, the more close-ups the better.

So, MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM, like the film of Wilson's play FENCES, is not satisfying as a movie, but as a record of a powerful play. Both well worth seeing. MA RAINEY is the greater, because of Chadwick Boseman. What an amazing actor. What a loss. What a legacy.

42 of 71 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 389 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »


Official Sites:

Official site





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 »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed