The Birth of a Nation (1915) - Drama, History, War

Hohum Score



The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.

IMDB: 6.4
Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh
Length: 195 Minutes
PG Rating: TV-PG
Reviews: 64 out of 365 found boring (17.53%)

One-line Reviews (198)

In fact, I fell asleep for a few minutes about every 20 minutes.

In terms of today's society and our expectations, this film would generally be viewed as unacceptable in light of the racism, quality, boredom factor and the length of the film.

This is a truly fascinating movie, well worth watching, no matter how troubling the portrayal of the KKK as heroes might be.

Disturbing yet entertaining .

When judged purely for it's directorial techniques, "Birth of a Nation" amounts to a big zero; it's a boring action melodrama.

The fact that Griffith hooked an audience for such a long film was a huge breakthrough in both narrative terms and also in using film for dubious propaganda.

At three hours long, it was a surprisingly engaging experience that used just enough title cards.

It is however not the racist aspect of it that troubles this reviewer, but the distraction and confusion it causes as well as the unfortunate conclusions that could be drawn.

Birth of a Nation has many plot holes, the music is completely out of touch with on-screen events, and it's very clearly propaganda for the Ku Klux Klan.

The way the film is shot and edited really makes for a suspenseful picture and one unlike any other even though the movie's ugliness.

Students of early film could no doubt point out the things this film did before any others, but that aside the staging is mainly static and ponderous; the most distinctive images are also the most dated.

They're are some of the most stunning and epic moments of the entire silent era of filmmaking.

It's absolutely riveting and absolutely horrifying.

This is the most racist film ever created and alongside that it is boring.

I have no problem with either DW or silent films, I just thought this was boring and not nearly as good as say, Potemkin or Broken Blossoms.

Indeed, although titled "Birth of a Nation", one could argue that the film rather serves as the birth of film-based propaganda, purely because of this act.

Does it make the conflict between the good guys and the bad guys seem hopelessly contrived?

Anyone who rated this as anything but a "1/10" really needs to question himself or herself—for example, how would he or she rate a propaganda film that was made by Leni Riefenstahl?

In addition to the storytelling, his cinematography is also fascinating.

True, some of this film is slow-paced (for instance, the beginning introduces the characters and takes quite a bit of time to do so) but when the film gets exciting, it turns into a cliff-hanger at times.

That being said, the movie was entertaining.

The Birth of a Nation is a silent film, and if unaccustomed to it, it can be extremely tedious and confusing.

The film is extremely involving and compelling, and must rank as one of the greatest ever made.

The use of propaganda in this film is perfectly shown if you considered that it is partly responsible for the formation of an extremely dangerous Ku Klux Klan who used it for recruiting purposes as it shows the original KKK as heroic.

It is a movie that really challenges your perceptions of it and I had so many strong reactions at cross purposes to it that I felt empty for many reasons.

And herein lies the film's seeming conflict of interest: despite lamenting the horrors of war and need for resolution and peace, it becomes quickly clear just how crucially exciting the battle sequences are, as if simultaneously romanticising the conflict and drawing every fiber of exhilarating emotional nuance from it.

It is boring and melodramatic in places.

and a racist propaganda.

On the other side, the movie is truly slow paced and takes a lot of time to introduce many different characters.

long, incredibly boring and amazingly racist...

I only saw a bit of it and thought it was boring.

The Birth Of a Nation is the worst movie I have ever seen!

One one hand, The Birth of a Nation is a technically stunning cinematic masterpiece, with production values and sheer scope and ambition which would be tremendously laudable in a current day context, let alone in 1915, when it was rare to have a film of an hour and a half of length, let alone three hours.

As it is, there is something of a yawning gap between Elsie's discovery and her rescue.

The plot becomes contrived, highly melodramatic, and overtly racist, relying heavily on caricature to portray certain characters in a negative way.

At times you could say that, for me, it was entertaining.

Also in finality both of these films are blatant propaganda films, watch them first and grade their merit to your unit before using them.

The latter half of the movie could easily have been a Nazi Germany propaganda movie from the 1930s or 40s, it was that bad.


I first saw BIRTH OF A NATION in a film class and I found it very hard to stay awake.

The indefensible antipathy of the director for the legalization of inter-racial marriage is advocated through the confusion between marriage proposal and rape menace, racial prejudice and honor, and the ridiculous plot of a forced marriage attempt (some critics pledge not to make a confusion between politics and artistic work, but how to ignore the awful screenplay and makeup?

My opinion of this film is a hateful piece of propaganda.

The amount of inexhaustible self-confidence and ambition Griffith must have tirelessly retained to convince both himself and his studio that the film was still worthy of being made (allegedly pouring $112, 000 in 1915 dollars into the production) permeate the film with a constant sense of cloying pretension and sense of stuffy self-importance throughout, plastering his name and initials over the scene setting title cards and soaking the film in a haughty sense of intense importance which lessens the stunning resonance of its technical mastery.

Also, the scene in which Abraham Lincoln was shot was pretty intense.

Decidedly, this WWI Americas is very conservative: after a War propaganda (Lusitania), an anti-abortion eugenic pamphlet (My children), here we have an Aryan movie, in which old white enemies during the Secession War become new allies to fight the new Black Power.

Likewise, BIRTH OF A NATION is beautifully photographed and there are some scenes that are fascinating to watch.

This is one of the longest, most boring, and most dull movie I have ever seen.

Just as one example, the Italian epic "Cabiria", from the previous year, has the same kind of lavish scale, is quite resourceful in its techniques, and is quite entertaining, without causing so much controversy.

And the last quarter or so of the film is admittedly exciting, and Griffith shows he knows how to use editing in ways that no one before him did.

I cannot even say how many times I must have zoned out or pleaded for this soul crushingly dull film to be over.

The main point being that this film is the Birth of the propaganda film.

I like DW, but I was bored .

Thus, Griffith has to be given the credit of being "the father of film making" (as Charlie Chaplin described him) but his racist point of view, matched only by Nazi propaganda films 25 years later, means this film should not be held in high esteem for its content.

To bring this long winded review to a close, if you watch this film you must do so expecting to be offended, amused, and a bit nauseated by the predictable, black and white (no pun intended, I assure you) plotline.

By contrast many of the action sequences are actually rather dull.

This skull numbingly boring film is not worth your time.

g, Lillian Gish and Josephine Crowell's strong, commanding performances; the depictions of the battle scenes and the burning of Atlanta; Mrs. Cameron pleading for her son's life; Colonel Cameron's return home, and President Lincoln's assassination are especially compelling.

Unlike part 2, part 1 of Birth of a Nation is powerful and compelling work of cinema.

Before, Griffith had found how exciting well-edited suspense could be, with "The Battle at Elderbush Gulch" and his last-minute rescue flicks, such as "The Girl and Her Trust.

The racist and sometimes pointless second half did take away from the experience though.

While the film was being praised for its grandeur upon it's release, it was at the same time reviled for it's revisionist history, abhorrent racism and the manipulation of using this medium as a means for propaganda.

"Birth of a Nation" has the cinematic elegance of a documentary, and the innovation of a boring melodrama.

Don't waste your time on this rubbish.

This film is rife with problems in total but worth watching because a master film maker rose above 1915 to produce an important film.

While the second part is clearly disturbing, I found it more compelling than the first part.

This is Just KKK Propaganda .

I feel that this film is innovative, historically fascinating, and an important part of film history.

It was all I could do from falling asleep.

Realize that in this time out country was in turmoil and on the edge of destruction.

The battle scenes are thrilling, beautifully staged and surprisingly violent for the time.

It actually felt like it was less than its length, because of how engaging the whole experience is.

The first halve is more serious dramatic and historical like, while the second is more over-the-top dramatic and the story becomes more fictional and also because of that more entertaining.

This beautiful piece of racist propaganda centers around the moving story of how the heroic Ku Klux Klan saved the South from being ruled by the terrible immoral Negroes after the Civil War.

Panoramas, close-ups, cross-cutting, iris-openings etc. The first part is the best one, a fascinating story about the Camerons and the Stonemans before,during and after the Civil War, sheer entertainment with beautiful camerawork.

One of the worst movies ever .

The movie's validity on the fairly obscure subject of the racial discrimination in the years following the Civil War are intriguing and nearly addictive to watch.

First half of the movie was mainly factual history of events that actually occurred; meanwhile the second half was chocked full of propaganda to sway opinions in one direction!

Griffith's war epic also manages to be a thrilling, engaging, and action packed epic that has influenced later films for decades to come, and is required viewing for any student of film.

Propaganda for the KKK .

The battle scenes and ending (once you get past the shocking fact that the KKK is the heroic force) was exciting to watch and I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Lincoln's assassination, it was very dramatic.

The sequences of real life events are mesmerizing, the battle and action sequences (Including the Klan to the rescue) are spectacular and if they seem cliché its only because they have been stolen thousands of times.

Technical masterpiece, vicious propaganda .

The pacing of it will be too slow for most of '90's movie go-ers.

This movie was difficult to follow.

A landmark in film narrative and propaganda .

Historical interest is the next thing to a yawn .

Then again this is not a product of our time, and that is what makes this motion picture even more fascinating.

We also have the Lincoln assassination, which the director uses his trademark editing style to create a very suspenseful scene.

"Birth" is an overly long, melodramatic propaganda piece that is the "original" hatchet-job on Blacks.

But here the change is drastic because it's indeed a KKK propaganda: it's maybe the first movie in which i see indeed black people harassing, threatening, humiliating white people, their children, their vote...

Not to mention that Trip to The Moon, Nosferatu, Any Charlie Chaplin or Lon Chaney movie are far more entertaining.

The truth is this film is boring.

Basically, it was 3 hours of 'oh woe is me, the white man is being subjugated by the big bad black man!

Relationships develop in a slow process, such as the one of Ben and Elsie.

Can the climactic "rescue ride" by the white-hooded clansmen be deemed exciting ?

Hateful, mean-spirited propaganda...

Revisionist Propaganda .

I found it hard to stay awake and I could only hope that the clan would just save that woman in time from that "horrible" mulatto...

Watching the film without keeping history and film history in the back of your mind, one can easily find the film tedious and hard to keep your attention.

Entertaining, No.

I read my recent review of Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" where I conceded that if anyone could make a masterpiece of propaganda, there couldn't be an 'objective' masterpiece happening to be propaganda, for instinct of superiority is morally low and easily aroused.

The stationary cameras, and the quick edits paired with non-complimentary sound gets boring in a 3 hour film.

Everyone should see this film, understand the context of when it was made, learn its contribution to film as an art form, but also see it as a hateful piece of propaganda.

But you should also be prepared for a fascinating look into the cultural views of the early 1900's, the interpretation of the war, and the cinematic mastery of D.

Moments of suspense are truly gripping and the opening war scenes are by all means commendable.

the plot was slow moving and non-interesting, both before and after the War took place.

It has its ups and downs, with a really intense action scene towards the end of the film.

When one realizes that this film is a piece of propaganda, and sees it for what it is, one can easily notice the quality of the work.

The Birth of a Nation is a piece of propaganda for the Ku Klux Klan.

It is fascinating to see that the passage of inter-racial marriage is such a horrible thing in Griffith's mind and the true cause of all the trouble is a fight over white women.

On a personal level, I thought the film was distasteful, but mostly engaging.

Its old and boring.

The movie has breathtaking long shots showing the huge scale of the civil war.

This film, on the other hand, was disappointing in every way from the confusing family tree to the ending that was so racist I almost retched.

The resurgence of the KKK after this film was devastating to the progression of this country and any work of art and cinema that can actually alter history, I believe, is worth watching at least once.

The movie is, at the same time, a stunning summation of all that film could do in 1915; the battle scenes in particular hold up remarkably well.

Fascinating, expensive movie.

Controversial, politically incorrect, but quite engaging, technically brilliant and striking in its day.

If you want to make an exciting movie with clear heroes and villains, as is the case with this movie, stop inserting political commentary and claims to historical accuracy.

Half enjoyable in a rickety old-fasioned way; half chillingly offensive .

If Griffith had established the man's status as bodyguard more unambiguously and had given us a few shots of him getting bored and restless and periodically peeking through the curtain, then no explanations would have been necessary.

But it's fascinating how a film has complete control over its audience simply by how the director paints a scene.

The Birth of a Nation is considered among the most important and influential films ever made, for its success established not only the feature-length film but also the Hollywood star system ,Griffith as the leading motion-picture producer of the time and motion pictures as an art form for cultured spectators, stunning audiences with its dazzling spectacle of a still-recent event.

I've watched this movie some years ago and, oh, Lord, how tiresome it was to watch it.

This sick, twisted propaganda isn't passion!

After the rousing parade of Klansmen through cheering city streets, we dissolve to the next election, where we see blacks coming out of their homes and being greeted by armed Klansmen on horseback with guns drawn to stop them from voting.

Disgusting and unbearable.

Okay, it was a silent era epic (yawn), and it did have some very good battle scenes, in fact I'd go as far to say that the first half deserves the commendations of the film industry.

This movie is too long for my taste!


It is straight up KKK propaganda and depicts Afro-Americans as criminals and the KKK as heroes.

,the sacking of Piedmont and the Cameron home; the intense battle scenes; the burning of Atlanta) and the loss suffered by the families in what is a senseless struggle (e.

What this movie is is a fantastic piece of racist propaganda that was created primarily to boost the popularity of the KKK and to foster a nationwide feeling of hatred toward blacks.

(That is to say that some of the scenes were extended too long, resulting in extreme boredom and the occasional nap.

Note that Harron appears later on, in an unexpected role.

From the brilliant depiction of the events surrounding the Civil War, and that of the war itself, as well as the brilliantly acted romance story that is thrown in between, this movie is thoroughly engaging.

He constructs breathtaking battle-sequences using hundreds of extras, and creates suspense through the cross-cutting of parallel sequences: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre is brilliantly edited, strongly reminiscent of Hitchcock's Albert Hall montage in both versions of 'The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934/1956).

On a positive note the background music to this movie was more entertaining because its a bunch of different instruments instead of just piano.

The chase and rescue at the end doesn't seem that innovative anymore, but it is still exciting- assuming, of course, that you can overlook what's actually going on in the scene.

It's most intriguing when capable of being viewed as a pure curio - as with the assassination of Lincoln or the surrender of Lee, dramatized like some rickety local theater costume party.

Yet, the Klan rescue is by far the most offensive and concurrently most exciting sequence in the picture.

I highly recommend it.

As a side note, it is interesting to decode Griffith's portrayal of war (through a lengthy and undeniably thrilling Civil War battle sequence), especially considering America's looming role in the World War One conflict.

When seen together one can easily look past the propaganda on both sides, and look at the art, history, and stories of both movies without fear of being convinced or offended.

There is more racist and pro white propaganda in this American movie than I have seen in many propaganda flicks coming from USSR and the Third Reich.

I think 90% of the general audience would fall asleep.

Reasons why Birth of a Nation is "Good": Created the language of cinema Revolutionary camera techniques hundred years old Reasons why Birth of a Nation is Bad: Uninteresting protagonists discusting ethics and racism abuse of historical narrative no interesting characters director talks directly to audience condescending tone uninteresting characters Overly bloated plot and weird pacing Uninteresting romantic subplot laughable death acting

It is way too long, boring, emotionally distant (you are never given a chance to connect with or care about any of the characters), the plot is both historically inaccurate and not compelling whatsoever… altogether it's just a mess.

Very excitingly done, with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkeries" in the 1930 version soundtrack, with quick and exciting cross cutting.

It is the birth of our current society, complete with racism, hatred, confusion, corruption, epic battles, and greed.

I have to say that it is a visually beautiful and often stunning movie.

The irony in the film is how intense role reversal is presented in the film.

The first part of 'The Birth of a Nation' is absolutely brilliant, very compelling and epic as well as moving.

Griffith's direction is masterful and technically more than efficient, well certainly in the first part and keeps the second from being unwatchable (along with the acting).

a stunning display of early cinematic skill .

This is unavoidable for scenes where two people are simply having a discussion, but there are many scenes in which the action is self-explanatory and the title cards are a pointless intrusion.

Even aside from the horrific racist propaganda, it's just not a good film and there are much better films from the time period.

Yet as repulsive as the message is, Griffith gave us some compelling characters whom we never lose interest in throughout the more than three hour long film.

They way that he has put these events into a movie and show people just what happened to the former slaves is mind boggling.

In other words, except for the battle scenes, when the film isn't' being offensive, it is being boring.

It was difficult for me to finish this film because of the horrible "propaganda" style brainwashing that was being attempted.

The first hour and a half of the movie is easily enjoyable, for it focuses only on the war.

And "Birth" is one of the most insidious propaganda deceits ever filmed.

Hands down, this is a brilliant, intense, exciting masterpiece.

And there is very little propaganda surrounding this particular truth.

If you are beginning to equate this film with the Nazi propaganda machine of the 1930's, then this review won't be in vain.

the climax was the confrontation of two different friends in a situation of confusion on the battlefield that led to the death of both characters.

Actually, the intemporal quality of this film can be easily proved by how fun and absorbing it still can be.

Much to my surprise it was riveting, beautiful and emotionally soaring in places, the cinematography is breathtaking (particularly in light of every other film that had been made to that point), and there was even subtle touches of nuance amidst the spectacle.

As it is, by the time you get the "chase" scene near the end that Ebert goes on an on about, you're so bored out of your skull you hardly care.

The acting was surprisingly more natural then most from this time era, but this also may have affected the overall film, because with no dialogue, it felt sometimes felt slow with little reason.

Some of the sequences are so horribly stilted that they are near unwatchable.

Technically stunning but far too long and sadly openly racist .

Stunning .

Worth watching at least once .

The music is emotionally evocative (although at times unduly repetitive).

Birth of A Nation broke so much ground in cinematic technique that it's well worth watching for that reason alone.

But that aside I am convinced that he was a great director,that he knew how to tell a compelling story in an innovative way.

Unless you're a serious silent film fan, don't waste your time on this one.

Ho hum.

Griffith pioneered countless techniques of cinematography and editing to mine the maximum potential of emotional resonance and stirring, rousing reaction in viewers, making for a visually luscious and impressively powerful technical triumph.

Developing such material in a complex, provocative, and entertaining manner is a towering achievement that deserves to be viewed and cherished in its own right without social judgment.

He showed how a film can be used as a propaganda tool and a way to send a message to the public,with the exact same way as the other arts do.

For the boring of this movie, any true movie fan, buff, critic would understand the importance of this long saga.

The film is quite slow at times (I've watched it nearly twice, the first time I fell asleep during the end), and quite long.

History & Propaganda .

Before taking this movie out from my school library I was warned that it is " three hours long, and good luck in staying awake.

Performance-wise, we have Lilian Gish and Mae Marsh, both perennials for Griffith, and both excellent, and the great Henry B Walthall, plus an entertaining short appearance from Joseph Hanabery as Lincoln.

Woods is very well structured and, while it inspired many feelings in me, boredom was not one of them.

There is a lot of anti-black brainwash propaganda so you should be careful when you watch it and not believe everything the movie tells you about American history.

Then Griffith turned the movie into a racist, revisionist piece of pro- Ku Klux Klan propaganda.

Technically Brilliant Piece Of Pro-KKK Propaganda .

Why support KKK propaganda?

Don't waste your time watching this relic of a racist past.

Timeless Propaganda .

The Birth of Film-Based Propaganda.

I found it fascinating to watch the Southerners treat the Northerners as invaders and criminals while applauding the Southern rebels.

I just watched this for the second time, the first being many years ago, and I enjoyed it much more now that I'm older.