''Amistad'' is a 1997 Creator/StevenSpielberg film based on the true story of a slave mutiny that took place aboard a ship of the same name in 1839, and the legal battle that followed. It shows how, even though the case was won at the federal district court level, it was appealed by President UsefulNotes/MartinVanBuren to the Supreme Court, and how former President UsefulNotes/JohnQuincyAdams took part in the proceedings.

This was the second film for which Creator/AnthonyHopkins received an UsefulNotes/AcademyAward nomination for playing a U.S. president, having previously been nominated in 1995 for playing UsefulNotes/RichardNixon in ''Film/{{Nixon}}''.
!! This Movie Contains Examples Of:

* AnachronismStew: Creator/GustaveDore 's illustrated Bible is shown, but Doré was only 9 in 1841 and his Bible wouldn't be published until 1866.
* AntiVillain: It's shown in a couple of scenes that Van Buren's biggest fear was [[UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar civil war.]] Yes, he's worried about his own re-election campaign, but he's even more worried about keeping the peace.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: All the crewmen of the ''Tecora'' (a Portuguese ship) speak Spanish with thick Mexican accents.
* BittersweetEnding: Adams wins the case and Cinque and the other Africans are freed and return to Africa. The ending texts reveals Cinque's family were probably carried off into slavery, his people were in a civil war, and the one which Americans were dreading the case would lead to finally consumed them.
* ChekhovsGun: The surviving Spaniards, realizing that the ship will be searched as part of their plan to be freed by another passing boat, hide crucial documents away. Joadson later finds them, and uses them to win the case in the lower courts as they prove the slaves are African.
* CoolOldGuy: UsefulNotes/JohnQuincyAdams.
* CloseUpOnHead: The close up of the African leader [[ChewingTheScenery dramatically shouting]] "[[YouNoTakeCandle Give us! Us Free!]]" is suitably dramatic and emotional... until the camera zooms out to show the whole courtroom, showing how silly it looked to the people present in the room with him.
* DaylightHorror: The scene where slaves are tossed overboard to drown during the Middle Passage.
* TheDogBitesBack: The slaves rise up and kill the slavers.
* DrivenToSuicide: During the Middle Passage sequence, a slave girl dives off from the ship with a baby in her arms, preferring death than endure suffering aboard at the slavers' hands.
* EtTuBrute: Cinque, the village chief, is sold to slavers by his own people (and possibly his wife). TruthInTelevision-most African slaves were sold to Europeans by other Africans, sometimes even their own people.
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: President Martin Van Buren, though the film does show that he's effectively being blackmailed by John C. Calhoun into going to the lengths that he does.
** Lewis Tappan as well. After the appeal, Tappan says the Amistad Africans may be better off as martyrs, after which Joadson admonishes him as not caring about the slaves, but only about ending slavery. The real Tappan was famously known as an uncompromising anti-slavery extremist, who supported full rights (including gun ownership and voting) and advocated mass intermarriage to create a country without prejudice.
* HollywoodHistory: Presidential candidates didn't campaign for votes at the time (it was considered highly unseemly), let alone from the backs of trains, and some aspects of the court case are altered for dramatic effect.
* InfantImmortality: Averted. A girl drowns herself with a baby in her arms during the Middle Passage scene.
* IronicName: Amistad (the ship's name) means Friendship in Spanish.
* ItWillNeverCatchOn: Adams' first appearance is during a session of the House to determine whether or not to honor an old man's request that his possessions form an institute of national treasure. The representative addressing Adams dismisses the collection as "bunch of junk". The old man? James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.
* MetaCasting: Former Supreme Court justice Harry A. Blackmun plays Supreme Court justice Joseph Story.
* MisplacedVegetation: A ''West'' African is surprised to see an ''East'' African Violet at an American garden.
* OutOfCharacterMoment: More for the real Matthew [=McConaughey=] than for his actual character. When the case is won in the lower court, [=McConaughey=] leaps in the air, shouting a BigYes while clenching his fist in a way that seems ''pretty odd'' for a lawyer in the 1840s.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: The revolt on the Amistad in the beginning of the film.
* RoyalBrat: 10-years old Queen Isabel II of Spain (the fact that her mother was regent and the actual head of state at the time is omitted under the RuleOfFunny).
* SlaveLiberation: The Destruction of the Lomboko fortress.
* TheStoic: Captain Fitzgerald. In a really awesome badass way.
* TokenMinority: Theodore Joadson, the black abolitionist played by Creator/MorganFreeman, did not exist.
* VehicleTitle
* WhamLine
--> '''Judge Coglin:''' Were they born in Africa? [[spoiler:...I believe they were.]]