Lee Daniels' The Butler Saturday, 04 July 2020

Lee Daniels' The Butler

Additional Info

  • Rating:

    M: Mature themes, violence and coarse language.

  • The pitch:

    Serves it up on a platter.

  • Starring:

    Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Liev Schreiber, David Banner, Michael Rainey Jnr, Mariah Carey, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Jim Gleason, Isaac White, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Tyson Ford, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Olivia Washington, James Marsden, Clarence Williams III

  • Directed by:

    Lee Daniels

  • Running time:

    132 minutes

  • Rated:

    M (Australia), 12A (UK), PG-13 (USA)


    A woman is raped (implied), a man is executed. People are beaten, kicked, shoved, slapped, mocked, bullied, tormented, racially abused, burned with hot liquid, shot at. Rioting, explosions, burning debris, brawling, broken glass, burning vehicle, arson. Rifles fired, gunshots heard, Molotov cocktail thrown, break-and-enter. Television footage of protestors (trampled, beaten, pursued, dragged), racial abuse. Yelling, arguing, screaming. Vietnam war footage (explosions, soldiers, gunfire). MLK murder, JFK assassination, slavery, concentration camps, apartheid, racial oppression, killed kids, murdered neighbour (shot), terrorism, gutting, killing mentioned. Blood/gore: Hanged corpses, bloody corpse, bloody hand, dripping blood. Swelling, bruising, bandages, wound-dressing.


    Shirtless man. Half-naked couple beneath sheets. Skimpy dancewear, cleavage. Kissing. Innuendo. A wife cheats on her husband.


    Alcohol (beer, champagne, wine, cocktails, spirits), intoxication, alcoholic wife/mother. Being passed out drunk mentioned. Smoking. Gambling (cards). Prescription pills seen.


    F-words, s-words, a-words, n-word, b*tch, p*ss. Racial abuse, derogatory slang, name-calling, mocking. Religious references and exclamations. Gender, class, racial, ethnic stereotypes.


    Servitude, civil rights, black power, white supremacy, equality, Freedom Riders, Black Panthers, US politics, slavery, racism, bigotry, prejudice, sit-ins, protest, biography, father-son relationships, cotton-picking, Eugene Allen, the White House, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Ku Klux Klan, dignity, subservience, conflict, bitterness, survival, 1970s America, Birmingham riots, Kennedy assassination, infidelity.


    A child sees his father murdered (shot), mother raped (off-camera). Deceased father, deceased son/brother, deceased wife, son in jail. Passed out drunk, financial problems mentioned. Cemetery, church, jail cell settings. Cat, parrot, horses, dogs, aquarium fish, thunder, lightning. Man on toilet, spitting. Roast chicken, ham eaten. Inspired by A Butler Well Served by this Election by Wil Haygood, an article published in 2008 in the Washington Post.


    Familiar, welcoming, radical, nuanced, melodramatic, alluring, anxious, sweeping, moving, remarkable, exhilarating, affecting, blunt, gut-wrenching, character-driven. Phenomenal performances, dazzling cast, definitive period detail, potent re-creation of horrific historic events.


    Histrionic. Robin Williams is distracting, unconvincing as Eisenhower. Dressed-up history, covers too much ground, lacks humour, too fictionalised.

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