18. AMISTAD (1997)
Release Date: December 10, 1997
Box Office: $44 million ($65 million, adjusted for inflation)
Oscars: 4 nominations, 0 wins
Premise: A legal thriller disguised as a period piece, Amistad re-enacts the pivotal trial of the mutinous crew of slaves about La Amistad, with their freedom hanging in the balance.
Over two hours?: By a long shot
John Williams Score?: Yes
Father Issues?: Just the Founding Fathers
War?: Not directly, although the Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling was instrumental in triggering the Civil War
Special Appearances: Djimon Hounsou, Pete Postlethwaite, Stellan Skarsgård, Anna Paquin, and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Fun Fact: Anthony Hopkins delivered his courtroom speech in one take, despite its seven-page length
Best Line: “The only thing John Quincy Adams will be remembered for is his middle name.”
Verdict: Like most of Spielberg’s dramas, Amistad is too long for its own good. Even so, everything aside from the runtime is excellent. The large, talented cast leaves few scenes uninteresting. Well-shot with intelligently written dialogue, Amistad is one of Spielberg’s most eloquent movies, even if it’s a little too enamoured with its verbosity.
Rating: 4 stars / 5