Common Sense Media says

Imperfect but must-see epic drama with major cruelty.

Users say

(out of 47 reviews)
age 14+
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Teen, 13 years old Written bydoubleE November 3, 2013

12 Years a Slave is a Phenomenal and Brutal Film

My mom and I went to see this together. She was not sure wether to take me or not since it's R but the reason she wanted to take me was for the story and educational purpose. After the movie was over she was very glad she took me and I was glad I went. I am very mature for my age and was able to handle this movie but for most young teens and adults and myself, it's very brutal, disturbing and hard to handle. There is countless sayings of the "N" word, a brief rape scene that does not show anything graphic but it's heart breaking, full back and frontal nudity of both men and women (in the beggining of the movie). The sexual content of this movie, I was able to handle but was nothing compared to the violent cruelty. Many whipping scenes showing the graphic bloody aftermath, beatings and torture play a big role in this movie with characters treating slaves like dirt. Overall this movie is fantastic and powerful and eventually everyone should see this depending on their maturity but it's very hard to handle and a very heavy movie. The last 15 minutes of the movie are extremely emotional and no one could get out of their seats for 10 minutes after it was over. 12 Years a Slave WILL and MUST win best picture and not to be missed at some point.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written bySean Broucek October 24, 2013

Poignant drama is not for squeamish moviegoers.

Parents, this emotionally gripping true story from the director of "Shame" is a must-see, with it's extraordinary performances and beautifully written dialogue, but the mature themes about slavery and nonsexual nudity is a better fit for teens. Violence includes an very brief rape scene, torture, and cruelty to humans, with some disturbing images. Sex includes slaves completely nude (breasts and buttocks shown), and a rape scene, that is very brief and ungraphic. Language includes "whore" and pervasive use of the "N" word. Check out this one. It is great. SUGGESTED MPAA RATING: Rated PG-13 For Mature Emotional Thematic Material, Violent Cruelty, Nudity, And Some Brief Sexual References
Adult Written byFilmFanatic October 20, 2013

Touching movie, but intense

Fantastic movie but has some really intense scenes/themes that may not be suitable for younger teens. Positive Role Model/Message- Solomon proves to be great role model and brings a great message to the movie. He presses on even through hard and seemingly unbearable times in the hopes of seeing his family again. Bass's views on slavery and the differences between white and black people also makes him a worthy role model. Violence- Very brutal beating/whipping scenes with harsh results. The viewer usually doesn't see the wound being directly inflicted, as the camera angle is opposite of the actual contact. You can. however see the gory after affects, whipping sounds, pained faces and even blood spray from the more savage hits. A woman slave asks another slave to end her life because she is suffering so much at the hands of her master. A man is hung by the neck on his toes for an extended scene before his is cut down. (He is okay.) In a scene, a few slaves are hung and we see their bodies convulse briefly. The violence is intense and realistic. Sex/Nudity- There are two sex scenes. One consensual and lasts about 20-30 seconds and another of the same length that borderlines on rape (She doesn't fight back but it is implied she doesn't have much of a choice in the matter.) None of these scenes have nudity. There are a few scenes of nudity, but they are non-sexual. Slaves are washing up and bare butts and breasts can be scene. In a slave market, the slaves are sold nude so that their potential buyers can inspect them. Again, butts and breasts can be seen. Language- Frequent uses of mild to moderate language such as the N word and one use of b*tch. The N word is used very frequently in a negative manner.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Kid, 12 years old January 6, 2014

A must see for all who can handle it.

A few months ago I went to see 12 Years a Slave with my parents and grandmother. Even though my parents were slightly hesitant in the beginning, seeing as we'd heard from friends that it was brutal and difficult to watch, my persistence won over and we decided to go. And it was every bit brutal and difficult to watch as we had heard. I do not think this is a movie that you can say, "You must be ___ years old to watch it," it has very little to do with age. I myself am 12, but my parents and I thought I could handle it, and I did. Some of my parents' friends could not. It is more about how much inhumanity people can watch. If you are a parent reading this, it is ultimately your choice about whether or not your child watches it, but perhaps have a talk with him/her before making your decision - they may be able to sit through more than you expect. However, there are a few things to be wary of. In the beginning of the movie, at a slave auctioning, full frontal and back nudity is visible of both the men and women. In the very beginning of the film, the married protagonist and father of two is shown having intercourse with another slave. No nudity is visible, but it is very clear what is going on. Language is used throughout, with frequent uses of racist remarks. Violence is the most prevalent issue, as well as disturbing images (i.e. whip marks, bloody backs, paddle scars, etc.). Though difficult to watch, 12 Years a Slave is most definitely worth watching, especially with more mature children/teenagers. It is touching, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you feel an inkling of the pain Solomon goes through blossom in your own heart, from the absolutely brilliant actors and script. Five Stars. -K
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byPoetic Ramblings January 8, 2014

DO NOT LET YOUR 14 YEAR OLD WATCH THIS

This movie, while it is well, acted, well written, and shows an important and beyond gut wrenching part of our history, should not be watched by children. I was nearly 18 when I saw this film and it is, and I can't emphasize this enough, extremely intense. You will walk out of it feeling like you've been run over by a train. Graphic violence, sex, torture.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byXtrmeght March 14, 2014

12 Years A Slave

Has Nudity And VERY bloody scene's
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 17 years old Written byletztalkmoveez November 17, 2013

A difficult but essential family viewing experience.

This is what I was waiting for from Steve McQueen, and what I knew he had the potential to deliver. I guess where "Shame" really lost me when it came to anything beyond its style, "12 Years a Slave" had the substance and gravitas to accompany that style. To be clear, the result of that accompaniment might not be as fluid as it should be -- at least in the first act -- but wow is it captivating. I'll never watch this movie again; that's a testament to its impact. These actors give some of the best performances I've ever seen, and as weird and wrong as this may sound, Steve McQueen and slavery were a match made in heaven.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old March 16, 2014

educational and great story

It was a pretty serious movie. It informs you of how slavery really was back then. It is a really good story and a lot better than I thought it would be. It is a little hard to follow at some points of the movie but in the end you will understand most of it. The “n” word is used many times but it makes sense for the 1800s. There is some nudity but you see that every day. I think that it is very educational for kids. I recommend this movie for mature 4th graders. Also, the people with southern accents are sometimes hard to understand.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byMartyDX March 6, 2014

Inappropriate due to nudity & sexual content

The main review left out that it has full nudity, nongraphic consensual but nonmarital sexual activity. Possibly that needs a revision to reflect this detail.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 9 years old March 18, 2014

Important movie

I saw 12 years a slave but skipped some of the very violent parts. I found this film sad. I watched it because it is an important historical movie. I am glad these bad times are over. Best to watch with your parents.
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 December 1, 2013

A devastating picture that weighs on you

Steve McQueen's sure-to-be Oscar winning film hit me like a ton of bricks when the credits rolled. McQueen takes you on a journey as you witness the perfectly innocent freeman Solomon Northup being abducted and sold into slavery, as he endures a kind master, a near hanging, and one of the most despicable couples that the cinema's ever had, played by the fiery, fantastic Michael Fassbender and the truly revolting Sarah Paulson, who deserve a pair of Oscars along with newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, a slave woman equipped with one of the most tragic lives ever. The film showcases Solomon's determination to not break even though every person, every master, every slave is basically telling him to conform and lose hope. While this movie is nearly un-watchable in its brutality, its essential viewing for those who need to know how things really were in those days, the days America, for all its good deeds, will never, ever scrub away.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah November 4, 2013

So emotionally draining. So well made.

This is a very tough filmgoing experience, but it's a mandatory one. All of the performances are immaculate and the direction is exquisite, creating and extremely but appropriately emotionally draining film. It has no rewatch value and it intermediately drags for a total of about 20 minutes, but I was invested the whole time. I'm also usually quite cynical, but the content here never felt exploitative or masturbatory; it was all justified. And with that, I was crying for about half of the time, starting from about five minutes in. It's so well made that I felt tired and wiped out leaving the theater. It's extremely rare that I would see this again, but it does have to be seen. All of the acting has to been seen to believe. 9/10, amazing, two thumbs up, far above average, etc.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Kid, 10 years old March 2, 2014

DISTURBING GIVES YOU NIGHTMARES

OK, I was freaked out they mention in the "N" word in the first second of the movie. A lot of whipping it was SO sad, then I was like OK OK, OK THAT WAS A MOVIE THAT WILL NOT WIN ANYTHING!!!!!!!!! I mean what in the world was that I mean this this was HEART BREAKING! And you saw a lot of naked girls and brief crouches of men and then they split a mother and her children IT IS HEART BREAKING!!!!! OK OK OK this is a sad movie BUT I will tell you something if this wins WISH I HOPE DOSE NOT it will probably win for being real because the clothes the way they act AND THE HEART BREAKING TREATMENT. Just so you know this a MOVIE THAT WILL NOT WIN DID YOU HEAR ME OSCARS YOU WILL NOT WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS MOVIE MAKES ME CRY BECAUSE OF THE TREATMENT YOU AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! OK I over reacted just so you know this is very scary NOT LIKE HORROR MOVIE SCARY but like OMG kind of scary so don't watch it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Teen, 16 years old Written byBring education January 9, 2014

Demanding education

Even though myself as a child it is quite educational to know what it was really like back in the time of slavery,racism and brutality i would even like to study it in school but no one has mentioned it because it was a horrible time for the human race and simply to violent.So i think children above 13 years would be able to see what it was really like and of course you cant keep your child/teenager from everything that is bad, show them what it was really like back in the day
Kid, 11 years old May 22, 2014

Perfect movie to watch with very intense scenes

12 Years a Slave is a fantastic movie to watch, well if you can handle it. Thee are bloody scenes that are depressing and sad, which will definitely make you cry. But still, 12 Years a Slave captures the brutal feeling of slavery, but it does it in a perfect way.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 12 years old January 10, 2015

12 Years a Slave is brutal, yet amazing.

I loved 12 Years a Slave. A lot of scenes in the movie are sad and are hard to watch, yet it's still a wonderful film.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byasavge377 March 11, 2014

An Important Movie.

To everyone who is deciding on whether or not they should see this movie: see it, and I assure you that you won't regret it. This movie is a tearjerker that will put the "move" in movie. Though intense, 12 Years a Slave is about a subject that teens these days don't know much about, and it paints a clear picture on the mistreatment of slaves and African-Americans in general back in the 1800's to the 1900's. The dialogue is mesmerizing, the acting is spot-on, and you will be furious with the fact that the movie was based on a true story. The story begins with Solomon Northup, a man who you will follow throughout the entire movie as his freedom is snatched away, with his belongings replaced with rags, and his hope replaced with sorrow and helplessness. To say that this movie is amazing would be an understatement; it begins and ends with such finesse that I can surely say that this one of the best movies I have ever watched. This movie is well-worth watching. However, it is intense, so I would be careful with younger viewers (the movie has some sexual content, some swearing, and some scenes, such as the hangings, may be disturbing for children). But if this isn't a problem, then I HIGHLY recommend that you see this movie.
Teen, 13 years old Written byKrazyreviews March 7, 2014

Outstanding and realistic but with intense cruelty 9.6/10

12 years a slave is very realistic as it sets back in the 1800s. It is a true story of a man named Solomon northup who was sold into slavery for 12 years until *SPOILERS he was rescued SPOILERS* . The n word is used multiple times and there are brutal whipping scenes and major cruelty. And some nudity that makes it best for ages 15.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byAVTRlover 4 January 17, 2014

12 Years a Slave

This was a good movie, but it was not the best drama movie of the year. It was tough to watch at some times, but it had great acting, especially notable were Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender. There was extreme slave cruelty in this movie including whippings and an attempted hanging. Solomon does anything he can to survive, even resulting in him whipping another slave with bloody gashes shown on the victim. There was one rape scene between a female slave and her owner, but it is only shown clothed from the chest up. In the beginning of the movie, a slave takes Solomon's hand and pleasures herself with it, it is only shown for the waist up, but it is clear what she is doing. There are a couple of scenes with slave market nudity. Behinds, breasts, and some pubic areas (blurry) are shown. N****r is used frequently because it is historically accurate. The whole way that Solomon got abducted was that he got too drunk and was abducted by his company. This was an interesting movie, and it deserved its award nominations, but I don't think that it should have won. This might bore some teens, but should be appropriate for most because the only thing really keeping this from being PG13 was the one extended lashing scene and the historical nudity.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bySumiko April 12, 2014
Quite violent, the whipping scenes really get to me. People are hung and almost hung. One of the slaves is being raped by her master. All around dark themes.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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