Free State of Jones

6.92 h 20 min2016X-RayR
A defiant southern farmer, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), leads an extraordinary rebellion with farmers and slaves to secede from the Confederacy during the civil war.
Gary Ross
Matthew McConaugheyGugu Mbatha-RawMahershala Ali
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Supporting actors
Keri Russell
Scott StuberJon KilikGary Ross
STX Entertainment
R (Restricted)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

5520 global ratings

  1. 77% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Janet ChandlerReviewed in the United States on August 21, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Film That Needs To Be Watched
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There are more then enough reviews on this movie that there is no need for me to add one more what it is about. Instead I want to write that I feel it is important for every American to see this picture at least once. While this may be somewhat a fictionalized account this is still based on a real person and real events and places that took part during the most critical moment in United States history.

I have stated many times in the past while writing reviews on movies or documentaries or books about history that I admit to being history nerd. I love learning about famous events that happened and the reasons and what for their occurrence. I have always in particular had a special interest in our Civil War that began at around the age of 10 when my parents took me to Gettysburg to see the battlefield and the row after row of graves of the soldiers who were buried there. I may have been a bit too young to understand all the issues that lead to this point where two great armies would battle for three days. But the site of all the graves there made an impression on me that something important took place here and that started the spark in me of wanting to learn about the Civil War and in turn developing an interest in history.

It saddens me over the years to see how little importance is put on history today. Schools to me nowadays are putting more emphasis is teaching math and science and technological subjects, which don't get me wrong are very important, while history gets a quick skim through teaching students to memorize names and dates of important events without helping them to understand the importance behind why they need to memorize those names and dates. As a result history becomes for a lot of people useless and unimportant. This in turn sets up conditions where people can come along and bend and twist facts around historical events to make it seem certain horrific events really aren't as bad as history leads you to believe.

Best known case in point are those revisionist who claim the holocaust during the second world war is a hoax and didn't really happen. Over the years these revisionist have made this claim long and loud enough that it has caused some to question and start to believe it never happened. That was the reason that Steven Spielberg felt he had to make the film "Shindler's List" to help people remember it really did happen.

In resent years in our country there have been revisionists who claim the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery or to free the slaves. They try to paint the Confederacy as the victims against the northern States who were trying to take away their states rights. Don't believe that. I don't know if "Free State of Jones" was made as a counterpoint to that revisionist belief but it sure does shoot down those beliefs. And this is why it is important for all Americans to watch this film.

If there is a defining moment where it is pointed out that slavery was indeed the main issue behind the Civil War it comes during the documentary included in the DVD about Newton Knight and the state he created in Jones County. It is pointed out that as each of the southern states who voted to leave the union and join the Confederacy made it clear it was to perserve their right to own slaves. The fact is slavery was always an issue that neither the northern and southern states could ever resolve going back to its colonial days before we had won our independence from Great Britain. It would take fighting a war before that conflict could ever end.

In addition to making clear the war was about slavery "Free State of Jones" also I think does a good job of clearing up another fact. That being that not all southerners believed in slavery or in seceding from tbe union and joining the confederacy. In fact many opposed the Confederacy. Fact is every southern state in the Confederacy with the excepting of South Carolina sent troops north to fight with the Union army against the rebels. (just as a side note there were some northern States too who sent troops to the south to fight with the Confederate army against The Yankees. The Civil War truely did split the country in half more then just geographically, but I digress) "Free State of Jones" looks at one small segment in the state of Mississippi who was so against the war and slavery that they declared Jones county and a couple of neighboring counties was seceding from the Confederacy and starting their own kingdom. Led by Newton Knight they stood up to government officials and the Confederate army to maintain their independence and would throughout the war.

Altogether this is an outstanding movie. Well written. Well directed. Well acted. This is a must to see. And I hope in viewing this there will be many who will want to know more about the history of our Civil War as well as our history as a country. There is so much more to it then just names and dates. And as we have those revisionists out there looking to twist the truth around to serve their own interests history and the willingness to learn from it will keep them from taking the truth from us.
48 people found this helpful
Norma McLReviewed in the United States on September 6, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Take the negative reviews with a grain of salt
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I own this movie and like it a lot because I am interested in the Civil War in terms of race. I grew up in the Deep South, and the experience left me with a lot of questions about race and racism that I've spent a lifetime trying to understand. And I'm old, so we're talking about a lot of time devoted to it.

I did not know about the rebellion of this Deep South county of Jones until I read about this film, and I had no idea until then that Southern boys were exempted from fighting the war according to how many slaves their fathers owned. I am not ill-read, especially not on this topic, but I've been interested in more recent writings, so I did not realize this fact. When I grew up in the Deep South, children seemed to go one way or the other, with little in between. Influences always cut both ways, and the cuts are deep: You either buy into the status quo that is fed to you or you totally rebel. There are few people more formidable than a radicalized southern white, either side.

I wondered about the negative reviews of this movie, so I read them. Some are simply confused: they praised the movie and apparently thought that "one star" was the highest rating. Others had more cinematic concerns. But still others accuse the film of being "PC" and so on. Clearly, some people are still fighting the Civil War.

Frankly, if my own great-grandaddy fought on the Confederate side in this horrible war, I'd want to know why, given that there is not a plantation owner in my family background. And if I found out my great-grandaddy served simply because my people were poor, I doubt I'd be talking about the PC quality of the film.

I mention this because there's a scene in the film in which the protagonist kills a higher-up in the Confederate Army in a church. The man killed is in my family tree, a great-great uncle. I'll investigate him further, but to my mind principles are thicker than blood. If he did what the movie alleges, he deserved it.
22 people found this helpful
michael HartyReviewed in the United States on August 23, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Eyes Wide Open!
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When I started watching I was thinking another civil war movie, which I enjoy. I am always interested in learning about that time period as well as the American revolution and WWII. This particular movie highlights what happened as the war was ending and what happened after the war in Jones County, Mississippi. Where Newton Knight, a poor white farmer led a rebellion during the Civil War consisting of white men and black men from southeast Mississippi. This mixed group of men and woman grew into the hundreds as they fought guerrilla warfare style against the Confederacy fighting from the swamps. This group of black and white families lived together, worked together and fought side by side against racism eventually moving the entire camp from the swamps onto dry land waging war taking parts of Jones county back. Hence The State of Jones. So much happened during and after the civil war this movie can only a give snippets of the great sorrow, heartbreak and triumphs portraying the true life story of Newton Knight. This period in American history is so important to understand here the director, producer, actors and script writers lay it all out for the audience to come to their own conclusions. It wasn't long when I realized this movie was far more than a shoot em' up war picture encapsulating some of the atrocities committed by white men and the culture of... yes wait for it- The Democratic party and wait for it again- the creators of the Ku KLux KLan! It's amazing the parallels of today's intifada and the democratic party pushing socialism. In this movie you will witness how evil men can hang children without a tear. Self righteously blocking the rights of anyone who thinks differently and forcibly block religious freedom, burn down farms and christian churches also known as 'town meeting places.' It is heartbreaking to watch as brave black men step up and walk bravely into town in order to vote for the first time. But town leaders and voting places were corrupt initially blocking the black vote who by the way, were originally republicans. I won't spoil for you what happens to their black vote. I have never watched a program or movie expressing the truth about the democratic party. Kudos to the producers and actors for being brave enough to risk their careers in order to speak the truth. The acting was amazing Matthew McConaughey and supporting cast were completely believable in their roles. The tears of emotion and anger ran down my cheeks as I was awakened to the racism and hate. I see clearly the democrats have not changed at all... in fact they have gotten worse if there is such a thing! I was surprised and with My Eyes Wide Open I saw the evening news of today in this movie. Every teenager should watch this movie in their history class but that is unlikely. Where I live the democratic party has controlled the now bankrupt state of California for decades... I give this movie 5 Big Stars for exposing truth!
12 people found this helpful
The George'sReviewed in the United States on February 12, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
As good a historically based film can be with the limitations ...
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As good a historically based film can be with the limitations of a movie. Though I grew up in the states of Louisiana and Missippi and my wife is from the area depicted in the Free State of Jones, I did not learn the real story of Newton Knight until I read the work the movie is based on by Victoria E. Bynum. There have been other works that preceded Bynum's - Legend of the Black Horn, etc... - but none were free from the biases of ancestors of Knight before hers. McConaughey was a perfect choice for New Knight and fit the pacing of the movie well.

This is not a summer blockbuster, thrill a minute kind of film, and if that is all you care for, this movie may not be for you. It does, however, catch the flavor of what was a far more convoluted and conflicting time of history than most imagine. Now, every time I make my way to visit family and see deputy's cars with an emblem bearing the proud words, Free State of Jones, I will see McConaughey repeating the well documented words of New Knight, "No one has the right to own another."
18 people found this helpful
M BurksReviewed in the United States on August 26, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Vastly Underrated Film
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Great piece of history every American--every person needs to know. The true history of the Confederate States of America was much greyer than the uniforms they ran around in. Who really pays the prices of wars fought between nations? Who are the instigators that slip the noose for their treasonous actions against the union of this republic? Who are the true winners who hide behind systemic institutions? These questions and more are raised in the Free States of Jones.

The story was great, the historical accuracy is spot on and the acting fresh.

One complaint I may raise was the disjointed pacing, mainly the centuries long flash forward to the 1930s. I felt it added nothing to the plot and acted more as a buffer against the actual story. Like multiple prologues in between the chapters of a book. It interrupted the pace and was a needless device to tell the story. Now if the editors made it a frame of reference story, whereas the 1930s part was included only at the beginning and the very end of the movie, then it would have been a nice addition and wrap up.

Other than that cinematographic discrepancy, I enjoyed the film greatly with my family.
4 people found this helpful
Karl WilsonReviewed in the United States on May 5, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Without reparations there will never be peace
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Brilliant film - family saga of poor whites and African Americans. Growing up in the south we school children could buy "lynching" postcards at the drug store. It's all over? I don't think so. Just in the last 20 years we've had rampant murder of black men by the police, mass murder in churches, schools and clubs of brown and black people, and now higher mortality Covid-19 deaths of blacks. The crimes are undeniable. The only question is the amount of reparation due.

A long movie but necessary to show the multi-generational suffering created by slavery. This is what they should of showed us instead of the ridiculous Virginia History Book and U.S. History books that devoted a paragraph to the institution of slavery.
One person found this helpful
R. EyeReviewed in the United States on October 28, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Intense biopic of farmer Newt Knight's struggle against gov't- & state-sanctioned racism & greed during & after the Civil War
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Intense biopic, directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit), about real-life persona Newt Knight's fight against the oppression of people from 1861 onward who lived in Mississippi & other southern states. The movie highlights the degradation of the slaves & former slaves during & after the war & continuing until the movie's present day - 1948.

I am a history lover & appreciate movies that attempt to reconstruct with facts the sanitized version of history that we were taught in school. Sometimes, historical movies will embellish the facts & take liberties in the retelling, but the important take away is the message that, historically, all is not as we may have been led to believe. I find it interesting that during 1861-1865 & afterward, the "Civil War" was referred to in print media of the time as "The War of the Rebellion." Newt Knight's struggle was considered by Confederate powers to be a rebellion. Perhaps he took his cue from the acts of the Confederacy, which seceded from the laws of the United States, declaring Confederate states to be collectively free from the laws of the country.

The star of Free State of Jones is Matthew McConaughey portraying Newt Knight, a 6'4" strapping, white farmer who deserts the Confederate army & proclaims that his home town of Jones County, Mississippi is seceding from the Confederacy. (Jones County never voted to secede from the Union but its vote was not accurately passed forward by its representative in the state legislature). It is also about Knight's descendant, Davis Knight, who went on trial in 1948 for miscegenation. He was found to have violated Mississippi's "one-drop" law that made it illegal for a person who had one drop of African-American blood in them to legally marry a white person. After the trial establishes that Davis is not 100% white, he is required to annul his marriage or face prison.

Newt Knight deserted his military post due to the Twenty Negro Law, which exempted from Confederate service, one white male per 20 slaves owned. This meant that rich plantation owners with many slaves didn't have to fight & only the poor or non-slave owning southern male would be required to fight the war. This law infuriated Knight & other southerners.

As enlightening as this movie may be, it also leads viewers to think that only southern states & Ku Klux Klan members persecuted former slaves, African Americans. Given Mississippi's prejudicial laws against African-Americans, & the violent crimes against them, I would agree, yet deep-south states were not alone in their commiseration to torment & discriminate against former slaves. Post-Civil War sundown laws enacted in Northern or former Union states attempted to ensure that their communities would remain all-white by threatening the welfare of African-Americans (& other ethnic groups like the Chinese). It is strange that the Union North who fought for the freedom of African-American slaves not only did not welcome them into all Northern/Union communities, but also went so far as to enact legislation threatening them if they attempted to relocate north/west. While Sundown towns prevented unwanted ethnic groups from moving north (or west), the blatant violent acts of the KKK throughout history (& graphically depicted in the movie) are without excuse & the movie's portrayal of victims in such a climate of fear & danger is heart wrenching.

According to a Smithsonian magazine article about Newt & Jones County, Newt was originally married to a white woman, Serena, & fathered many children with her over the years. Newt also concurrently lived with former slave, Rachel, & fathered many children with her. Both Rachel & Serena also had children with other men. One of Rachel's daughters by another man, Georgeanne, bore Newt's children after Rachel died. Because both black & white society shunned Newt's offspring, Newt encouraged his children to marry each other & so offspring of Rachel by another man married offspring of Newt & Serena, etc. Newt was proud of his mixed race children & ultimately lived outside of white society altogether. Newt deeded 160 acres to Rachel since he never married her. Newt was buried beside Rachel despite laws banning mixed race burial grounds. Although Newt’s proclivities toward polyamory and his encouragement for relative-intermarrying may be viewed as shocking, it certainly reinforces his position on race relations - he truly lacked racial prejudice and was progressive for his time.

I had never heard of Newt Knight or his efforts toward equality between races. I recommend this movie. It is not going to keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense, but it is a worthwhile biopic that provides a more accurate climate during & post-war, demonstrates the brutal violence that transpired, & pervasive racism that tainted legislation at the state level for too long.
4 people found this helpful
Christine Calabrese, Indie AuthorReviewed in the United States on January 5, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Heart Wrenching ~ Thought Provoking
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This movie, which we watched on our wired computer, was really excellent.. The acting was extraordinary and the humanity and lack thereof depicted in great movie form. A day later, one is still pensive and would like to research the actual story further, perhaps read the book and historical facts of this Civil War upheaval and uprising.

I seem to conclude that no matter what era, we have those greedy ones who would do anything and act in the most primal manners and those more humble who through compassion and understanding long for justice and equality to reign..

Here we sit now in 2020, with the same scenario continuing. The rich blinded and inhumane preying on the poor. It is though, up to us, those with compassion to bring relief to the suffering and to work for justice.
One person found this helpful
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