30 Powerful Black Films You Must See
Don’t wait around for Black History Month to binge watch some classic black films with your family. Every month is Black history month, so we’ve compiled a list of compelling black films that will empower you at times and disgust you at others, but most importantly serve as a reminder to stay woke. Flip the script to see which titles made the cut.
Based around Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in fight to secure equal rights for African Americans.
A chronical-style Netflix documentary examining the mass incarcerations of African American men and women.
3. 12 Years A Slave
This biography drama follows the story of a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery.
4. Malclom X
This biographical drama follows and examines the life and career of Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X. In the film you will see the story of his early life and follow his evolution into a follower of the Islamic faith.
5. The Color Purple
This drama follows the story of a black Southern woman who fights to find her identity after decades of abuse at the hands of her father.
A horror-drama starring Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover and Thandie Newton that follows a black woman’s life after slavery. The film exposes the desperate actions the woman takes to gain freedom for herself and her children, which haunt her for decades.
7. Free Angela And All Political Prisoners
This documentary chronicles the early life of Angela Davis, as her social activism lands her and others on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
A pre-teen girl from Brooklyn will have her life put into perspective after spending summer break with her family in the South. When she comes back she is faced with a different approach to her family hardships.
9. Lean On Me
Based on a true story, this film follows an ex-teacher turned principal who was enlisted to save the lowest-ranked school in the state of New Jersey. In the process of working to increase the student’s state exam scores and decrease gang related activity, he manages to touch the lives of his peers and pupils.
10. Do The Right Thing
This culturally significant film tells the story of a Brooklyn based pizzeria owned and run by an Italian family. In the film, the delivery man, played by Spike Lee, sparks a racially charged tragedy after requesting a black man’s photo be included on the pizzeria’s wall of fame.
11. Mississipi Damned
This melodrama follows the lives of three black children from rural Mississippi and their journey to overcome family cycles of abuse, addiction, violence and poverty.
12. Eyes On The Prize
Technically a 14-part TV series, this documentary exposes the details of the Civil Rights Movement.
13. The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross
This 6 hour long TV series follows the journey of African Americans across continents. The series is filled with historians, facts, politicians and eye witnesses.
14. The Butler
Loosely based on the life of an African American butler who bears witness to many political and social events during his 34-years serving in the White House.
15. The Black Power Mixtape
A documentary film shot by Swedish journalists examining and exposing the Black Power Movement from 1967-1975.
16. HBO Black List Volume 1
A HBO series in which successful people of diverse career disciplines speak about the Western stereotypes and taints that accompany the word “black”.
17. Good Hair
A humorous delivery of a serious question, “Why don’t I have good hair?” This documentary explores the emotional, financial and societal reasons why many African American women desire a different texture of hair than their own. The film includes many celebrity interviews and takes viewers behind the scenes of manufacturers, hair styling and hair products.
18. Red Tails
This action/drama follows the story of the Tuskegee Airmen who overcame systemic racism and discrimination to fight for America in World War II.
19. Mississippi Burning
After the not-so mysterious disappearance of three civil rights activists, two FBI agents head to Mississippi to investigate despite the disregard of local authorities.
This film follows a Vietnam veteran who returns home to police brutality and discrimination against African Americans. After learning about the vigilante group who is conspiring against the police, the veteran joins but before he knows it, he is forced to turn his back on the organization.
21. The Birth of A Nation
This Southern based drama follows the experiences of a literate slave and preacher who witnesses unforgettable tragedies. The film also explores how religion was used to subdue slaves into conformity and obedience. After the preacher can take no more, he is forced to organize a rebellion against his owner and his peers.
22. Roots Remake
This TV-series comes in two versions, both of which are powerful and definitely worth a watch. The 1977s and 2016 versions are detailed and emotional depictions of an African slave sold into slavery in the United States.
23. The Help
This drama focuses on the point of view from two black women in Jackson, Mississippi 1962, working for white families. The film will expose the racism and discrimination they encounter on and off the job.
24. The Great Debaters
The professor and poet at a predominately black college starts a debate team consisting of intelligent black students who ultimately become the first black debate team to ever challenge Harvard’s prestigious debate champs.
Set in the 1970s, a janitor with a competitive love for swimming saves a building destined for demolition by the city of Philadelphia. In the process, he happens to found a meaningful all-black swim team in the community. Despite facing violence, racism and hostility the team will overcome all obstacles to compete in the state championships.
26. Straight Outta Compton
If you’re looking for something with a more urban twist, Straight Outta Compton is your film. The biography drama follows the story of the rap group NWA through 1980s Los Angeles. The film will expose how hip hop culture merged with real life experiences of violence, police brutality and life in the hood.
27. Heavens Fall
Based on a true story, this drama tells the story of a New York lawyer who attempts to aid nine black men who were accused of raping a white woman in the South.
28. Ghosts Of Mississippi
Based on a true story, a determined District Attorney helps the widow of a civil rights leader bring his racist murderer to justice.
29. The Rosa Parks Story
This biopic shares the history of the famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks. The film will follow her through her days as a student up to her battle against segregation that will ultimately inspire the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955.
30. Freedom Riders
This documentary reveals the history of brave civil rights activists who challenged segregation by using a creative busing protest.