Top 10 Best Movies About Slavery

One of the darkest chapters in human history, slavery has scarred the globe forever.

But through cinema, we can revisit this tragic period of history and bear witness to the bravery and resilience of those who fought against it. So, which movies have best portrayed the horrors of slavery and the fight for freedom?

Best Slavery Movies Of All Time

The following list will take you on a journey through the Best movies about slavery. From the iconic roots of the 1970s to the contemporary and critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave.

We will explore the different perspectives and cinematic styles used to showcase this dark chapter of history. We will also examine the themes and messages behind these movies and how they have influenced the public’s perception of slavery.

Django Unchained (2012)

“Django Unchained” is a western film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, released in 2012. The movie stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a freed slave turned bounty hunter, and Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter who mentors Django.

The supporting cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson.

The plot of the movie follows Django and Schultz as they travel across the United States to free Django’s wife from a cruel plantation owner, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio).

Along the way, they encounter various obstacles and characters, including a group of ruthless slave traders and a clan of Ku Klux Klan members.

The film explores themes of slavery, revenge, and power dynamics in the antebellum South. It is well-known for its intense violence, sharp dialogue, and impressive performances from the cast.

The movie won two Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Waltz.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor play Patsey and Solomon, two slaves on a Louisiana plantation, in 12 Years a Slave.

“12 Years a Slave” is a 2013 film directed by Steve McQueen and focusing on historical drama. Based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free African-American man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery in the Deep South.

In supporting, roles are Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northup.

The film depicts the brutality of slavery in the United States before the Civil War, including the physical and emotional abuse endured by slaves and the psychological toll it takes.

Ejiofor delivers a powerful performance as Northup, a man who must adapt to the harsh realities of his new life while maintaining his identity and fighting for his freedom.

It received three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o, and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley.

Overall, “12 Years a Slave” is a potent and significant film that casts light on the horrifying realities of American slavery.

Anyone interested in understanding this dark period in American history and its lasting impact on our society must view this film.

Ben-Hur (1959)

The 1959 film “Ben-Hur” is a classic historical drama directed by William Wyler.

The film is an adaptation of Lew Wallace’s novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Savior.” The film starring Charlton Heston won an unprecedented eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.

The plot of the film chronicles the life of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince in Jerusalem, who is betrayed by his childhood friend Messala and sentenced to a life of servitude aboard a Roman galley.

After several years, he returns to his homeland to pursue chariot-racing vengeance against Messala. Along the journey, he meets Jesus Christ and witnesses his crucifixion and resurrection.

As Judah Ben-Hur, Charlton Heston gives a mesmerizing performance, depicting the character’s metamorphosis from a proud prince to a humble Christian.

In their respective roles, the supporting cast, including Stephen Boyd as Messala, Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arrius, and Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim, is also exceptional.

In conclusion, “Ben-Hur” is an enduring film masterpiece. Fans of historical epics and classic cinema must view it.

Spartacus (1960)

“Spartacus” is a Stanley Kubrick-directed 1960 historical drama film starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, and Jean Simmons.

It’s based on the real-life gladiator Spartacus, who led a slave rebellion against the Roman Republic.

Spartacus is a slave who is forced to battle in the gladiator arena, and the film follows his struggle for freedom.

With the assistance of his fellow captives, he leads a rebellion against their Roman oppressors. The film depicts the brutal reality of servitude and the Roman Empire’s brutality.

Kirk Douglas gives a commanding performance as Spartacus in the film, which features exceptional acting.

The supporting ensemble, particularly Laurence Olivier as the Roman general Crassus, also delivers strong performances. Additionally notable are the film’s cinematography and production design, which capture the majesty and spectacle of ancient Rome.

“Spartacus” is an epic film that investigates freedom, rebellion, and oppression.

Glory (1989)

“Glory” is a 1989 military drama directed by Edward Zwick and released under the same title. The film is based on the true story of the first all-black volunteer company, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, during the American Civil War.

Matthew Broderick plays Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the 54th regiment, while Denzel Washington portrays Private Trip, one of the regiment’s soldiers.

The movie is an emotional rollercoaster that shows the harsh realities of war and the difficulties faced by black troops who served their country.

Battle sequences are intense and well-executed, paying close attention to the smallest details.

The exceptional soundtrack of “Glory” features the music of James Horner and the cast’s rendition of the classic spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

Amazing Grace (2006)

‘Amazing Grace’ is a historical drama movie that Steven Knight and Michael Apted wrote and produced in 2006.

The film follows the story of English lawmaker William Wilberforce, who played a key role in the movement to end the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The film has a fantastic ensemble, including Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt the Younger, Albert Finney as John Newton, Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner, and Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce.

From his early years as a legislator to his tireless efforts in the British Parliament to outlaw the slave trade, the movie tracks Wilberforce’s journey.

The well-known Christian hymn that is performed throughout the movie and was a favorite of Wilberforce’s inspired the title of the movie.

African-American spirituals and classic hymns are featured in the film’s score, which is especially noteworthy and heightens the tension.

Lincoln (2012)

“Lincoln” is a biographical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 2012. The movie stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and features an impressive supporting cast including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, and David Strathairn.

The story of “Lincoln” takes place during the final months of the Civil War and focuses on Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment, which would abolish slavery in the United States.

The film provides an in-depth look at the political maneuvering and behind-the-scenes negotiations that took place during this time, as well as Lincoln’s personal struggles with the weight of his office and the impact of the war on his family.

Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln is nothing short of remarkable, capturing both the President’s quiet dignity and his wry sense of humor.

The rest of the cast is equally strong, with Sally Field giving a particularly moving performance as Mary Todd Lincoln.

One of the most impressive aspects of “Lincoln” is the attention to detail in recreating the time period.

The production design, costumes, and cinematography all work together to transport the audience back to the 1860s.

Amistad (1997)

“Amistad” is a historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1997.

The movie portrays the story of the 1839 mutiny on board the Spanish slave ship La Amistad and the subsequent legal battle in the United States to determine the fate of the captives.

The film stars Djimon Hounsou as Sengbe Pieh, a West African Mende tribesman who leads the revolt, and Anthony Hopkins as former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who is hired to represent the Africans in court.

The cast also includes Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, and Nigel Hawthorne.

The movie captures the complexity of the slavery issue and the struggles faced by the captives as they try to gain their freedom.

It highlights the legal battles that ensued, which eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The courtroom scenes are particularly engaging and powerful, showcasing the persuasive oratory skills of Adams in arguing for the rights of the Africans.

Burn! (2008)

Burn is a gripping documentary film that tells the story of the Detroit Fire Department and its struggles to combat one of the highest arson rates in the country.

Directed by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, the film follows the lives of several firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to save their city from the flames.

The film is set during the 2008 financial crisis, and the impact of the economic downturn is evident in the city’s abandoned buildings and the desperation of those who set them alight.

The firefighters are shown as heroes who are willing to risk their lives to save the city, but they also struggle with their own personal demons as they confront the devastation around them.

The film’s strength lies in its ability to capture the emotional toll of the firefighters’ work. The audience is shown the fear and exhaustion that comes with constantly battling fires, as well as the heartbreak of watching families lose their homes and belongings.

The documentary also highlights the challenges faced by the department’s leadership, who are trying to do more with less in the face of budget cuts and dwindling resources.

Overall, Burn is a powerful and moving film that offers a unique perspective on the challenges faced by firefighters and the impact of economic hardship on American cities.

It is a must-see for anyone interested in the human side of public service and the resilience of those who work to protect their communities.

Free State of Jones (2016)

“Free State of Jones” is a 2016 American historical drama film, directed by Gary Ross and starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mahershala Ali.

The movie is based on the true story of Newton Knight, a Confederate deserter who leads a rebellion against the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

The film begins with Knight (played by McConaughey) fighting for the Confederacy, only to the desert after witnessing the harsh treatment of his fellow soldiers.

He then hides in the swamps of Mississippi, where he meets runaway slaves who have formed their own communities.

Together, they form a resistance movement against the Confederacy, leading to the creation of the Free State of Jones, a territory that secedes from the Confederacy.

The film is a powerful commentary on the struggle for civil rights and the fight against systemic oppression. The story is emotionally charged and portrays the harsh realities of racism and inequality during that time period.

The performances are strong, with McConaughey delivering a powerful portrayal of Knight and Mbatha-Raw shining as Rachel, a former slave who becomes Knight’s love interest and ally.

Overall, “Free State of Jones” is a well-crafted historical drama that sheds light on an important chapter in American history.

The film’s themes of resistance and justice are still relevant today, making it a must-watch for anyone interested in social justice issues.

Conclusion

These films cover a wide range of historical events and periods, from ancient Rome to the American Civil War, and showcase the struggles and injustices faced by enslaved people throughout history. Each film offers a unique perspective on the topic of slavery, and many have been praised for their accuracy and attention to detail. However, it’s important to note that some films on this list may contain graphic depictions of violence and sensitive subject matter.

What movies are based on slavery?

  • Django Unchained
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Ben-Hur
  • Spartacus
  • Glory
  • Amazing Grace
  • Lincoln
  • Amistad
  • Burn
  • Free State of Jones

Who are some famous enslaved?

Black Abolitionists

William Wells BrownPaul CuffeeFrederick Douglass
Henry Highland GarnetLeonard GrimesFrances Ellen Watkins Harper
Josiah HensonPaul JenningsRobert Morris
Solomon NorthupOberlin Wellington RescuersSarah Parker Remond

Books About SLAVERY And Black History

Faqs About Slavery Movies

How were slaves captured in Africa?

Africans who are in slavery are abducted and sold. Although most Africans who were sold into slavery were caught up in wars or abducted, some were sold as payment for debts or as punishment. The captives were led down to the coast, bound together, and made to travel for weeks or even months at a time.

Does slavery still exist today?

(ILO News) GENEVA – The most recent Global Estimates of Modern Slavery estimate that fifty million people were victims of modern slavery in 2021. 28 million of these people were subject to forced labor, while 22 million were coerced into forced marriages.

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Ben is a professional writer and editor. He was born in the slums of New Jersey and grew up among the skyscrapers of New York. Since then, he has worked as a freelance writer specializing in Entertainment (Movie Reviews, News, Theories about Marvel & DC Films).

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