What is Slavery (or involuntary servitude)?

Slavery is, in the strictest sense of the term, any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. (Source)

Below is a list of 15 must watch slavery movies.

  1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o

Plot:
In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty as well as unexpected kindnesses Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

2. Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (2012)

Cast:
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio

Plot:
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

3. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln (2012)

Cast:
Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn

Plot:
The revealing story of the 16th US President’s tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.

4. Harriet (2019)

Harriet (2019)

Cast:
Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn

Plot:
The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

5. Roots (1977)

Roots (1977)

Cast:
Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton, Olivia Cole

Plot:
The epic tale of celebrated Pulitzer-prize winning author Alex Haley’s ancestors as portrayed in the acclaimed twelve hour mini-series Roots, was first told in his 1976 bestseller Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The docu-drama covers a period of history that begins in mid-1700s Gambia, West Africa and concludes during post-Civil War United States, over 100 years later. This 1977 miniseries eventually won 9 Emmy awards, a Golden Globe award, and a Peabody award, and still stands as the most watched miniseries in U.S. history.

6. Not My Life (2011)

Not My Life (2011)

Cast:
Glenn Close

Plot:
Not My Life comprehensively depicts the cruel and dehumanizing practices of human trafficking and modern slavery on a global scale. Filmed on five continents, in a dozen countries, Not My Life takes viewers into a world where millions of children are exploited through an astonishing array of practices including forced labor, sex tourism, sexual exploitation, and child soldiering.

7. Free State of Jones (2016)

Free State of Jones (2016)

Cast:
Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali

Plot:
In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. After his nephew dies in battle, Newt returns home to Jones County to safeguard his family but is soon branded an outlaw deserter. Forced to flee, he finds refuge with a group of runaway slaves hiding out in the swamps. Forging an alliance with the slaves and other farmers, Knight leads a rebellion that would forever change history.

8. Belle (2013)

Belle (2013)

Cast:
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid

Plot:
BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield and his wife, Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

9. The Birth of a Nation (2016)

The Birth of a Nation (2016)

Cast:
Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King

Plot:
Nat Turner, a former slave in America, leads a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virginia that results in a violent retaliation from whites.

10. Slavery by Another Name (2012)

Slavery by Another Name (2012)

Cast:
Laurence Fishburne

Plot:
A documentary that recounts the many ways in which American slavery persisted as a practice many decades after its supposed abolition.

11. Amistad (1997)

Amistad (1997)

Cast:
Djimon Hounsou, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey

Plot:
In 1839, the slave ship Amistad set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque leads the slaves in an unprecedented uprising. They are then held prisoner in Connecticut, and their release becomes the subject of heated debate. Freed slave Theodore Joadson wants Cinque and the others exonerated and recruits property lawyer Roger Baldwin to help his case. Eventually, John Quincy Adams also becomes an ally.

12. 13th (2016)

13th (2016)

Cast:
Jelani Cobb, Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Plot:
An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

13. I Am Slave (2010)

I Am Slave (2010)

Cast:
Wunmi Mosaku, Isaach De Bankolé, Nyokabi Gethaiga

Plot:
Based on the real-life experiences of Mende Nazer, the story unfolds as twelve-year-old Malia, daughter of champion wrestler Bah, is abducted from her Sudanese village in the Nubar Mountains by pro-government Arab militia and sold into slavery to a woman in Khartoum, who beats her for touching her daughter. After six years she is sent to London, where her name is changed, but her miserable life of servitude continues. Her passport is taken and she is told that her father will die if she goes to the authorities. Fortunately she meets a sympathetic person who seems to offer her the hope of escape and reunion with Bah ,back in Sudan. For all the film’s optimism an end title states that there are around 5,000 ‘slave’ workers currently in Britain.

14. Sankofa (1993)

Sankofa (1993)

Cast:
Kofi Ghanaba, Oyafunmike Ogunlano, Alexandra Duah

Plot:
On a photo shoot in Ghana, an American model slips back in time, becomes enslaved on a plantation and bears witness to the agony of her ancestral past.

15. Alex Haley’s Queen (1993)

Alex Haley's Queen (1993)

Cast:
Halle Berry, Ann-Margret, Jane Krakowski

Plot:
Queen is the story about Easter, the illegitimate daughter of James Jackson, III and her lifelong affair with plantation owner Tim Daly, which would result in the birth of Queen. Queen’s story revolves around her early years as a slave who yearns to know who her father is, and her condition as a fair skin mixed race woman who spends her life trying to figure out where exactly she fits in.

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