61 user 91 critic

13th (2016)

2:15 | Trailer
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 29 wins & 44 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Melina Abdullah Melina Abdullah ... Herself - Interviewee
Michelle Alexander ... Herself - Interviewee
Cory Booker ... Himself - Interviewee
Dolores Canales Dolores Canales ... Herself - Interviewee
Gina Clayton Gina Clayton ... Herself - Interviewee
Jelani Cobb Jelani Cobb ... Himself - Interviewee
Malkia Cyril Malkia Cyril ... Herself - Interviewee
Angela Davis ... Herself - Interviewee
Craig DeRoche ... Himself - Interviewee
David Dinkins David Dinkins ... Himself - Interviewee
Baz Dreisinger Baz Dreisinger ... Herself - Interviewee
Kevin Gannon Kevin Gannon ... Himself - Interviewee
Henry Louis Gates ... Himself - Interviewee (as Henry Louis Gates Jr.)
Marie Gottschalk Marie Gottschalk ... Herself - Interviewee
Newt Gingrich ... Himself - Interviewee


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


TV-MA | See all certifications »






Release Date:

7 October 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The 13th See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Kandoo Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

D-Cinema 48kHz 5.1

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. 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 The Colbert Report (2005) See more »


Heavy Blue Muse
Written by Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran
Performed by Alicia Hall Moran
Courtesy of Yes Records
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User Reviews

A Mess
18 April 2017 | by TigerHeronSee all my reviews

This movie has some good information about the prison-industrial complex. But it contains misleading and even inaccurate information, conflates so many different things it becomes a jumbled mess and even ends up contradicting itself.

The film does a good job, more than 30 minutes into its footage, of beginning to explain how many laws have been passed and prisons built solely for the purpose of corporate profits. What it doesn't explain is how and why the public supported those laws and prisons. The public didn't support mass incarceration in the 80s and 90s because of racism, which seems to be the film's argument. The public supported tough-on-crime measures because there was a massive crime wave related to the crack cocaine epidemic.If you are under 45 you wouldn't remember this, but Blackcommunities in the inner cities were under siege, with drive-by-shootings a regular occurrence. A local TV news station in Washington DC had a nightly program called "City Under Siege." You don't hear about this in Ava Duvernay's film. Her perspective seems to be that the crack epidemic was a fiction invented by white people. It most definitely was not a fiction and there was no similarity between the heavily armed drug gangs having shootouts on city streets and the suburban powder cocaine dealer who didn't own a gun and made home deliveries. If you want to know a bit what the crack epidemic and the drug gang shoot-outs were like see the films "New Jack City" and "Boyz in the Hood" which by the way were made by black people.

Is the prison-industrial complex because of corporate greed, or is it because of racism? It can't be both because corporate greed doesn't care about racism. Incarcerating white people is also profitable.

The film swings wildly at one point from Bill Clinton's policies such as "three strikes you're out" to the murder of Fred Hampton by police which I think took place around 1970, then to the fact Martin Luther King Jr. had an FBI file. The notion seems to be that it's all about black people being oppressed by law enforcement but it's offensive to conflate a petty criminal with a Black Panther with a non-violent protest leader. They all become the same, black victims, in this film. Historical epochs are meaningless in Duvernay's view because she thinks nothing has changed. This film is intellectually dishonest and verges on being paranoid.

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