It’s Black History Month, which means there’s really no better time to see a great film that captures the diverse narratives of black people. Currently, there are so many excellent films about the black experience/black history, it's hard to choose. We've curated a selection of films in many genres, there is something for most tastes. Choose from documentaries, biographical/historical dramas, fantasy/sci-fi/horror, LGBT themes, and sports figures.

Be sure to watch Southside with You. The film chronicles the summer 1989 afternoon when the future President of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady, Michelle Obama, on a first date across Chicago's South Side.

Consider hosting a watch party during Black History Month.

 

The films listed below are in no particular order and most are on streaming services.

In theaters now

Green Book (2018) The film is named after The Negro Motorist Green Book, a mid-20th-century guidebook for African-American travelers written by Victor Hugo Green, to help them find motels and restaurants that would accept them. Set in the Deep South in the 1960s, it follows a tour between African-American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer who served as Shirley's driver and bodyguard.

The Hate U Give (2018) This is an excellent film and any description will not do it justice. Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what's right. The Hate U Give is a stunningly powerful film about the impact of police violence and racism on the black youth of America.


Biographical/Historical Dramas

Southside with You (2016) The film chronicles the summer 1989 afternoon when the future President of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady, Michelle Obama, on a first date across Chicago's South Side.

Marshall (2017) The story of Thurgood Marshall, the crusading lawyer who would become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.

Fruitvale Station (2013) Directed by Ryan Coogler. The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.  It’s a very good film. 

Hidden Figures (2016) A wonderfully inspiring film. The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. 

Loving (2016) The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose arrest for interracial marriage in 1960s Virginia began a legal battle that would end with the Supreme Court's historic 1967 decision.

BlacKkKlansman (2018) Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, CO, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events. 

Talk to Me (2007) Outspoken ex-convict Ralph "Petey" Greene (Don Cheadle) talks his way onto the air at a white-owned radio station in 1960s Washington, D.C. Fueled by the new music and social upheaval of the times, he courts controversy while becoming the voice of the black movement.

Detroit (2017) Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers responds to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds. In the summer of 1967, rioting and civil unrest start to tear apart the city of Detroit. Two days later, a report of gunshots prompts the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard to search and seize an annex of the nearby Algiers Motel. Several policemen start to flout procedure by forcefully and viciously interrogating guests to get a confession. By the end of the night, three unarmed men are gunned down while several others are brutally beaten. 

https://youtu.be/wmQebVSsRbA

Bessie (2015) Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in this vivid portrait of a tenacious spirit who, despite her own demons, went on to become one of the most successful and influential musical artists of the 20th century.

12 Years a Slave (2013) In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one malevolent owner (Michael Fassbender), he also finds unexpected kindness from another, as he struggles continually to survive and maintain some of his dignity. Then in the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon's life forever. 

https://youtu.be/z02Ie8wKKRg

Selma (2014) Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

https://youtu.be/RcK3Cazuf84

Daughters of the Dust (1991) Re-released in 2K. An African American Gullah family leaves their coastal island home in 1902 and risks losing their culture to start a new life on the U.S. mainland. Daughters of the Dust addresses its weighty themes with lovely visuals and a light, poetic touch, offering an original, absorbing look at a largely unexplored corner of American culture. Available on Netflix.


Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror

Black Panther (2018) Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, if you haven’t seen the film yet, now is the time. After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king -- and as Black Panther -- gets tested when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people. 

A Wrinkle in Time (2018) Directed by Ava DuVernay, Wrinkle in Time is a great film for the family. Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg's younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), but she has yet to realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heartbroken. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to three celestial guides-Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)-who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they set off on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering, they are soon transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must look deep within herself and embrace her flaws to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness closing in on them. 

Sorry to Bother You (2018) In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, Calif., telemarketer Cassius Green finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers a magical key that leads to material glory. As Green's career begins to take off, his friends and co-workers organize a protest against corporate oppression. Cassius soon falls under the spell of Steve Lift, a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a salary beyond his wildest dreams.

Get Out (2017) A young African-American visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point. Get Out ingeniously uses common horror tropes to reveal truths about how pernicious racism is in the world. 


LGBT Themes

Pariah (2011) Adepero Oduye portrays Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents Audrey and Arthur (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the sometimes-boisterous support of her best friend, out lesbian Laura (Pernell Walker), Alike is especially eager to find a girlfriend. At home, her parents' marriage is strained and there is further tension in the household whenever Alike's development becomes a topic of discussion. Pressed by her mother into making the acquaintance of a colleague's daughter, Bina (Aasha Davis), Alike finds Bina to be unexpectedly refreshing to socialize with. Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward. 

Moonlight (2016) A coming-of-age drama film. The tender, heartbreaking story of a young man's struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) She was one of the icons of the gay rights movement in the 1960s, the self-described "street queen" of NY's gay ghetto and founded the Transvestites Action Revolutionaries with fellow luminary Sylvia Rivera. When Johnson's body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, police called it a suicide and didn't investigate. In David France's new documentary, trans activist Victoria Cruz seeks to uncover the truth of her death while celebrating her legacy. Available on Netflix.

Paris Is Burning (1990) A chronicle of New York's drag scene in the 1980s, focusing on balls, voguing and the ambitions and dreams of those who gave the era its warmth and vitality. Available on Netflix.


Sports Figures

Race (2016) Young Jesse Owens (Stephan James) becomes a track and field sensation while attending the Ohio State University in the early 1930s. With guidance from coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), Owens gains national recognition for breaking numerous records. After heated debates, the United States decides not to boycott the Olympics in Nazi Germany. Overcoming racism at home and abroad, Owens seizes the opportunity to show Berlin and the world that he's the fastest man alive. 

42 (2013) In 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faces considerable racism in the process.


Documentaries

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House.

Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004) Pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm is the subject of this lauded documentary. The nation's first African-American congresswoman, the passionate Chisholm launches a campaign for the United States presidency in the 1972 election and wins an impressive amount of support, given the era and the still-prevailing prejudices of many voters. The film takes a close look at her presidential run, providing interviews with Chisholm and the dedicated individuals who worked on her groundbreaking campaign.

 https://youtu.be/-uk2JuXZMwY

The Black Jacket (2016) Don't miss the #1 gang intervention documentary out of South-Central Los Angeles, where warriors for peace put it all on the line to better their community, one person at a time. A former Black Panther in South Central Los Angeles teaches a course that brings rival gang members and community outreach workers together to prevent bloodshed in their communities. 

Dark Girls (2011) Documentary exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color---particularly dark-skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture.

Slavery by Another Name (2012) Based on Douglas A. Blackmon's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, the film illuminates how in the years following the Civil War, insidious new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, persisting until the onset of World War II. Further information on the topic.  Watch here.

https://youtu.be/5s8ccKepCms

Maya Angelou and Still I Rise (2016) Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is celebrated using her own words set over rare photographs and video illustrating her remarkable life. Available on Netflix.

Hip-Hop Evolution (2016) Interviews with influential MCs, DJs, and moguls trace the genre's dynamic evolution from the 1970s through the 1990s in this documentary series. Available on Netflix.

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