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12 Years a Slave [2013] [R] - 8.8.5



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man, is kidnapped from his home in upstate New York and sold into slavery. He spends 12 years trying to get back home, surviving under horrendous conditions. Based on Northup's 1853 published memoir. Also with Dwight Henry, Quvenzhane Wallis, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Michael K. Williams, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o and Brad Pitt. Directed by Steve McQueen. [2:13]

SEX/NUDITY 8 - We see a man on top of an enslaved young woman (they are both fully clothed) and we hear what appears to be the man's pants being undone and hitting the ground (we see them from waist-up); the man appears to thrust above the young woman, raping her as she silently lies on a pile of wood; the man grabs the young woman's neck and face, then slaps her when she appears to black out before he silently finishes raping her and walks away (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details).
 We see a group of men and women, fully nude, crowded around a wash basin: We see a fully nude man (genitals are visible), the bare breasts and genitals of two women, the bare buttocks and back of four men, and the profile of two women's bare breasts and buttocks as well as a young man's bare back and buttocks. A man brings two fully-clothed men into a room where we see a fully-nude woman (bare breasts and genitals are visible), a man nude from the waist-up (his bare chest visible), and a woman's bare breasts visible (she is implied to be fully nude and we see her from the waist-up). Three men are seen with a young boy, the boy is wearing pants, but his bare chest is visible; we see the bare buttocks of the three men (they are nude). A young man's bare back is seen, and we see the bare chest of a young man and a boy.
 In a small, crowded room where multiple people are shown sleeping, a woman grabs a man's hand and pushes it against her breast; the man appears uninterested, but does not pull away as the woman kisses him and lowers his hand to her crotch (we see from the waist-up and they are both fully clothed), then moves back and forth and breathes heavily (it is implied that she is using the man's hand to manually stimulate herself); the woman releases the man's hand, he does nothing and she rolls over and weeps. A man suggestively touches the neck and face of an enslaved young woman; the young woman does not show any emotion, but the touch is obviously unwelcome. We see a man and a woman in bed together (they are fully clothed) with the man's arm under the woman's head and they kiss. We see a man and a woman lying in bed together; they are fully clothed.
 A man is seen wearing a long shirt and no pants (his crotch and genitals are covered) while holding hands with a young enslaved girl (it is implied he is engaging in an inappropriate relationship with the young girl) and he whisks her away with promises of candy as a group of enslaved men and women watch.

VIOLENCE/GORE 8 - An enslaved man rushes through a wooded area and comes upon a group of men holding guns and rifles and two black men with their wrists tied together and nooses around their necks; one man asks the enslaved man to leave, shoves him away and kicks his backside, after seeing his slave-tag around his neck; as the enslaved man walks away rapidly, we see the two restrained men hoisted up by their nooses and watch as their bodies twitch and we hear them gurgle as they choke and suffocate.
 A man grabs an enslaved young woman by the neck, grabbing her face while shouting at her and accusing her of being involved in a sexual relationship with another slave owner and when the enslaved young woman shouts back to defend herself, the man grabs a whip and tells another man to strip the young woman and tie her to a pole; the young woman's dress is ripped (her bare back is visible), her hands are tied in front of her and the man shouts at an enslaved man, telling him to whip the young woman until she dies; the enslaved man hesitates until the man grabs a gun and holds it under the enslaved man's chin, saying that he will kill him and all of the other enslaved people on the farm; the enslaved man whips the young woman as another woman watches gleefully, then remarks that he is not whipping hard enough, so the man (who's her husband) grabs the whip and whips the young woman many times; we see the young woman's back ripped apart with blood and gore oozing from numerous wounds as she collapses to the ground and two older women try to soothe the wounds as the young woman screams in pain while the enslaved man made to beat her watches and cries silently (we later see the young woman and she survives the brutal beating).
 In the crowded belly of a boat a man grabs a woman's hand and begins to lead her away from her sleeping children (it is implied that he is going to rape her); the man smacks the woman's backside and a man stands up and tries to get the man to leave her alone, grabbing the man's arm until the man turns around and stabs him in the stomach and he falls to the ground; we later see two men dump a body, wrapped in blankets, off the back of the boat as one of the men remarks that the dead man is better off.
 Two men drag an enslaved man out of a house and a young man grabs his head and puts a noose around his neck; the three men throw the rope over a tree branch and hoist the enslaved man, noose around his neck, into the air and we hear the man gasp for air until a fourth man appears with his gun drawn, takes aims at two of the men who run away immediately and then threatens and aims the gun at the young man, who drops the rope, allowing just enough slack for the enslaved man to keep himself on tip-toes (we see him struggle to stay on tip-toe for hours); after a long time a man approaches on horseback and cuts the rope causing the enslaved man to collapse to the ground and we see him moments later recovering on the floor of a mansion with a pillow under his head where the man who saved him warns him that the young man wants the enslaved man dead.
 A man rapes an enslaved young woman who appears to black out momentarily, but the man slaps and chokes her until she is revived and the man continues to rape her.
 An enslaved older man drops to the ground in the middle of a field of enslaved men and women working when an enslaved young man is instructed by a man to throw water on the man on the ground; the enslaved young man throws water, then shouts and kicks the man on the ground but he does not move until a man approaches and kicks the body multiple times (we see this waist-up and cotton plants cover the view of the man on the ground) and we later see the dead man's face covered by a blanket wrapped around his body and three enslaved men drop him into a shallow grave.
 A young man shouts at an enslaved man, telling him to strip down so the young man can beat him; the man resists, telling the young man that he will not be beaten and he grabs the young man; they wrestle on the ground until the man takes a whip from the young man's belt and beats him multiple times, then stands and kicks the young man in the stomach twice; the young man stands up and spits at the man, and then storms away. We see in the background, as enslaved women sort through cotton, two enslaved men and an enslaved woman with their hands strapped to a pole being whipped by a man; we hear the sounds of the whip hitting flesh and we later see one of the men wincing in pain from being beaten. A man is shocked when he discovers himself chained up in a cell (he is chained at the wrists and ankles); two men enter the cell and one of them yanks on the man's chains bringing him to his knees while the second man uses a paddle to repeatedly beat the chained man on the back; the attacking man then uses a belt to beat the chained man until he collapses to the ground; we later see the man remove his shirt and it is shredded and covered in blood. A woman cries out as a man kicks another man and then grabs three men with their hands chained to a long chain connecting them all together; the man then grabs one of the handcuffed men and beats him multiple times with a club.
 A woman angrily scrapes a razor against an enslaved young woman's face, and we see the young woman cry and hold her face as other enslaved people watch; the woman shouts and berates her obviously intoxicated slave-owning husband in front of the enslaved men and women, telling the man that she believes the enslaved people will rise up and kill them ("Slaughtered in their beds like pigs"); the woman then shouts at the enslaved men and women and tells them to continue dancing (we later see the young woman with scars on her face from the razor cut).
 A man shouts at an enslaved man, he tries to chase him while holding a knife in his hand and charges at him when the enslaved man runs away; the man leaps into a pig pen, loses his footing, smacks into a fence as he tries to jump out, landing face-down on the ground and then tricks the enslaved man into trying to help him up; the man tries to tackle and stab the enslaved man, but misses. Several men and women are shackled together and one man tries to break away as a man shouts and one of the group's captors strikes him and he falls to the ground; the captor and the man discuss the chained man and the captor frees the chained man. We see men, two women, a boy and a girl chained together; a man smacks one of the men in the face with a book. A woman stands in front of her children, handcuffed, as a man storms into a cell where the woman, two children and three men are being held. A man treating several men and women as property tells them to open their mouths to show other people, pounding on their chest and arms to entice a man and a woman to purchase them. We see two men standing side by side, chains padlocked over their heads (we do not see their faces, but it is implied that they have a plate chained over their mouths). A woman throws a large crystal decanter at a young woman, the young woman falls to the ground and we hear her weeping; the woman then shouts at her husband, berating him, the man shouts back, makes a vague threat to divorce the woman and she storms away.
 Two men drag an injured young woman away as enslaved men and women are instructed to continue dancing by an obviously intoxicated slave owner. An obviously intoxicated man storms through a series of small slave cabins, grabs an older woman by the neck and shouts in her face, threatening her, as he demands to know where a young woman is located.
 A man grabs another man's arm, the man pushes him away and the man then grabs an enslaved man approaching a third man in the distance; the first man (a slave owner) shouts and tries to run after the enslaved man, but is blocked by the second man (a sheriff) causing the man to become extremely angrily and shout at the enslaved man; the enslaved man hugs an enslaved young woman who then collapses on the ground and the slave owner shouts at the enslaved young woman and rides after the carriage carrying the sheriff, other man and enslaved man, shouting threats at the men. A young man kicks an enslaved man in the backside, the young man then barks angrily in the man's face. An enslaved woman cries and screams as two men drag her away and a man watches emotionless.
 A man whips in the air, next to the heads of enslaved women and men working in a field. We see men on horseback whipping the air next to the heads of enslaved men and women working in a field.
 We see raw, open whip marks on a man's back while a second man cleans the man's wounds. We see a young woman's eyeball filled with blood (it is apparent that she had been beaten severely). We see the scarred, cut and bloody back of a man as he tries to wash himself and we also see two other men, with large lash marks on their back. We see two shirtless young men with their bare backs covered with healing lash marks.
 A man threatens several enslaved men and women that he will "take off your skin" if they show any disrespect toward another man. An obviously intoxicated man grabs an enslaved man from his bed and vaguely threatens him, saying that another man had reported that the enslaved man was trying to transport a letter; the enslaved man tells the man that the other man is a drunkard trying to lie his way into a job and the man remarks that if the other man was not a "free white man" he would have killed the other man (he's holding a knife in a threatening way). A young man sings a song to a group of enslaved men about catching an errant slave (using a racial slur) and having a noose around the slave's neck as revenge; the young man shouts at the men, telling them to clap along as he sings. A young man sings a song with a racial slur in the lyrics several times throughout. A man reads a Bible passage about children drowning in the sea and a woman cries loudly. A man makes a remark to another man, in front of an enslaved man, that slaves are no different from animals in labor or intelligence, saying that enslaved people are property only.
 A woman cries hysterically as a man shouts angrily at her to stop crying; the woman chides the man, saying she is crying for her lost children and asking the man why he does not cry for his own lost children and the man shouts at the woman and grabs her by the shoulders; the woman pulls away and continues to cry loudly and the man then throws a cup of water in the distance out of frustration. A man shouts at a woman, we see the woman cry out for her children as two men pull her away, and the woman screams and struggles to break away from the two men's grasp; we hear the two children cry and scream for their mother. A man shouts at a woman. A man shouts at an enslaved young man. A woman shouts at her husband in front of several enslaved men and women, telling the man that he cannot share her bed. An enslaved young woman begs an enslaved man to drown her in a swamp and bury her body so she can escape from her slave owner (we had previously seen the slave owner raping the young woman); the man tells the young woman that he does not want to go to hell for killing her and the young woman cries and tells the man that God would forgive him for killing her (the man turns away from the young woman). A man discusses with two other men that they will fight a crew that captures slaves, one of the men states that he would rather fight and die trying than be alive and in captivity. A woman warns an enslaved man that he could be beaten (up to 100 lashes) if she found out he could read. A man recites a Bible passage about slaves obeying their master, lest they be whipped, and he cites the passages to a group of enslaved men and women, saying that he would obey the Bible and whip them if they did not obey his word and command.
 A freed black woman tells an enslaved young woman and enslaved man that because she had allowed her slave-owner to have his way with her, he had then married her and she had not been beaten with a whip in "many years"; the woman implies to the young woman that she should allow her slave-owner to have his way with her and she may also be freed. A man has a flashback of a well-dressed woman in a slave cell with him, the woman tells the man that her slave owner had treated her well, and had even impregnated her and treated her and her children well, until he had gotten old and sick, and his daughter (the same age as the woman), tricked her and sold her and the two children into slavery.
 A man is seen vomiting in an alley (we hear the sound of gagging and see a spray of vomit leave his mouth) a man in the background spits (it is implied that the man is vomiting from over intoxication or from his alcohol having been drugged). A man shoves another man whose wrists are chained and we see a chain around his face with a plate over his mouth (the chain leading to the plate runs on either side of his mouth and over his nose) and the chained man appears to vomit or spit up when given a drink of water after the faceplate is removed.

PROFANITY 5 - 1 sexual reference, 69 racial slurs, 16 mild obscenities, name-calling (godless heathens, learned [derogatory term for Blacks deleted], slick [derogatory term for Blacks deleted] ways, filthy godless heathen, lying [derogatory term for Blacks deleted], liar, dog, no better than prized livestock, thick-lipped cotton pickers, fine beast, blind or ignorant, foul with hate, eunuch, liar and drunkard, miserable black dogs, deaf and dumb), 3 religious profanities (GD), 1 religious exclamation (Jesus). [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - Throughout the movie we see a man in a near-constant state of intoxication and he is shown drinking liquor from glasses and flasks and we see him drinking wine on two occasions, a heavily intoxicated man forces enslaved men and women to dance in the middle of the night on a couple of occasions, three men drink wine at dinner and one of the men appears to become intoxicated as the other two men pour him a large glass of wine (we see the man vomiting, presumably from alcohol, and having to be helped up the stairs while one of the men tells a woman that the man had drank too much), we see a man drink quickly from a flask, a man offers another man a drink from a flask and the man turns him down while the first man takes a long drink, a woman pours herself a glass of liquor from a bar set (she does not drink), a woman throws a large crystal liquor decanter at a young woman (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details), and a man tells an enslaved man that he was forced to become a field worker after accruing debt from being an alcoholic. A man purchases tobacco.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Slavery, kidnapping of freemen and selling into slavery, wrongful imprisonment, the antebellum South, concept of slavery and enslavement, Biblical admonitions on slavery, alcoholism, the rape of enslaved people, plantations, slave culture in the South, reuniting with loved ones, free black men and women of the North.

MESSAGE - Slavery in the American South was thoroughly horrifying. Enslavement is immoral.

Special Keywords: S8 - V8 - P5 - MPAAR

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