As early as colonial times, when the United States was still under British administration, enslavement of Africans and African Americans was a common practice. After independence, it was not declared illegal. Slavery was formally abolished only after the American Civil War.
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It’s one of the most horrible crimes against humanity ever committed, and it’s always been a hot topic in Hollywood.
Films on the exploitation of black people as slaves in the United States are harrowing and serve as a sobering reminder of the nation’s darker past. They help you appreciate how fortunate you are to live in a society that values everyone’s right to personal freedom, regardless of their race.
Films, in contrast to other forms of media, can immerse you in the lives of their characters, making the pain they experience all the more palpable for the audience.
Let’s take a look at the best American Slavery flicks.
All-Time Best Movies on American Slavery
1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
The story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, is told through the lens of a period drama film based on an 1853 narrative memoir.
To make matters worse, Northup must maintain the secrecy of his true identity in the face of such a stark contrast between his past and the present. As the years go by, the film takes the audience on a journey through slavery’s seemingly interminable state.
When it comes to shocking its audience, this film does not hold back when it comes to displaying graphic depictions of violence. The slaves’ terrible treatment is brought to life by Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack. It’s widely regarded as one of the best films ever made about slavery in the United States, and it merits the utmost respect.
2. Django Unchained (2012)
Quentin Tarantino’s anti-western film. The film’s core topic is’revenge.’ As expected from Tarantino, this is a thoroughly enjoyable film. It’s like a boiling pot of racism, misogyny, violence, drugs, and rape.
Django Freeman, an angry slave played by Jamie Foxx, gets released by a German bounty hunter and vows vengeance. They then set out towards the South, where they hope to find Foxx’s slave wife and free her from the control of Monsieur Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the plantation owner. In addition, Samuel Jackson portrays a Monsieur slave who is both devoted and cruel in his master’s service.
The film’s emotional experiences are hard-hitting and nearly provocative in nature. Django Unchained is one of the best movies on slavery in the United States, period.
3. Gone with the Wind (1939)
During the time of the American Civil War, this classic American film is set. An adaptation of the novel of the same name.
Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, is the film’s protagonist. One of the first female characters in early cinema to be overcome by lusts and passions. Resistance against social standards, particularly male dominance, is an important part of her story’s development.
This film is 3 hours and 58 minutes long, but it never loses its grip on the audience. At the time, it was a high-end production, and for those who saw it in Technicolor, it was a real delight. This film is frequently cited as one of the finest examples of American cinematic art.
4. Glory (1989)
Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Matthew Broderick are among the cast members of this war drama.
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry of the Union Army, comprised entirely of African-American men, is the subject of this Civil War-era film, which tells the story of the white commanding officer, Colonel Shaw.
At the time, no one believed that black soldiers could be effective soldiers. This regiment also took part in one of the most bloody battles of the Civil War, which took place in Charleston, South Carolina, against a Confederate fort. It also raises the question of unequal pay for black and white soldiers of the same rank.
5. Lincoln (2012)
Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis feature in this historical drama about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.
When Lincoln was trying to get the 13th Amendment through the US House of Representatives in January 1865, this book concentrates on that time period. This film is more about the struggle over slavery than it is about Lincoln. In doing so, it exposes white people’s unwillingness to pass legislation granting African-American slaves their freedom and treating them as equals as a result.
Many have praised the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis and the production values of Spielberg. Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s master cinematographer, has created a visual feast.
6. Sankofa (1993)
Burkina Faso is the setting for this historical drama about the transatlantic slave trade.
“Sankofa” is an Akan word that means “go back” and “find” in order to emphasize the significance of learning from one’s past for one’s present and future well-being.
The action of the novel begins in Ghana, where the lead character, an African-American model named Mona, is currently on location for a film shoot. She enters the Cape Coast Castle (used for the slave trade in past) and enters into a trance, transported to the past where slave masters capture her and take her into a plantation in the Southern United States.
The sequences in which she is subjected to a great deal of sexual brutality test one’s morals to the point of justifying the murder of the abusers.
7. Amistad (1997)
Steven Spielberg directed this historical drama film about the La Amistad slave ship disaster of 1839.
The kidnapped Mende tribals revolt and take over the Spanish ship off the Cuban coast, which was en route to the United States and ends up on the east coast, as an incident causes an international legal struggle in this film.
When it comes to this issue, it is named United States vs Schooner Amistad, and the US Supreme Court will rule if the slaves came from Africa legally or illegally. The majority of the film focuses on the courtroom proceedings.
8. Slavery by Another Name (2012)
Based on Douglas Blackmon’s novel of the same name, directed by Samuel Pollard, this documentary is an eye-opener.
It shows how slavery was still practiced decades after it was abolished legally. Interviews with descendants of slaves and their white masters make up the bulk of this film.
As a result, it demonstrates how Southern slaveholders abused the legal system to re-enslave freshly freed slaves by utilizing force and brutality.
9. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927)
Iconic and powerful, it is based on the novel of the same name and is an American film classic. Both the American Library of Congress and educational institutions around the world rely heavily on this resource for teaching and research.
The narrative takes place in 1856. Eliza’s masters, the Shelbys, allow her to marry her beloved George, but the owner of George blocks the wedding. After learning of Shelby’s terrible plans, the story continues with what she does next.
10. The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion in Virginia’s Southampton County in August of 1831, is the subject of a new period drama film.
After witnessing atrocities committed by the white slavers, Nat recruits a band of followers and plots an uprising, intending to gain his freedom. Originally, Nat is charged with using his preaching abilities to control the plantation’s rebellious slaves.