List of films featuring slavery
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Film has been the most influential medium in the presentation of the history of slavery to the general public. The American film industry has had a complex relationship with slavery, and until recent decades often avoided the topic. Films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) became controversial because they gave a favorable depiction. In 1940, The Santa Fe Trail gave a strong condemnation of abolitionist John Brown's attacks on slavery. The American civil rights movement in the 1950s made defiant slaves into heroes.
Most Hollywood films used American settings, although Spartacus (1960) dealt with an actual slave revolt in the Roman Empire known as the Third Servile War. It failed, and all the rebels were executed, but their spirit lived on according to the film. The Last Supper (La última cena in Spanish) was a 1976 film directed by Cuban Tomás Gutiérrez Alea about the teaching of Christianity to slaves in Cuba and emphasizes the role of ritual and revolt. The 1969 film Burn! takes place on the imaginary Portuguese island of Queimada (where the locals speak Spanish) and merges historical events that took place in Brazil, Cuba, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, and elsewhere.
List of films
The following dramatic and documentary films featuring slavery are listed alphabetically. (For movies portraying penal labour see the list linked from here.)
|12 Years a Slave||2013||The film is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery.|
|500 Years Later||2005||Documentary covering the onset of slavery, its subsequent colonialism, and how Africans are still struggling for basic freedom.|
|Abe Lincoln in Illinois||1940||The early life of Abraham Lincoln and his rise to becoming president.|
|Abraham Lincoln||1930||A biopic of Abraham Lincoln and his role as president during the American Civil War.|
|Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter||2012||Based on the novel of the same name, it portrays Abraham Lincoln as becoming a vampire hunter mostly in secret.|
|The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn||1939||Mark Twain's title character befriends and takes a raft down the Mississippi River with Jim, an escaped slave hoping to win his freedom. Later films of the book were also made in 1960, 1973 (Soviet Union film Hopelessly Lost), 1974, 1975, 1976 (Japanese anime series), and 1993.|
|Aferim!||2015||Tragic adventure comedy telling the story of a bounty hunter in pursuit of a Romani (Gypsy) slave in 1835 Wallachia.|
|Alex Haley's Queen||1993||Based on the life of Queen Jackson Haley, Alex Haley's paternal grandmother.|
|Amazing Grace||2006||Amazing Grace is a biographical movie about the Abolitionist William Wilberforce's campaign against the slave trade in the British Empire, and features the role of John Newton, the writer of the hymn Amazing Grace, in Wilberforce's campaign.|
|Amistad||1997||In 1839, a slave revolt takes place on the Spanish ship La Amistad which is heading to Cuba. Two white survivors are ordered to navigate the ship back to Africa, but navigate the ship to the United States instead. The slaves then have to fight for their freedom in court, where they are eventually defended by ex-U.S. president John Quincy Adams.|
|Antebellum||2020||A modern-day African-American woman must escape from a 19th-century Southern slave plantation.|
|A Respectable Trade||1998||A four-part TV miniseries based on a historical novel.|
|Ashanti||1979||Using modern-day slave-trading and set in Africa, a white doctor goes on a journey to find his wife who was mistaken for a native woman and kidnapped by slave traders while swimming. Getting no help from the police or the local authorities, the doctor gets a lead and tracks his missing wife across the country with a couple of allies.|
|Band of Angels||1957||Love story set around the US Civil War in which a plantation owner with a past raises a black slave as his son and buys a posh mixed-race slave girl.|
|Battlefield Earth||2000||In this film, humanity has been enslaved by a race known as the Psychlos.|
|Belle||2013||Story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-race child of a British Royal Navy Officer, and her involvement in the legal case of the Zong massacre.|
|Beloved||1998||A former slave experiences flashbacks to her past as a slave.|
|Ben-Hur||1925, 1959 & 2016||A first century Jewish prince is forced to become a galley slave.|
|The Birth of a Nation||2016||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.|
|The Book of Negroes||2015||A Canadian television series based on the book of the same name.|
|Boy Slaves||1939||An exposé of child labor. Children entrapped in peonage strike for better food, try to alert the government, but fail in these attempts.|
|Brother Future||1991||Brother Future is a science fiction movie. A street kid from Detroit, Michigan, is hit by a car, and when he awakens, he finds himself a slave in South Carolina in 1822. The boy then has to help his fellow slaves so that he can return to his own time.|
|Burn!||1969||An agent provocateur is sent to the fictional island of Queimada, a Portuguese colony in the Caribbean to replace the Portuguese administration by a formally sovereign state controlled by white latifundists friendly to Great Britain. To realize this project, the agent persuades the black slaves to fight for their liberation from slavery.|
|Captain Blood||1935||An enslaved Irish doctor becomes a pirate.|
|Cloud Atlas||2012||Plotlines involving escapes from historical and futuristic forms of slavery|
|C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America||2004||A faux British documentary of today reviewing American history, operating under the counter-historical premise that the Confederate States of America won the American Civil War, annexed all of the United States in the process, and thereby preserved and expanded slavery throughout the nation.|
|Django Unchained||2012||In the American South in 1858, a slave is purchased by a German dentist turned bounty hunter, and then agrees to help him track down a small group of dangerous outlaws in exchange for his freedom and the rescuing of his wife from a cruel plantation owner.|
|Drum||1976||The film, a sequel to Mandingo, features a black slave who falls in love with a plantation owner's daughter. When the owner threatens castration, the slave plans a revolt.|
|El Cimarron||2007||Based on the life of Marcos Xiorro who conspired and planned a slave revolt in Puerto Rico in 1821.|
|Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble||2000||The film depicts the story of British actress and abolitionist Fanny Kemble, who becomes horrified by the treatment of her husband's enslaved people. Fanny later publishes her journals and their first-hand accounts of slavery, helping influence the British government's decision to withhold support of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.|
|Escrava Isaura||1976||Brazilian television miniseries set in the 1860s.|
|Exodus: Gods and Kings||2014||This film is inspired by the biblical episode of The Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt led by Moses and related in the Book of Exodus.|
|Fortunes of Captain Blood||1950|
|The Foxes of Harrow||1947||Covering approximately the years 1827–1837, an illegitimate son of an Irish aristocratic family comes to America. He is a gambler and scoundrel who acquires a large plantation with many slaves, and builds an empire in antebellum New Orleans. The movie was the first based upon a book written by an African-American writer.|
|Free State of Jones||2016||Disenchanted confederate soldiers rally with runaway slaves to establish an abolitionist colony in Mississippi, led by Newton Knight, who fathers a child with a black woman. That story is framed by the one of his great-grandsons, who is prosecuted in 1948 for attempting to marry a white woman while possibly being of mixed descent.|
|Frederick Douglass and the White Negro||2008||A documentary telling the story of ex-slave, abolitionist, writer and politician Frederick Douglass and his escape to Ireland from America in the 1840s.|
|Freedom||2014||In the United States in the 1850s, a black man attempts to free his family from a tobacco plantation.|
|Ganga Zumba||1963||Not released until 1972 because of a military coup in Brazil, the film highlights Ganga Zumba, a 17th-century slave revolutionary.|
|Gladiator||2000||A Roman general in the 2nd century A.D. is turned into a slave who must fight for his life, and his country, as a gladiator.|
|Glory||1989||During the American Civil War, an escaped slave joins an all-black fighting unit of the Union Army.|
|Goodbye Uncle Tom||1971||Addio Zio Tom is a pseudo-documentary in which the filmmakers go back in time and visit antebellum America, using period documents to examine, in graphic detail, the racist ideology and degrading conditions faced by Africans under slavery.|
|Gone with the Wind||1939||The film features a slave nursemaid as a prominent supporting character. Actress Hattie McDaniel made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for her performance (Best Supporting Actress).|
|Harriet||2019||Based on the true story of Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery then worked to free hundreds more.|
|The Horse Soldiers||1959||Follows a fictionalized Union cavalry raid in which a plantation mistress and slave are taken captive to maintain secrecy.|
|A House Divided: Denmark Vesey's Rebellion||1982||A 1982 television film about Denmark Vesey, a literate skilled carpenter and former slave who planned a slave rebellion in 1822 in Charleston, South Carolina.|
|I Am Slave||2010||A U.K. television story of one woman's fight for freedom from modern-day slavery, based on the experience of Mende Nazer, a British author, human rights activist, and a former slave in Sudan.|
|Ill Gotten Gains||1997||Independent film about the Atlantic slave trade|
|Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom||1984||In the film, enslaved children are forced to mine for Sankara stones.|
|Jefferson in Paris||1995||The film shows the relationship between Thomas Jefferson, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a slave owner, and Sally Hemings, a biracial slave.|
|Joseph||1995||The biblical story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph is an Egyptian slave who earns a reputation as an interpreter of dreams.|
|Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat||1999||Joseph's biblical story portrayed in a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, starred Donny Osmond as Joseph.|
|Joseph: King of Dreams||2000||The Biblical story of Joseph portrayed in an animated musical.|
|The Journey of August King||1995||A widowed farmer reluctantly provides safe passage to a run-away slave as he returns home from an annual trip to purchase provisions and supplies, starring Jason Patric as August King and Thandie Newton as Annalees.|
|The Keeping Room||2014||The film takes place during the American Civil War. Three women in the South have to protect their home against soldiers of the Union Army.|
|K.G.F: Chapter 1||2018||A Kannada movie based on a True story of a gold mine in Kolar and its slaves|
|The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman||1974||American television film based on the novel of the same name by Ernest J. Gaines.|
|The Last Supper||1976||A plantation owner during Spanish colonial times recreates the last supper using slaves, in order to teach them about Christianity.|
|The Legend of Nigger Charley||1972||The blaxploitation film takes place in America in the Antebellum South. It follows three slaves seeking their freedom.|
|The Legend of Tarzan||2016||George Washington Williams convinces Tarzan (John Clayton III, the Earl of Greystoke) to travel back to Africa to investigate claims of an ongoing slave trade.|
|Lincoln||2012||Near the end of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln pushes to abolish slavery in the U.S. by urging Congress to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.|
|The Littlest Rebel||1935|
|Manderlay||2005||Set in the early 1930s, the film tells the story of Grace, an idealist who attempts to oust the owners of a plantation in Alabama and free the slaves living there.|
|Mandinga||1976||Italian film inspired by Mandingo.|
|Mandingo||1975||A slave owner insists that his son, who is sleeping with the slaves, marry a white woman and father him a son. He marries, and trains a Mandingo slave to be a bare-knuckle fighter.|
|Motherland||2010||Documentary sequel to 500 Years Later, the film gives an overview of the history of the African continent and its people from Ancient Egypt to the present.|
|Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property||2003||Documentary film about Nat Turner|
|Nightjohn||1996||A young slave girl, Sarny, is taught to read by John, a slave who has given up freedom in the Northern United States in order to teach slaves how to read.|
|North and South||1985–1994||A three-part TV miniseries outlining the period leading to and during the American civil war, and the post-war Reconstruction.|
|The North Star||2016||The film is based on "the true story of Big Ben Jones, a slave who escaped from a Southern plantation in 1848 and is helped by local Quakers".|
|Passage du milieu||1999||Docudrama about a trans-Atlantic slave ship voyage of black slaves from the West Coast of Africa to the Caribbean, a part of the triangular slave trade route called the Middle Passage.|
|Paradesi||2013||A Tamil language movie that is based on true events that took place in a tea plantation during the 1930s.|
|Prince Among Slaves||2006||A PBS historical documentary about the life of Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, a prince from West Africa who was made a slave in the United States and freed 40 years later on orders of the American president, John Quincy Adams.|
|The Prince of Egypt||1998||Former Prince Moses frees the Hebrew slaves from the Pharaoh of Egypt.|
|The Quest for Freedom||1992||The life of escaped slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman|
|Quilombo||1984||Account of Quilombo dos Palmares, a 17th-century Brazilian community of escaped slaves. Features its one-time leader, Zumbi.|
|Raiders of the Seven Seas||1953|
|The Retrieval||2013||During the American Civil War, a young free boy is sent north by his bounty hunter gang to retrieve a wanted fugitive slave.|
|Roots||1977||An acclaimed eight-episode TV mini-series based on Alex Haley's biography about his family moving from slavery to liberation.|
|Roots||2016||A four-episode remake of the 1977 miniseries.|
|Roots: The Gift||1988||A film portraying events occurring between the second and third episodes of the first miniseries.|
|Sankofa||1993||In the supernatural film, an African American model travels to Ghana and is transported back in time by a local mystic. The model finds herself a slave in the past.|
|Santa Fe Trail||1940||Western centered around abolitionist John Brown, his attacks on slavery as a prelude to the Civil War, and the attempt to find his hideout and stop his violent campaign.|
|Savannah||2013||Loosely based on the book Ducks, Dogs and Friends, the film is about a white hunter who befriends a freed slave.|
|Seven Angry Men||1955||Follows John Brown's campaign to end slavery and his raid on Harper's Ferry.|
|The Slave Hunters||2010||Slave hunter goes after an escaped General-turned-slave in this South Korean 24-episode television series.|
|Slaves||1969||Follows the life of two slaves in the American South of the 1850s.|
|Slavers||1977||Two competing slave traders fight between each other for the monopoly on the slave trade.|
|Slavery by Another Name||2012||Adaptation of the book into a 90-minute documentary film.|
|Skin Game||1971||American independent comedy western|
|Solomon Northup's Odyssey||1984||The film is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, DC in 1841 and sold into slavery.|
|Spartacus||1960, 2004, 2010-2013||In Spartacus, a film that stays close to the historical record, a Thracian enslaved as a gladiator by the Roman Republic leads a slave revolt that engulfs much of the Italian peninsula.|
|Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||1999||Anakin Skywalker and his mother Shmi are slaves owned by Watto on the planet Tatooine, although Anakin wins his freedom by winning a Podrace tournament.|
|Tamango||1958||A slave ship crosses the Atlantic, and the slaves rebel. A film by Hollywood blacklisted director John Berry starring Dorothy Dandridge and Curd Jürgens.|
|The Ten Commandments||1923 & 1956||Biblical story of the life of Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who becomes the deliverer of his real brethren, the enslaved Hebrews.|
|Tula: The Revolt||2013||In 1795 on Curaçao, then a Dutch colony, a slave uprising takes place.|
|The Viking||1928||Lord Alwin is captured in a Viking raid and taken to Norway as a slave.|
|Unchained Memories||2003||An HBO documentary featuring the stories of former slaves interviewed during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project. It compiles slave narratives which are narrated by actors emulating the original conversation with the interviewer.|
|Uncle Tom's Cabin||1903||Many film adaptations of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel have been made, nine from the silent era (including those of 1910, 1918, and 1927), and a German version in 1965.|
|Welcome II the Terrordome||1995||A British dystopian science fiction–drama film that follows the interactions of a black family and supporting characters reincarnated from the Igbo Landing to a fictional modern ghetto.|
|A Woman Called Moses||1978||A miniseries about the life and career of the African American abolitionist and slave escape leader, Harriet Tubman.|
|A Woman Captured||2017||A documentary about a woman who is kept as domestic slave in Europe.|
|Zama||2017||The film is set in the late 18th century in a remote South American colony under the Spanish Empire, and portrays the period's "naturalness of slavery".|
- Underground (2016 TV series)
- Michael T. Martin and David C. Wall, "The Politics of Cine-Memory: Signifying Slavery in the History Film," in Robert A. Rosenstone and Constantin Parvulesu, eds. A Companion to the Historical Film (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), p67.
- Melvyn Stokes, D.W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation: A History of the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time (2008)
- Robert E. Morsberger, "Slavery and 'The Santa Fe Trail,' or, John Brown on Hollywood's Sour Apple Tree," American Studies (1977) 18#2 pp. 87–98. online
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- Serafino, Jason (June 4, 2013). "5 Movies Influenced By Scientology". Complex. Retrieved 2016-01-13.
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- Kronke, David (April 21, 2000). "Hysterical drama of historical figure". Los Angeles Daily News. MediaNews Group. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
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- Corry, John (February 13, 1985). "TV Review; 'Solomon Northrup's Odyssey,' Story of a Slave". The New York Times.
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- Phillips, Charlie (9 June 2018). "A Woman Captured review – brave and up-close story of modern slavery". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
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