Release date: Feb. 12 (3 a.m. ET)
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Martin Sheen
Director: Shaka King
Age rating: R
Run time: 126 min
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Black history gets the spotlight when you watch Judas and the Black Messiah on HBO Max. The biopic is based on real-life events surrounding the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. Daniel Kaluuya stars as charismatic leader Fred Hampton, who is betrayed by an FBI informant, William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield).
Judas and the Black Messiah premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to rave reviews and is already being called one of the best movies of 2021. Now, the film is debuting in theaters (where open) and on HBO Max at the same time.
The story follows William O'Neal, a career thief who is cornered by the FBI to infiltrate the Illinois Black Panther Party and report on Chairman Fred Hampton's activities to his handler, Special Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons).
Hampton is gaining more political power, all while falling in love with activist Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback). O'Neal wavers between his personal allegiance to Hampton and the pressure applied by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) to take him down.
Here's everything you need to know to watch Judas and the Black Messiah on HBO Max.
How to watch Judas and the Black Messiah: US release date
Judas and the Black Messiah starts streaming Feb. 12 at 3 a.m. ET on HBO Max.
It will be available on the streaming service for 31 days (until March 14).
The HBO Max app is available on Roku, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Android devices and Android TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Playstation 4 and PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, as well as Samsung TVs (2016 and later) and Chrome, Firefox and Safari web browsers.
HBO Max is one of the new kids on the streaming block but it's already got a ton to offer, including all of HBO's prestige series, like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and The Wire. Plus, the service has its own originals like American Pickle and The Flight Attendant. HBO Max costs $15 per month but right now, you can save 20% when you prepay six months.
How to watch Judas and the Black Messiah in Canada
In Canada, The Little Things is opening Feb. 12 in theaters (where open) and online as a premium video on demand rental for $24.99.
How to watch Judas and the Black Messiah in the UK
In the UK, Judas and the Black Messiah is scheduled to open Feb. 26 in theaters (where open). There is no info on whether it'll also be released digitally.
Judas and the Black Messiah trailer
The latest trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah opens with a quiet moment between Fred Hampton and girlfriend Deborah Johnson, as she reads him a poem. We see flashes of Fred giving a fiery speech, then a voiceover from J. Edgar Hoover calling the Black Panthers "the single greatest threat to our national security."
The trailer then introduces William O'Neal, who's in custody for committing a crime. He can go to prison ... or he can take a deal with the FBI to get close to Hampton.
Judas and the Black Messiah cast
The cast of Judas and the Black Messiah is led by Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther Party chapter in Chicago, and Lakeith Stanfield as criminal-turned-informant William O'Neal.
They are joined by:
- Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell, FBI Special Agent and O'Neal's handler
- Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson, Hampton's girlfriend
- Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI
- Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer, a Black Panther member
- Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush, co-founder of Chicago's Black Panther Party chapter
- Lil Rel Howery as Wayne, a pimp
- Algee Smith as Jake Winters, a Black Panther member
- Jermaine Fowler as Mark Clark, a Black Party member
- Dominique Thorne as Judy Harmon, a Black Panther member
- Terayle Hill as George Sams, a Black Panther chairman
Judas and the Black Messiah reviews
The reviews of Judas and the Black Messiah are mostly positive. Here's a sampling of what the critics are saying.
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "Though it plays at times like a crime thriller — with stakeouts and shootouts, chases and interrogations — the movie is better understood as a political tragedy. The script, by King and Will Berson, is layered with ethical snares and ideological paradoxes, and while King’s fast-paced direction doesn’t spare the suspense, it also makes room for sorrow, anger and even a measure of exhilaration."
Alissa, Wilkinson, Vox: "Judas and the Black Messiah is galvanizing, with an intoxicating energy that makes the story beats land with a jolt ... Judas and the Black Messiah evokes the texture and emotional tenor of the time, the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself — and of knowing that someone powerful is turning their crosshairs toward you."
Angelica Jade Bastién, Vulture: "Judas gets neither the beauty and complications of Blackness, nor does it capture the outright depravity of white supremacy. From the poorly developed performances to the muddled script, this film by co-writer/director Shaka King and producer Ryan Coogler fails the history it seeks to embody."
Karen Han, Slate: "Yes, Hampton was killed, and yes, O’Neal betrayed him. But there are infinitely more details to their stories, and King tries to get into as many of them as he can, aided by powerhouse performances from his two leads, as well as a remarkable supporting turn from Fishback. Though it’s early in the year, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to name it one of 2021’s best films."
Nailah Spencer, The Source: "Judas and the Black Messiah at its purest is a beautiful tragedy that captivates audiences by plunging them into a time of a divided nation, clear destruction of Black lives, and corrupted American institutions built on white supremacy, which sadly echoes events happening in the United States today."
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