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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)

0:30 | Trailer
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)
246 ( 30)
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 39 wins & 170 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

How 'Ma Rainey' Celebrates Unfiltered Black Characters

Viola Davis and her Ma Rainey's Black Bottom co-stars address the power of playwright August Wilson's writing, and how they used his words to create an authentic Black experience.

Watch now



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?


In 2015, Denzel Washington announced that he would be bringing all ten of August Wilson's "Century Cycle" plays to the big or small screen. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the second filmed Wilson adaptation Washington has produced in this cycle, after Fences (2016). In September 2020, Washington told the New York Times that the third film in the series would be The Piano Lesson, and that he hoped to cast his own son John David Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, with Barry Jenkins directing. See more »


Levee: I know what I'm doin'. Let me handle them my way.
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Crazy Credits

Dedicated to Chadwick Boseman In celebration of his artistry and heart See more »


Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Written by Ma Rainey (as Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey)
Produced and Arranged by Branford Marsalis
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User Reviews

Well-acted but unfulfilling
18 December 2020 | by domjames-56539See all my reviews

I thought it was very similar to Fences (2016), another August Wilson adaptation and unfortunately in both I found the dialogue very tedious. The performances in both are good, in this particularly Chadwick Boseman - he has he most to work with. I didn't find any part of the narrative compelling. I enjoyed the music, but so little of the runtime is spent actually playing music. Instead there's an awful lot of wordy bickering. I feel like 50% of the lines could have been cut and you'd be left with the same film.

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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
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