The Birth of a Nation
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The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. The film tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans cast their lot with the Union, while the Camerons are loyal to Dixie. After the war, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall), distressed that his beloved south is now under the rule of blacks and carpetbaggers, organizes several like-minded… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Problematically, Birth of a Nation wasn't just a seminal commercial spectacle but also a decisively original work of art -- in effect, the founding work of cinematic realism, albeit a work that was developed to pass lies off as reality."
‑ Richard Brody, New Yorker
"The civil war battle pictures, taken in panorama, represent enormous effort and achieve a striking degree of success."
‑ , New York Times
"The quasi-Victorian Griffith was in so many respects way ahead of his time even if his philosophy and mind-set could often be said to be behind it."
‑ Derek Malcolm, Guardian
"This is an impressive spectacle, rightfully lauded for its myriad innovations. But the sentiments it expresses are pretty damn ugly."
‑ Jon Fortgang, Film4
"Links the divide between American past and American present."
‑ Rob Humanick, Projection Booth
"Birth of a Nation is a great epoch in picture making; it's great for pictures and it's great for the name and fame of David Wark Griffith. When a man like Griffith in a new field can do what he has done, he may as well be hailed while he is living."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"The biggest challenge the film provided for its audiences is perhaps to decide when 'ground-breaking, dedicated, serious cinematic art' must be reviled as politically reprehensible."
‑ , Time Out
"A towering milestone in the history of cinema. Asentimentalised, reactionary slab of racism. Can a film be both? In the case of D.W. Griffith's silent-era classic The Birth Of A Nation, unfortunately it can."
‑ Philip Kemp, Total Film
"It's hard to applaud a film where the Ku Klux Klan rides triumphantly to the rescue, and this, alas, undoes all the sterling work put in earlier and the wonderful performances from Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B Walthall and especially Robert Harron."
‑ Tony Sloman, Radio Times
"a masterpiece that still packs a punch and whose standard-bearing genius remains untarnished."
‑ Jay Antani, Cinema Writer
"Griffith's later films are unquestionably superior. But here, in a very real sense, is where the movies began, both as an art and as a business."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"It is an unavoidable fact of American movie history, and must be dealt with."
‑ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"The Birth of a Nation has become a staple of any film studies course, for its excellent performances, thrilling action sequences and epic landscapes. However it's subject matter is much more controversial now."
‑ David Parkinson, Empire Magazine
"D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation is as much a part of film history as the Civil War is a part of American history."
‑ Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
"What does it say about a country that one of its greatest films is also one of the most bigoted movies ever made? ... If you can ignore the actors in blackface and the vicious stereotypes, Griffith's folly is also a triumph of silent film technique."
‑ Thomas Delapa, Boulder Weekly
More reviews for The Birth of a Nation on Rotten Tomatoes