Amistad

Critics Consensus

Heartfelt without resorting to preachiness, Amistad tells an important story with engaging sensitivity and absorbing skill.

77%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 65

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 51,120
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Movie Info

In the summer of 1839, on a stormy night off the coast of Cuba, 53 Africans held captive in the cramped cargo holds of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad break free of their shackles. Led by Cinque, they arm themselves, take control of the ship and reclaim their freedom. They have one goal: to return to Africa. Without the navigational skills to guide them home, the Africans are forced to rely on the two surviving members of the crew. But they are tricked. After two months on a ragged course up the Eastern seaboard, the Amistad is captured by an American naval ship off the coast of Connecticut and the Africans were charged for murder and piracy. In the beginning, the Africans are championed by abolitionists Theodore Joadson and Lewis Tappan, and a young real estate attorney named Roger Baldwin. However, as the case becomes the symbol of a nation divided, two great Americans lock horns in the debate. Pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren, seeking re-election, is willing to sacrifice the Africans to appease the South, as well as Queen Isabella of Spain. But his will is challenged by former President John Quincy Adams, who comes out of retirement to fight the Africans' cause in the United State Supreme Court.

Cast

Morgan Freeman
as Theodore Joadson
Anthony Hopkins
as John Quincy Adams
Matthew McConaughey
as Roger S. Baldwin
Nigel Hawthorne
as Martin Van Buren
David Paymer
as Secretary Forsyth
Stellan Skarsgard
as Lewis Tappan
Anna Paquin
as Queen Isabella
Tomás Milian
as Calderon
Austin Pendleton
as Professor Gibbs
John Ortiz
as Montes
Peter Firth
as Capt. Fitzgerald
Jeremy Northam
as Judge Coglin
Arliss Howard
as John C. Calhoun
Harry A. Blackmun
as Justice Joseph Story
Ralph Brown
as Lieutenant Gedney
Darren E. Burrows
as Lieutenant Meade
Allan Rich
as Judge Juttson
Saye Lah
as Kessebe
Abu Sidique
as Tsukama
Daniel von Bargen
as Warden Pendelton
Rusty Schwimmer
as Mrs. Pendelton
Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
as General Espatero
Michael Massee
as Prison Guard
Roy Cooper
as Pickney
Jake Weber
as Mr. Wright
Victor Rivers
as Captain Ferrar
Steve Passewe
as Cinque's In-Law
Matt Sarles
as Young Aide
Gerald R. Molen
as Magistrate
Robert Walsh
as Guardsman
Sean McGuirk
as Courier
Tony Owen
as Farmer
William Young
as Businessman
Michael Riley
as British Officer
Leon Singer
as Don Pablo
Castulo Guerra
as Spanish Priest
Harry Groener
as Tecora Captain
Hawthorne James
as Creole Cook
Ingrid Walters
as Woman Overboard with Baby
Edward Appiah
as Followolo
M.S. Kaleiwo
as Kaleiwo
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News & Interviews for Amistad

Critic Reviews for Amistad

All Critics (65) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (15)

  • The narrative perils are daunting in this little-known true tale of a bloody slave-ship rebellion in 1839 and its jumbled aftermath in the U.S. judicial system.

    Jan 9, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Mike Clark

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • In short, a wordy courtroom drama which seldom progresses beyond ciphers, stereotypes and salutary slogans.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • In Amistad, an admirable but disappointing effort...[Speilberg] veers between stoic political correctness and mushy Hollywood platitudes.

    Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Spielberg seems to be dividing his filmmaking output into two distinct halves: in the summer months cranking out no-brainer dinosaur flicks...in the winter season unveiling his serious artistic stuff to edify the adults and woo the Oscar crowd.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Brief moments of visceral fire allow glimpses into the rousing movie this could have been.

    Apr 17, 2001 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • As Spielberg vehicles go, Amistad -- part mystery, action thriller, courtroom drama, even culture-clash comedy -- lands between the disturbing lyricism of Schindler's List and the storybook artificiality of The Color Purple.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Amistad

  • Jul 07, 2014
    Although technically competent and with wonderful performances by Hopkins and Hounsou (who should have been nominated for an Oscar too), this is a bloated and misstructured film that has an alarming tendency to give in to melodrama and is not as strong as it could be.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 07, 2014
    I do appreciate the unflinching way the film looks at the slave trade and Djimon Hounsou's performance is startlingly intense, but this could have been so much more . . . instead it's "History Lite".
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 26, 2012
    Steven Spielberg crafts a good historical drama. However it's not without its flaws. The problem with Amistad is that it takes a terrific aspect of history, and over bloats it into a romanticized version of the facts. The film is good, but could have been much better. The elements of the film at times just don't work, and Spielberg, who usually makes great films, makes the film's subject matter almost silly at times instead of compelling. I liked the film, but I liked the film, but I felt that since this is a historical film, the usual Spielberg flair could have been slightly toned down. The best aspect of this film is the performance delivered by Anthony Hopkins as President John Quincy Adams. His performance makes this film worth seeing. The film does have that going for it, and it is entertaining, but I felt it fell short of its potential, especially with its subject matter, which is history. Steven Spielberg direction is good, but at times unfocused and the flaws I pointed out earlier in this review become apparent to the viewer. My biggest problem with this film is that it is a historical film mixed with a feel good flavor, thus the film falls short of what it could be. I expected so much more with this film, but in the end, it touches the tip of the iceberg of this real historical account, and becomes more of a court room drama, which many viewers will probably find not that great. I liked the film, but the film's potential is wasted and in turn Amistad is simply a good little film without being anything great or excellent.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jun 12, 2012
    Amistad is a wonderful and brilliant film by Steven Spielberg, but it still has some major historical inaccuracies. I am not usually one to put down a film because of the inaccuracies, but since its a genius like Spielberg I expect nothing but the best, and there are just some scenes in the film that I could tell they had put in just for Hollywood. The script however is brilliant and is a mix of a courtroom drama and a slave film. Even with some inaccuracies, I found this to be a very powerful and smart film that really shows the horrors and truths behind slave trading. Spielberg is the perfect man for a film like this, his greatest film Shindlers List proved that he is able to handle great material like this. He really makes the film feel epic and has really given me a new view on slavery. The cast is also phenomenal and really was the films high point. Mathew McConaughey really impressed me because I didn't expect to like him in a role like this but he pulls it off. Morgan Freeman is great as usual and really has a great and signifigant role. Anthony Hopkins was brilliant and our sixth president, and I mean I barely could tell it was him after a while, and and I think his final speech at the end is one of his finest moments as an actor. Dijmon Hounsou is the films core, I mean I thought his performance really gave it more sympathy and I love him as an actor. Spielberg has done another great film that is (along with Empire of the Sun) one of his best forgotten films. But I think as long as people like me still love the films, than they live on forever.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer

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