The Best Quotes From The Movie '12 Years a Slave'

12 Years a Slave movie quotes tell the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in the 1800s who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. It's an excellent film with plenty of amazing quotes. That's why we've asked our passionate group of cinema aficionados to vote on their favorite lines from this powerful and emotional masterpiece, and the results are in.

But before we dive into the top quotes that made it onto our list, let's take a moment to reflect on why 12 Years a Slave is such an important piece of cinematic history. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoirs about his life as a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in pre-Civil War America, this film is not just another Hollywood blockbuster. It’s an unflinching portrayal of one man’s journey through unimaginable suffering and brutality at the hands of his oppressors.

The dialogue in 12 Years a Slave is both haunting and deeply poignant. From heart-wrenching pleas for mercy to moments of quiet dignity amidst unspeakable horrors, every line serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come as a society – but also how much work there still is left to do. So without further ado, let’s take a look at which quotes made it onto our definitive list – but don't forget to vote up your favorites.

  • 1
    15 VOTES

    I Will Survive

    Solomon Northup/Platt: "I will survive! I will not fall into despair. I will keep myself hearty until freedom opportune."

    Solomon vows to keep up his fight to go back to the life he once had. He's been a slave for a long time with no end in sight but his determination remains.
    15 votes
  • 2
    20 VOTES

    I Want to Live

    I Want to Live
    Video: YouTube

    Robert: "If you want to survive, do and say as little as possible. Survival's not about certain death, it's about keeping your head down."
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "Days ago I was with my family, in my home. Now you tell me all is lost. Don't tell no one who I am? That's the way to survive? Well, I don't want to survive. I want to live."

    Fellow slave Robert explains to Solomon how to stay out of trouble under the ownership of Epps. Solomon isn't interested in simply surviving, he wants his life back.
    20 votes
  • 3
    17 VOTES

    They're My Property

    They're My Property
    Video: YouTube

    Samuel Bass: "The conditions of your laborers, it's all wrong."
    Edwin Epps: "They're my property."
    Samuel Bass: "You say that with pride."
    Edwin Epps: "I say it as fact."

    Samuel Bass tries to explain to Edwin Epps that he could have a little compassion towards those working for him. Epps on the other hand doesn't see them as people, simply property, his property.
    17 votes
  • 4
    5 VOTES

    You're No Free Man

    You're No Free Man
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    Edwin Epps: "Well, boy, how you feel now?"
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "My name is Solomon Northup. I'm a free man and you have no right whatsoever to detain me."
    Edwin Epps: "You're no free man. You ain't nothing but a Georgia runaway."

    Solomon knows that he is free and those holding him against his will are breaking the law but he has little control to convince others of that fact, especially his strict master Edwin Epps.
    5 votes
  • 5
    7 VOTES

    I Was Born a Free Man

    I Was Born a Free Man
    Video: YouTube

    Solomon Northup/Platt: "I was born a free man, lived with my family from New York, until the day I was deceived, kidnapped, sold into slavery."

    Solomon explains his story. He was born free and lived a nice life with his family until he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Years have passed but he still holds out hope that one day he will return to that life and those he loves.
    7 votes
  • 6
    10 VOTES

    Well Traveled for a Slave

    Well Traveled for a Slave
    Video: YouTube

    Solomon Northup/Platt: "I want to ask you what part of the country you come from."
    Samuel Bass: "I originate from Canada. Now guess where that is."
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "Oh I know where Canada is. I've been there myself."
    Samuel Bass: "You're well traveled for a slave."

    Samuel Bass, a Canadian abolitionist, treats Solomon like any other slave. This soon changes however when Bass begins to suspect that Solomon is no average slave. This changes both of their lives forever.
    10 votes