Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is currently winning audiences and awards-season plaudits for its brilliant depiction of the passage of the 13th Amendment banning slavery. But it’s Spielberg’s earlier film that actually depicts the experience of being kidnapped from your homeland and sold an ocean away into bondage. The plot concerns the complicated legal case involving a group of West Africans led by Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou) who forcibly take over the slave ship, only to find themselves in a Connecticut jail in 1839. (Anthony Hopkins was nominated for an Oscar largely for his 11-minute long speech as former president John Quincy Adams in defense of the Africans’ freedom.) But Spielberg does take the time to document the horrifying cruelty of the international slave trade — which had been outlawed by 1839 — and Hounsou’s performance is not to be missed.
NEXT: C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America