- Glory (1989)
- This film chronicles the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first all-black regiments in the Union Army. Men from many different backgrounds volunteer to fight for the Union, from working men to former slaves. Although initially assigned to duties behind the front lines, the Regiment convinces their commanders to deploy them in active combat. Under the command of Colonel Robert Shaw, they fight a successful battle on James Island, South Carolina. From the threat of execution if captured by the Confederates to unequal pay by their Union counterparts, the men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry fight prejudices against them and prove themselves to be capable soldiers. Their actions inspire other black men to enlist in the fight and help turn the tide of the war. The film provides a historical example of the progress of black men in the North while also highlighting the severe racism still present throughout the country. While the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry would be formed years after Solomon's escape from slavery, the tensions involved with the formation of such a group would echo issues concerning racial inequality into the next century.
- Roots (1977, 2016)
- Roots, is an award-winning television miniseries based on Alex Haley's award-winning book of the same name. It depicts a partly-fictional saga about Alex Haley's family history. The main character in the series, Kunta Kinte, is captured from his village in Africa and sold into slavery. Over time, Kunta Kinte makes many attempts to escape, but is always recaptured. Along with observing the events of Kunta Kinte and his family's lives, many historical events are presented throughout the series, including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Despite some critiques about historical accuracy, the book and miniseries opened a new dialogue about U.S. slavery. Roots received high ratings and a remake will be released in May 2016. Roots clearly relates to 12 Years a Slave in several important ways. These films are two of the most culturally significant slave narratives. Both Kunta Kinte and Solomon Northup were born free men and were then captured and sold into slavery. By examining the film Roots, the viewer can more fully understand the broader historical context of the film 12 Years a Slave.
- Solomon Northup's Odyssey (1984)
- Before Steve McQueen's acclaimed film, there was Solomon Northup's Odyssey, a made-for-TV film directed by Gordon Parks, that, like 12 Years a Slave, follows the life of Solomon Northup. Both films begin with Northup's life as a free man in the 1840s and accompany him throughout his twelve years in captivity. He endures the struggles of serving cruel masters and trying to retain his inner strength. The earlier film includes some important differences from 12 Years a Slave. In Solomon Northup's Odyssey, Solomon is more aware of the dangers of kidnapping; he worries about his wife leaving the safety of their house and hesitates when asked to visit Washington, DC, where slavery is legal. Another difference is the portrayal of Solomon as a religious man. In Parks' version, Solomon prays for his deceased companions, but in McQueen's version, Solomon is not portrayed as religious. Additionally, while McQueen's film is unforgiving in showing the brutality of slavery, Parks does not delve too deeply into the violence that Solomon Northup witnesses and endures. For example, in 12 Years a Slave, Epps forces Solomon to whip Patsey; however, in Solomon Northup's Odyssey, Solomon only pretends to whip his companion (called Jenny in this version).
- "Underground" (2016)
- A recently premiered television show on WGN America following the escape of a group of slaves from a plantation in Georgia seeking their freedom in northern states. The series follows the group's decision and preparation for their escape, then through their dangerous adventure. It frames the familiar story of the Underground Railroad as a thriller/heist narrative. While Solomon Northup's story is one of endurance rather than flight, this series continues the contemporary dialogue about slavery and features what these enslaved people endured as well as their desperate longing to escape from their bondage.
Cobra Verde (1987)
Django Unchained (2012)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1987)