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?


This documentary was nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy award. See more »


Bryan Stevenson: The Bureau of Justice reported that one in three young black males is expected to go to jail or prison during his lifetime, which is an unbelievably shocking statistic.
See more »


Features 12 Years a Slave (2013) See more »


Written by Karl Jenkins, Tarik Collins, Questlove (as Ahmir Thompson), Saigon (as Brian Carenard), Khari Mateen, and Jamal Miller
Performed by The Roots featuring Truck North and Saigon
Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

User Reviews

I stand in amazement
11 October 2016 | by shaunemmonsSee all my reviews

The documentary is an excellent summary of American History. To a larger degree it is important to address some of the comments made. I find several people's comments such as, "don't do the crime, if you can't do the time" indicative of the very systemic racism that was the impetus for the need of such a piece. The comments are very telling and actually say more about the people writing them than do their intentions to demean the documentary by leaving negative reviews.

The fact that people can disregard this for the myriad of completely shallow reasons such as, "I stopped watching when I realized it was against Trump and for Hillary" is laughable. The reality is that you don't want to accept America's REAL history. The documentary was well over an hour and the section about the presidential race was a minute fraction of that.

Again, shallow reasons such as this speak volumes about the people leaving them. America's history is what it is. None of us are proud of these particular aspects or at least you shouldn't be but in an effort to get better we must first accept the truth. This is the truth. Acceptance is the first step towards getting better. It is so not about Trump or Hillary. I almost don't think you actually watched because no reasonably intelligent person would dismiss the piece as you guys did for the reasons you chose.

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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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