Slavery is one of the most horrific occurrences in humankind’s history. The film industry created movies that deeply looked at injustice and suffering during that dark period. The 21 best slavery movies in this article hope to elicit respect for the freedom we all enjoy today.
1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
English 2h 14m IMDb
Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Fassbender
This movie tells the true story of Solomon Northup. He was a free black man who was kidnapped, tricked, and sold into slavery. He lived a cruel life, made more difficult by a wicked enslaver. He met a Canadian abolitionist in the 12th year of his struggles. This meeting forever changed his life.
Prepare to get goose bumps and life-altering realizations after watching this movie. It’s a masterpiece that can open your eyes to the harsh realities of the antebellum period. Director Steve McQueen brilliantly put the whole story together and extracted the best performances from the cast.
2. Not a Slave (2021)
English 1h 21m IMDb
Director: Urenna Amadi
Stars: Cecilia Azuwuike, Amadi Chris, Florence Chukwu
Slavery was still a problem even in the 20th century. It’s based on a Nigerian prince’s true story of enslaving the people in his community to work on his plantation. The slaves suffered a bitter fate under his overseer’s leadership. The arrival of the newborn heir changes everyone’s future.
This movie had powerful performances and beautiful cinematography. It showed that you don’t have to cast big stars to create a cinematic masterpiece. The creative camera angles will allow you to immerse yourself in the scenes.
3. Amistad (1997)
English 2h 35m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Hopkins
Amistad is the name of a ship carrying enslaved people and traveling from Cuba to America. During the tedious trip, a man named Cinque led an uprising hoping for freedom.
However, they were all imprisoned in Connecticut. Their release caused heated debates and political issues. A formerly enslaved person tries to help others by recruiting a lawyer.
This Steven Spielberg masterpiece provided a relevant history lesson to its viewers. The Amistad issue isn’t known to the mainstream, and only historians know about it. This movie brought light to American history and allowed them to understand its stories.
4. The Birth of a Nation (2016)
English 2h IMDb
Director: Nate Parker
Stars: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller
This movie reveals the true story of Nat Turner, a preacher and a literate enslaved person during the Antebellum period.
When a southern plantation owner suffered financial burdens, he used Nat to preach and eventually subdue the enslaved people. However, he witnessed the cruelty inflicted on his fellowmen, so he led them to an uprising.
This movie will break your heart into many pieces, while the atrocities shown will make you angry. The director shot the scenes artistically, making it a beautiful, albeit sad, film. It’s an incredible story of justice and bravery that everyone needs to see.
5. Django Unchained (2012)
English 2h 45m IMDb
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Jamie Foxx plays Django, an enslaved person enlisted by a German bounty hunter. They went on a mission to find the heinous Brittle brothers.
After a successful journey, the bounty hunter freed the enslaved person, and they sought the most wanted criminals in the South. They met an evil plantation owner keeping Django’s wife as an enslaved person.
Touted as one of the most artistic films of 2012, it contains a unique theme and unorthodox presentation. The originality and storytelling are characteristics of Quentin Tarantino’s genius. The dialogue between the oppressed and the oppressors is genuinely remarkable.
6. Tamango (1958)
French (France) 1h 44m IMDb
Director: John Berry
Stars: Dorothy Dandridge, Curd Jürgens, Jean Servais
This 18th-century revolt tale follows the hardships and atrocities aboard a Dutch slave ship. A conflict ensued when the enslaved people captured the captain’s mistress. Tamango, a newly captured enslaved African, led the uprising, which caused a violent showdown.
This film features a graphic portrayal of the horrors occurring on a slave ship. It also touches on the complexities of interracial relationships and revolting against a powerful man.
Many people thought that the sensitive themes in the film would prevent it from being in movie houses. However, despite the issues, it still managed to amaze viewers.
7. I am Slave (2010)
English (United Kingdom) 1h 22m IMDb
Director: Gabriel Range
Stars: Wunmi Mosaku, Isaach De Bankolé, Lubna Azabal
Loosely based on the true story of Menda Nazar, a formerly enslaved person turned human rights activist. It tells about the trials of Malia, a girl kidnapped from her father and sold into slavery.
She worked for six years serving a Sudanese family. When she turned 18, she traveled to London only to experience the same inhumanity and brutality.
This film reveals the shocking truth that a city as progressive as London harbors modern-day enslaved people. This controversial suspense -drama tackles a sensitive issue and brings light to a social dilemma. The rich cinematography perfectly captures the somber mood.
8. Lincoln (2012)
English 2h 30m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn
The historical film shows President Lincoln’s political skill in abolishing slavery in the US through the 13th amendment. With great moral fortitude and love for humanity, he beats all odds to end the war. People in the government might oppose him, but his courage propelled him toward a greater good for all humankind.
Steven Spielberg created one of the greatest films about American history and politics. Daniel Day-Lewis was convincing at playing the president, and you could not imagine anyone else doing it. Critics and viewers agree that the movie is imaginative, touching, and inspiring.
9. Free State of Jones (2016)
English 2h 19m IMDb
Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali
This epic action-drama narrates the story of a former Confederate soldier who became an outlaw Southern farmer. He launched a massive armed rebellion with local enslaved people and other farmers to fight the confederacy. It’s about a story of defiance and courage that led to the creation of the Free State of Jones.
This film doesn’t fit the usual civil war movies mold. It showed a different side to the Southern farmers’ lives. It’s not much talked about in history books how enslaved people and the farmers forged a solid bond to achieve freedom.
10. Antebellum (2020)
This film follows the harrowing plight of a famous author as she gets trapped in an alternate reality. She finds herself amidst a Southern plantation in the 60s where black people still lived as enslaved people. It shows the horrifying situation of women as they work on isolated farms.
You’ll witness an unusual retelling of a sensitive issue in American society. Merging the modern-day scenarios with the past created a relatable yet chilling situation. The combination of racial commentary and horror elements makes it an exciting watch. Audiences claim that the fear of losing one’s freedom is palpable in the film.
11. Uncle Tom’s Cabin ( 1987)
Samuel L. Jackson plays the lead real in this film adaptation of a classic novel. It shows the adventures of 19th-century enslaved people in the South. When a woman working on the plantation finds out that she will be separated from her son, she escapes leaving behind her friend. The friend struggles through the cruelty and hangs on to his faith.
This remake of the 1927 silent film touches on the brutalities of slavery. It’s an emotionally-charged film despite being the tamer version. The actors’ overall acting, the dialogue, and the storyline were commendable,
12. Harriet (2019)
This inspirational biopic is based on the real-life story of Harriet Tubman, a courageous American freedom fighter. It shows how she fought and escaped from slavery. Her tenacity and ingenuity changed history’s course and freed hundreds of enslaved people from their misery.
Viewers reveal that the actress who played Harriet recreated the heroine’s life. Her acting was intense and generated so much emotion. This movie justified Harriet Tubman’s heroism, making it an excellent film for the younger generation. Prepare some tissues, though, because this movie is a real tearjerker.
13. Emperor (2020)
Inspired by the legends of an African king descendant, this movie tells the epic tale of Shields “Emperor” Green. The pre-civil war American South is a backdrop for the action that unfolds. Emperor, an outlaw enslaved person, joins the courageous raid held in Harper’s Ferry to liberate his family from slavery.
Some viewers may have found the scenes to be historically inaccurate. However, it was still entertaining and inspiring to watch. The film had excellent cinematography, wardrobe, location, and casting. These elements contributed to the success of the movie. The main character’s performance was phenomenal and deserves more films in the future.
14. Slaves (1969)
Featuring Dionne Warwick’s screen acting debut, this drama film depicts the lives of two enslaved people. Traders sold them to an atrocious plantation owner during the 1850s American South. He was hoping to get hard labor from the men and sexual favors from the women. The exploitation engulfed their whole lives.
The film is one of the highest-grossing productions from its distributor. This attempt to revisit the mood and theme of Uncle Tom’s cabin was successful for some viewers. Dionne Warwick gave an outstanding performance and brought the character to life. She rises above the scenes and keeps the dignity of the role intact.
15. Sankofa (1993)
This epic drama explores what happens when a mystic transports a black American model to the past. During a photo shoot in Ghana, the model mysteriously disappears and finds herself working as an enslaved person.
It’s a mind-blowing movie that touches on the atrocities of slavery and the power of black resistance. The inspiring theme is a must-watch not only for black Americans but for people worldwide who’ve experienced tyranny in many forms. Mainstream Hollywood may not have wanted to touch the subject, but viewers were grateful that an independent producer had.
16. Drum (1976)
A Mulatto enslaved person raised by a white mother and her black lover grows up to become a pit fighter. HE boxes with other enslaved people to entertain their master. Until one day, he was sold to a plantation owner and began a life of strife. However, a complex turn of events led to an uprising.
Many viewers confessed that this film is one of their guilty pleasures. The dialogue and acting may sometimes feel over the top, but the action-packed scenes showing cruelty were gut-wrenching. Some believe it was politically incorrect, but it managed to penetrate the hearts and minds of those who watched.
17. Gone with the Wind (1939)
This epic masterpiece is an adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel. It may be mainly the love story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler during slavery and the civil war. It also explored the issues surrounding injustice done to the enslaved people.
This tremendously successful film has 10 Academy Awards, including best picture. It may be more than three hours long, but it’s worth watching how the characters develop. You’ll experience many emotions and feel satisfied at the end.
18. Belle (2013)
While most slavery movies focus on the American South, this film explores slavery in 18th century Britain. Belle is a biracial and illegitimate daughter of a navy officer. An aristocratic family raised her, but she never really enjoyed the privileges due to her race. She fell in love with a slave trader, so a complication began.
This film is a refreshing take on the issue of equality and racism. It explores slavery in Europe, a topic not many people know. It’s a beautiful film that will simultaneously make you cry and be inspired.
19. Amazing Grace (2006)
This film is the story behind the iconic song that has touched many people’s lives. It’s based on the life of William Wilberforce as he led the British abolition movement. The movie explores the struggles of passing a law to end slavery in 18th-century England.
This movie is everything you would want in a film. It showed grace, passion, redemption, and grace. It examines one of the darkest times in humanity that occurred in Europe. All the actors’ performances were astounding, making it on the top of everyone’s must-watch list.
20. Beloved (1998)
Oprah Winfrey is world-famous for being a TV host, but she showcased her acting chops in this film. It’s about the life of Sethe, a formerly enslaved person who would do anything to fight for her children’s freedom. Many past secrets haunt her and add to her life’s struggles.
Toni Morrison’s novel inspired this film. It sheds light on the women’s harrowing experiences as enslaved people. Thandie Newton’s performance will give you goose bumps, making it one of the best in her career.
Slavery is a dark and unimaginable period in world history. It affected many lives, and the scars of the struggles are still eminent. This article’s 20 best slavery films will allow you to examine the efforts behind that time. It provides a better understanding of history so people won’t repeat it.