Loosely inspired by the real-life of Eugene Allen, the film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who eyewitnesses notable events of the 20th century during his 34-year tenure serving as a White House butler. It was the last film produced by Laura Ziskin, who died in 2011.
Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro wrote: "There is no question that the film itself is full of historical inaccuracies. The Butler has virtually nothing in common with its source material, the life of White House butler Gene Allen, except for the fact that the main character of the film and Allen were both black butlers in the White House. The film's title character, Cecil Gaines, sees his father murdered and his mother raped by a white landowner; that never happened to Allen. The movie's title character has two children, one who goes to the Vietnam War, the other who becomes a Civil Rights pioneer; Allen actually had only one son."