Steven Spielberg directs this epic drama, based on actual events. In 1839, a group of fifty-three African slaves held on the ship 'Amistad' revolt and kill the crew, demanding to be returned to Africa. The helmsman misleads them, taking them to America, where the Africans are put on trial. Slavery abolitionist Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) arranges for young attorney Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey) to defend the Africans in court. However, the lawyer has trouble communicating with the Africans' leader, Sengbe Pieh (Djimon Hounsou), and American President Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne), coming up for re-election, is anxious not to lose the votes of those in the pro-slavery southern states.