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A Lesson Before Dying (2000)

Don Cheadle , Cicely Tyson  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Don Cheadle, Cicely Tyson, Mekhi Phifer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: January 25, 2000
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000399WJ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,920 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Lesson Before Dying" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Don Cheadle. A teacher returns home to a segregated South to defend a young man wrongly convicted of killing a white store owner and learns a life-changing lesson in dignity and compassion. 1999/color/101 min/PG-13/fullscreen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deals With Issues Much Deeper That Skin Color May 12, 2002
I missed the first few minutes of this film, so I watched the rest not knowing if the convicted man was guilty. By the end of the film, it was no longer an issue...
The same appeared to happen with the racial issues presented. The open demoralizing of the blacks (by the whites) was soon overshadowed by the more personal issues of spirituality and self-esteem. One of Cheadle's finer performances, in my opinion, with equally impressive supporting performances.
This is a wonderful film, with a "Lesson" or two for us all.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
In Louisiana in 1948 a young black man named Jefferson (Mekhi Phifer) makes the fatal mistake of accepting a ride from another pair of young men. When they stop at a local store to get some beer the other men do not have enough money and the white storeowner will not give them credit. Guns are drawn and everybody ends up dead but Jefferson, who is arrested for the crime. Since this is a question of black and white justice in the South before the Civil Rights Movement, Jefferson is condemned to be executed. The fact that he is innocent of the actual killings is not important to this 1999 HBO movie adapted from the novel by Ernest J. Gaines ("The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman"). Nobody is going to save Jefferson from his fate. The focus here is not on justice, but rather on death with dignity.

The key moment is not what happened in the store but rather what is said during the trial, when Jefferson's defense attorney, a white lawyer, seeks to save his client's life by saying that Jefferson is like a hog. That is to say, as a Negro Jefferson is no more intelligent than a hog and not capable of understanding what he is doing, therefore he should not be convicted. The jury, no doubt well acquainted with the practice of barbeque, has no more qualms about having Jefferson executed than they would of slaughtering a hog for a feast. But Jefferson's mother, Miss Emma (Irma P. Hall), and his aunt Tante Lou (Cicely Tyson), are outraged that the boy has been called a hog. So they badger local schoolteacher Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle), the only educated black man in town, to visit Jefferson in jail and convince him that he is a man and not a hog.

Now, this is certainly an interesting idea.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faithful to the book August 14, 2002
This movie faithfully captures the essence of the book and brings it to life. When I read the book I just loved it. Shortly after I finished reading the book, I found out that HBO was going to show the movie, but I didn't have HBO. So when I saw that it had come out on DVD, I knew I had to buy it. When I got it, I popped it in right away and WOW, I was pleasantly surprised. It followed the book very well and wasn't "Hollywood-ized".
I warn that this movie isn't very action-packed, but it's a great intriguing drama. I recommend it to anyone looking to see an intelligent, well-made movie.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lesson for us all April 6, 2006
A "Lesson Before Dying" is a powerful and passionate film, so beautifully written and so beautifully acted it is one of those rare exceptions where the film adaptation is better than the book. Mehki Phifer gives a powerful performance as Jefferson, a young man sentenced to die for a crime he did not commit. He truly brings honesty and humanity to a young man who is seen by white society as inhuman. And Don Cheadle brings compassionate and dignity to the teacher who must help Jefferson stand tall.

I can't say enough about "A Lesson Before Dying." The injustice committed will anger you, the fate of Jefferson will sadden you, but ultimately knowing these people and sharing in their lives, and seeing dignity and love rise from the ashes of a cruel and uncaring world make the anger and sadness worth it all.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good movie, grab a box of tissues. February 6, 2004
By A Customer
This movie was excellent, very sad but realistic about racism and how African Americans were not treated equally in the South. A great line from the movie that sums up the entire film is "when a white man dies, a black man has to pay for it", in summary. No matter who is actually guilty, whether there's proof or not, a black man must die. I don't think I'd want to see this movie again because it was very, very sad, but powerful. A great movie and I'm glad I watched it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson Before Dying March 20, 2010
In the 1940's South, an African-American man is wrongly accused of the killing a a white store owner. In his defense, his white attorney equates him with a lowly hog, to indicate that he didn't have the sense to know what he was doing. Nevertheless convicted, he is sentenced to die, but his godmother and the aunt of the local schoolteacher convince school teacher go to the convicted man's cell each day to try to reaffirm to him that he is not an animal but a man with dignity. This movie is very well done, superbly crafted, and the storytelling is excellent. But what keeps me watching is the performances, specifically Don Cheadles. This man is quite simply a great actor. Cicely Tyson remains one of our greatest assets, and the whole cast brings a sensitivity and authenticity to it that makes it a good movie. Worth watching.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film Adaptation! March 31, 2001
By Pamela
This was one of the best film adaptations of a book that I have seen in a long time! The film had a great cast and managed to capture the essence of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Story Brought to Film with Beauty & Grace
The transaction was flawless. The merchandise is superb. A brilliant and poignant story brought to film with sensitivity and artistry. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Biglickbrewer
5.0 out of 5 stars great product
very touching movie - bought it for my daughter's school project. she aced her test at the end - so it was well worth it!! thank you - great product!
Published 5 months ago by rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars More movies like this needed
Excellent movie! I am surprised I have never seen it. I actually got it for my sons school homework and I ended up watching it
Published 9 months ago by Jesse Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully told story, very important issues for today
A must read in my opinion, well written, well presented story touching on racial climate that is as delicate today as it was decades ago, a balance between "this is the way... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Bonnie F Palombo
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson Before Dying
As with most movies prior to or during the Civil Rights Movement, it was always a struggle for some type of equality. Very good movie.
Published 13 months ago by Patrick Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson Before Dying
Needed the movie for school. First read the book and then purchased the movie. Nive to have the movie to go along with the book
Published 16 months ago by CL
5.0 out of 5 stars A lesson Before Dying
Missed the movie on HBO, but glad to have it in my possession through Amazon! Don Cheadle is a very inspiring actor!
Published 19 months ago by MICHAEL E WILEY
5.0 out of 5 stars sad but great!!!!
its always great to hear and learn about our african american roots....although its can be differcult to watch and listen to our histories, its can be extremely powerful to learn... Read more
Published 23 months ago by tany
3.0 out of 5 stars SAME OLD STORY
What's interesting that stands out loud and clear, is those that see themselves as self proclaimed superiors really aren't all. Read more
Published on May 30, 2012 by S. Wynne
5.0 out of 5 stars Wouldn't want to watch it again but it was a great movie
I recently turned down an opportunity to read "The Help" because the movie left me so annoyed for the rest of the day. Read more
Published on May 11, 2012 by Shamontiel L. Vaughn
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