The Birth of a Nation (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Birth of a Nation2016

The Birth of a Nation (2016)



Critic Consensus: The Birth of a Nation overpowers its narrative flaws and uneven execution through sheer conviction, rising on Nate Parker's assured direction and the strength of its vital message.

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Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities--against himself and his fellow slaves--Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

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Nate Parker
as Nat Turner
Armie Hammer
as Samuel Turner
Penelope Ann Miller
as Elizabeth Turner
Jackie Earle Haley
as Raymond Cobb
Mark Boone Jr.
as Reverend Zalthall
Aunjanue Ellis
as Nancy Turner
Dwight Henry
as Isaac Turner
Esther Scott
as Bridget Turner
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News & Interviews for The Birth of a Nation

Critic Reviews for The Birth of a Nation

All Critics (269) | Top Critics (81)

Parker's film depicts an important event in American history through the eyes of an amateur passing a test in Film Production 101.

November 19, 2017 | Full Review…

It's very strange to watch painful verities staged in a way that diminishes their power under the guise of amplifying it. This is a film about deep-seated systems of oppression that feels tonally like a superhero origin myth.

September 28, 2017 | Full Review…

One of The Birth of a Nation's biggest weaknesses is that the film's female characters are given little consideration in comparison to their male counterparts.

September 26, 2017 | Full Review…

What we have here is a deeply flawed but frequently rewarding picture, with a lot to say about how stories can both guide and misguide us.

August 28, 2017 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The Birth of a Nation isn't an easy story to watch, but it's one that absolutely demands to be told.

June 14, 2017 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Soapbox didacticism and complex drama can never coexist.

December 27, 2016 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Birth of a Nation

Purposely uses the same title as D. W. Griffith's film. Although there is no direct connection between that film's plot and this one there is a metaphorical connection with a reversed pov. This is not such an epic tale as it focuses more closely on the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. There are important themes here about Christianity being a tool to subdue unruly slaves and the spiritual motivator that causes Turner to rebel. Nate Parker wrote, directed, and starred, but then in the pre-#METOO movement former legal trouble with a rape allegation came to light that many believe was not adequately addressed. So again controversy in a director's personal life (which is a regular occurrence) has soured the impact this film story could have had. It is not super innovative, hitting certain plot points that many African slave life dramas contain, but it is solidly structured and seems to be over so quickly.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

There is great material for a powerful drama here, but director Nate Parker tries too hard to soften it and avoid any controversies regarding his hero's actions - which is a pity considering that they are perfectly understandable in view of the horrible suffering he endures.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


The Birth of a Nation is a powerful work, but it's a disturbing one as well. As a document that challenges racism and white supremacy, it is most assuredly a step in the right direction. Nat Turner was hanged and given no formal burial. We are told (not shown) that he was then decapitated, quartered, and skinned. Soon after his death, attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray published The Confessions of Nat Turner. If you thirst for more of his story, I would suggest that. This film functions as a cinematic memorial that celebrates his memory. It also recounts a historical event and honors the legacy of Nat Turner. He was an early champion of civil rights - in a not-so-civil manner. He deserves a biography. Yet his story is told in broad strokes with plot points invented for dramatic effect (i.e. Nat Turner's wife was never gang raped by slave patrollers. Nor was it the final inhumanity that inspired him to riot). It's an emotional experience but not necessarily a wholly factual one.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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