When teaching people about slavery, the best slavery movies have had more of an impact than any other media. Slavery has always been a touchy subject in Hollywood, and the business mostly avoided talking about it for a long time.
Good portrayals of African Americans in films like The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) sparked controversy. In 1940, abolitionist John Brown’s comments on slaveholders were harshly criticized in The Santa Fe Trail.
In the 1950s, stubborn enslaved people were hailed as heroes during the American civil rights movement. The Third Servile War was an actual slave insurrection in the Roman Empire.
Nevertheless, most Hollywood films were set in the United States. The film claims that their legacy lives on even though the rebellion failed and all the rebels were killed.
In this article, we bring you a list of the best slavery movies that will take you back to the days when the slave trade was the order of the day.
1. 13th (2016)
- Director: Ava Duvernay
- Casts: Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, Angela Davis, Henry Louis, Stephen Colbert, Newt Gingrich, and Van Jones.
- IMDb Rating: 8.2/10
- Running Time 1hr 40mins
13th is an American documentary film released in 2016 and directed by Ava DuVernay. The “intersection of race, justice, and mass imprisonment in the United States” is the subject of this documentary’s examination.
It gets its name from the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. 13th is one of the best slavery movies you should add to your collection.
This amendment ended slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except for being used as a punishment for people who have been found guilty of a crime.
2. Abe Lincoln in Illinois(1940)
- Director: John Gromwell
- Casts: Raymond Massey, Ruth Gordon, Gene Lockhart, Dorothy Tree, Mary Howard, and Howard Da Silva.
- IMDb Rating: 8.2/10
- Running Time: 1hr 50 mins
From his departure from Kentucky through his election as President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln’s life is depicted in the 1940 biographical historical drama film Abe Lincoln in Illinois.
A different name for the film was used in the United Kingdom: Spirit of the People. Abe Lincoln in Illinois has been listed as one of the best slavery movies ever hit the movie industry.
Based on Sherwood’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of the same name, the film was adapted by Grover Jones and Robert E. Sherwood. Director John Cromwell oversaw this production.
Abe Lincoln and Jack Armstrong are played by Raymond Massey and Howard Da Silva, respectively, who repeated their roles from the original Broadway production of Abe Lincoln in Illinois.
The actor reprised both the play’s Seth Gale (Herbert Rudley) and the film’s Seth Gale (also Herbert Rudley).
3. 12 Years a Slave(2013)
- Director: Steve McQueen
- Casts: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah Paulson, Michael Fass bender, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
- IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
- Running Time: 2h 14mins
The 2013 film 12 Years an enslaved person, one of the best slavery movies of all time, is a biographical drama directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley.
It is based on the 1853 slave memoir Twelve Years an enslaved person written by Solomon Northup, an African-American who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. by two con artists in 1841 and sold into slavery.
The film was released in theaters on December 25, 2013. Before he was finally set free, he was forced to toil away on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years.
Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon were responsible for the first academic edition of Wilson’s adaptation of Northup’s tale, which was published in 1968.
4. 500 Years Later(2005)
- Director: Owen Alik Shahadah
- Casts: Mk Asante, Frances Cress Welsing, Paul Robeson Jr, Bill Cosby, Hakim Adi, Nelson George, and Amiri Baraka
- IMDb Rating: 6.7/10
- Running Time: 1hr 48mins
Owen Alik Shahadah is the director of one of the best slavery movies, an independent documentary film 500 Years Later, released in 2005. M. K. Asante, Jr. was the writer of the film.
It has taken home five wins in the area of Best Documentary at several international film festivals, one of which being the UNESCO “Breaking the Chains” award.
It was named the best documentary at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Bridgetown Film Festival in Barbados, the International Black Cinema Film Festival in Berlin, and the Harlem International Film Festival in New York, where it earned the prize for best international documentary.
5. Abraham Lincoln(1930)
- Director: D. W. Griffith
- Casts: Walter Houston, Una Merkel, Lucille La Verne, Otto Hoffman, Cameron Prud’ Home, Charles Crockett, and William L. Thorne.
- IMDb Rating: 5.7/20
- Running Time: 1hr 37mins
Abraham Lincoln is a biographical film about Abraham Lincoln directed by D. W. Griffith and released in 1930 in the United States before the Production Code.
The film was also produced under the title of D. W. Griffith’s “Abraham Lincoln.” It features Walter Huston in the role of Abraham Lincoln, while Una Merkel, in just her second starring role, as Ann Rutledge.
Stephen Vincent Benét, who is well known for writing the Civil War prose poem John Brown’s Body (1928), and Gerrit Lloyd collaborated on the writing of the screenplay.
Griffith ever produced only two good pictures, and this was the first one of them. Abraham Lincoln is also one of the best slavery movies and the oldest.
- Director: Radu Jude
- Casts: Mihai Comanoiu, Teodor Corban, Alexandru Dabija, Cuzin Torna, Alberto Dinanche, Luminita Gheorghiu, and Victor Rebengiuc.
- IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
- Running Time: 1hr 48 mins
The Romanian drama film and one of the best slavery movies ever released, “Aferim!” (English title: Bravo!) was released in 2015, directed by Radu Jude, and produced by Ada Solomon.
At the 65th Berlin International Film Festival, Radu Jude was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director for his work. The film was shown in the central competition part of the festival.
It was chosen to represent Romania in the 88th Academy Awards competition for Best Film in a Foreign Language category.
The story takes place in Wallachia in the early 19th century, when a boyar named Iordache hires a local policeman named Constantin, portrayed by Teodor Corban, to find Carfin, who is characterized by, a Gypsy enslaved person, Toma Cuzin.
Toma Cuzin had absconded from the boyar’s estate after having an affair with the boyar’s wife, Sultana. In the film, Costandin is played by Toma Cuzin.
7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn(1993)
- Director: Stephen Simmers
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Courtney B. Jay, R. Unger, Robbie Coltrane, Mark Allen Branson, and Jason Robards.
- IMDb Rating: 6.2/10
- Running Time: 1hr 47 mins
The list of best slavery movies will be incomplete without The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the movie, Mickey Rooney portrayed the titular character in the 1939 film version of Mark Twain’s book of the same name, which was published in 1884.
The film was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starred Mickey Rooney. Along with Walter Connolly and William Frawley, Rex Ingram is also a supporting cast member. In 1960, MGM released a new version of the film. In 1974, a musical adaptation was made available.
8. Amazing Grace(2006)
- Director: Michael Apted
- Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Albert Finney, Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell, and Stephen Campbell.
- IMDb Rating:7.4/10
- Running Time: 1hr 57 mins
Amazing Grace is a British-American biographical drama film released in 2006 and directed by Michael Apted.
The film is about the campaign against the slave trade in the British Empire that was led by William Wilberforce, who was fully accountable for trying to steer anti-slave trade legislation through the British parliament.
The hymn “Amazing Grace” was written in 1772, and its title alludes to it. The video also chronicles John Newton’s experiences as a crewman on a slave ship and his subsequent religious conversion, which prompted him to write the verse that was eventually utilized in the hymn.
These events are shown in the film as well. It is suggested that Newton was a significant motivating factor for Wilberforce and the abolitionist cause. The film was filmed in both Great Britain and the United States.
- Directors: Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz
- Cast: Janelle Monae, Jena Malone, Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersey Clemons, Eric Lange, Jack Houston, and Robert Amaya.
- IMDb Rating: 5.7/10
- Running Time: 1hr 46mins
Antebellum is a thriller film that will be released in the United States in 2020. It is also ranked among the best slavery movies of all time. Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, who are making their feature-directing debuts, wrote and directed the picture.
Janelle Monáe, Jena Malone, Kiersey Clemons, Jack Huston, Eric Lange, and Gabourey Sidibe are among the actors featured in the movie, which tells the story of an African-American woman living in the 21st century who wakes up to discover that she has been mysteriously transported to a slave plantation in the South and must flee from there.
On September 18, 2020, Antebellum was made available to consumers in the United States via premium video on demand. It was also made available in theaters in several other countries.
The movie was criticized by reviewers, who believed it did not live up to its full potential and faulted the storyline.
10. The Book of Negroes(2015)
- Director: Clement Virgo
- Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent, Allan Hawco, Cuba Golding, Ben Chaplin, Shailyn Pierre- Dixon, and Louis Gossett.
- IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
- Running Time: 1 season
The novel of the same name written by Canadian author Lawrence Hill in 2007 served as the basis for the television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which aired in 2015.
The British emancipation and evacuation of former slaves who had deserted their rebel masters during the American Revolutionary War served as the impetus for the book’s creation.
These former slaves were known as Black Loyalists. In total, around three thousand Black Loyalists were sent to Nova Scotia by the British, and their identities were recorded in a book known as the Book of Negroes.
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Cast: Djimon Houston, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Hopkins, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anna Pacquin, and Pele Postlethwaite.
- IMDb Rating: 7.3/10
- Running Time: 2hr 35mins
Amistad is an American historical drama film that was released in 1997 and directed by Steven Spielberg. It is also regarded as one of the best slavery movies of all time.
The film is based on the events that took place in 1839 aboard the Spanish slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen who had been abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors’ ship off the coast of Cuba.
The event followed the subsequent international legal battle that followed their capture by Washington, a United States revenue cutter. The matter was decided upon by the Supreme Court of the United States in the year 1841.
12. Django Unchained(2012)
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Cast: Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel Jackson, Kerry Washington, and Don Johnson
- IMDb Rating: 8.4/10
- Running Time: 2h 43mins
Quentin Tarantino is the writer and director of the American revisionist Western film Django Unchained, released in 2012.
The film stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson, along with a cast that includes Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, and Don Johnson in supporting roles.
It is a largely revisionist tribute to Spaghetti Westerns, notably the 1966 Italian film Django by Sergio Corbucci. Franco Nero’s lead has a cameo appearance in this picture, which is set in the Old West and the Antebellum South.
It is exceptionally styled and takes place during that period. The protagonist of this tale is an enslaved Black person who works under the tutelage of a German bounty hunter in the hopes of one day finding and reconnecting with his long-lost wife.
13. Battlefield Earth (2000)
- Director: Roger Christian
- Cast: John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Preston, Kim Coater, Sabine Karsenti, and Jonathan Karia
- IMDb Rating: 2.5/10
- Running Time: 1hr 59 mins
Battlefield Earth is an American science fiction film, as well as one of the best slavery movies that were released in 2000.
It is also known as Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000. The film is based on the 1982 novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.
Roger Christian was the one who directed it, while John Travolta, Barry Pepper, and Forest Whitaker were the ones who starred in it.
The movie’s plot centers on an uprising against the alien Psychlos, who had governed Earth for the previous thousand years.
This article above gives you a list of all the best slavery movies you’ll love to view, especially when trying to tell some History of how slavery took place in the past to the younger generation in our families, schools, workplaces, and other homes where we find ourselves all over the world.