An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.


Ava DuVernay
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 32 wins & 43 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Melina Abdullah ... Self - Chair, Pan-African Studies, California State University, Los Angeles
Michelle Alexander ... Self - Educator and Author, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Cory Booker ... Self - U.S. Senator (D) New Jersey
Dolores Canales ... Self - Formerly Incarcerated Activist / Co-Founder of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Gina Clayton ... Self - Attorney and Founder, Essie Justice Group
Jelani Cobb ... Self - Professor of African-American Studies, University of Connecticut
Malkia Cyril ... Self - Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice
Angela Davis ... Self - Professor Emerita, UC Santa Cruz
Craig DeRoche ... Self - Formerly Incarcerated Activist / President, Justice Fellowship
David Dinkins ... Self - 106th Mayor of New York City (D)
Baz Dreisinger ... Self - Educator and Author, Incarceration Nations
Kevin Gannon ... Self - Professor of History, Grandview University
Henry Louis Gates Jr. ... Self - Professor of History, Harvard University
Marie Gottschalk ... Self - Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Newt Gingrich ... Self - 50th Speaker of the House of Representatives (R), 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate


The film begins with the idea that 25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world's population. "13th" charts the explosive growth in America's prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million. The documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation"; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan's declaration of the war on drugs and much more. Written by Ulf Kjell Gür

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Did You Know?


This was the first documentary to ever open the New York Film Festival - the 54th Festival on Friday, September 30th, 2016. See more »


Bryan Stevenson: The Bureau of Justice reported that one in three young black males is expected to go to jail or prison during his lifetime, which is an unbelievably shocking statistic.
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Featured in The Oscars (2017) See more »


Last Words
Written by Nas (as Nasir Jones), Leshan Lewis, James 'Diamond' Williams (as James Williams), Ralph Middlebrooks, Leroy 'Sugarfoot' Bonner (as Leroy Bonner), Marvin Pierce, Billy Beck (as William Beck), Marshall E. Jones (as Marshall Jones), Clarence Satchell, and Nashawn Jones
Performed by Nas featuring Nashawn and Millennium Thug
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
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User Reviews

Real Statistics
29 January 2017 | by scotlandsilverSee all my reviews

The movie is well done but borders on propaganda in my mind. We all know history but few tend to delve into present reality.

This link breaks things down in no uncertain terms.

…."in regard to nonviolent crimes, such as DWI/alcohol offenses, blacks and whites both commit crimes nearly identical to their representative population. However, in violent/aggressive crimes, blacks commit them at a rate many times higher than their representative population, while whites tend to commit them at a rate markedly lower than their representative population…."

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Release Date:

7 October 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The 13th See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

D-Cinema 48kHz 5.1

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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