An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.


Ava DuVernay
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 32 wins & 43 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Melina Abdullah ... Self - Chair, Pan-African Studies, California State University, Los Angeles
Michelle Alexander ... Self - Educator and Author, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Cory Booker ... Self - U.S. Senator (D) New Jersey
Dolores Canales ... Self - Formerly Incarcerated Activist / Co-Founder of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Gina Clayton ... Self - Attorney and Founder, Essie Justice Group
Jelani Cobb ... Self - Professor of African-American Studies, University of Connecticut
Malkia Cyril ... Self - Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice
Angela Davis ... Self - Professor Emerita, UC Santa Cruz
Craig DeRoche ... Self - Formerly Incarcerated Activist / President, Justice Fellowship
David Dinkins ... Self - 106th Mayor of New York City (D)
Baz Dreisinger ... Self - Educator and Author, Incarceration Nations
Kevin Gannon ... Self - Professor of History, Grandview University
Henry Louis Gates Jr. ... Self - Professor of History, Harvard University
Marie Gottschalk ... Self - Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Newt Gingrich ... Self - 50th Speaker of the House of Representatives (R), 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate


The film begins with the idea that 25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world's population. "13th" charts the explosive growth in America's prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million. The documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation"; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan's declaration of the war on drugs and much more. Written by Ulf Kjell Gür

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Did You Know?


The filming locations and production design of the interviews, with brick walls and industrial equipment, represent labor that, according to DuVernay, "has been stolen from black people in this country for centuries." See more »


Barack Obama: So let's look at the statistics. The United States is home to 5% of the world's population. But 25% of the world's prisoners.
See more »


Features The Colbert Report (2005) See more »


There's a Man Going 'Round Taking Names
Arranged by Jason Moran
Performed by Jason Moran and Lawrence Brownlee
Courtesy of NPR
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User Reviews

In response
8 October 2016 | by akaj95See all my reviews

There is something to be said of a person who does not know when to stop and listen a message that has left them in the past. I watched this film and cried because I have spent my adult life keeping myself and my children out of the "system". I have spent teaching my children that they are more than what white society is trying to pin on them. To read a review that basically regurgitates all of the right leaning rhetoric that, if they watched the film, started at the very beginning of slavery. The US was/is built on the backs of other races that the US has no intention acknowledge. The history that is taught in the US not only white washes (pun intended) but also teaches to have pride in a misrepresented history. To find out what contributions brown and black people made to this country is an elective in college that most white Americans will never even glance at. So to say that this film is one sided...yes it is but white America has had it one sided for over 400 years with all the strength, weight, industrial, and political power at its disposal. SO, go a look at the history from a perspective other than Rush Limbaugh and the like. You just might finally understand that brown and black lives are not a tool for whites to use at a whim but humans that have the RIGHT to be treated the same......

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Release Date:

7 October 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The 13th See more »


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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

D-Cinema 48kHz 5.1

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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