List

Movies for Black History Month

By Sharon Weinberg

In honor of Black History Month, here are some suggested titles from black directors and featuring black characters.

  • Bessie

    2015

    Queen Latifah turns in a knockout performance as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. Directed by Dee Rees (Mudbound, Pariah), this biographical film received a ton of critical acclaim and was one of the most watched original movies on HBO. Do you want more Bessie? We also have the movie soundtrack and other CDs by this awesome talent.

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  • Black Panther

    2018

    Part of the Marvel Universe, this superhero movie, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) is an origin story, introducing viewers to T'Challa and his country, Wakanda. You can watch Black Panther independent of the other Marvel movies; it has become a cultural phenomenon. Everything about this movie hits the mark--the superb acting, rich storytelling, detailed sets, and confident direction. It received seven Oscar nominations.

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  • Blackkklansman

    2018

    One of Spike Lee's best, this movie received six Oscar nominations and is Lee's first for Best Director. Based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, the story follows Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black detective hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department, who infiltrates the Klu Klux Klan. Lee’s coda, using footage from the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, connects to the present, leaving a sobering message.

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  • A Boy. A Girl. A Dream

    2019

    Indie filmmaker Qasim Basir (Mooz-lum) earned some buzz for his one-take romantic drama, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The story takes place on the night of the 2016 presidential election, following a man and a woman, somewhat lost in their lives, who challenge one another and find a new path and voice.

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  • Daughters of the Dust

    1999

    Written and directed by Julie Dash, this stunning movie focuses on the women of the Peazant family, some of whom are preparing in 1902 to leave their home on Saint Helena Island for the mainland and a more modern way of life. Interweaving the past, present, and future via a circular narrative, this movie leaves a lasting and thoughtful impression. Beyonce's acclaimed visual album, Lemonade, referenced this cinematic masterpiece.

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  • Eve's Bayou

    2002

    Recently selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance, this is Kasi Lemmon's feature film directorial debut. She deftly guides her top-notch cast through a sensitive, complex narrative that focuses on the Batiste family and a devastating secret.

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  • Everything, Everything

    2017

    Based on the debut novel by Nicola Yoon, the plot centers on 18-year-old Maddy, whose rare illness prevents her from going outside her home. She meets Olly, the new boy next door, and begins to step away from her controlled environment. Interestingly, independent filmmaker Stella Meghie got the job to direct, becoming the only black female director to have a studio-backed, widely released film in 2017.

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  • Fences

    2017

    With his third turn as director, Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters) delivers a powerful adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer prize-winning play. Set in 1950's Pittsburgh, Washington also takes the lead role of Troy Maxson, a bitter, working-class man struggling to come to terms with the life he has, in contrast to the life that he wanted. Viola Davis, as Troy's long-suffering wife, won an Oscar for her performance.

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  • Get Out

    2017

    In his directorial debut, Jordan Peele also wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for this story that follows a young black man who finally is meeting his white girlfriend's parents. However, these people are not what they seem. Genre-bending and groundbreaking, mixing horror, comedy, and psychological thrills, this movie takes familiar tropes and subverts the standard.

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  • Girls Trip

    2017

    Friendship is key as four women, having grown distant since their college days, reunite at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. Wild and outrageous adventures ensue. This is certainly not a serious film, but it pushes at boundaries, fully committing to its premise and effectively hitting many comedic high notes. Perfectly cast, the actors bring depth and humor to their characters.

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  • The Hate U Give

    2019

    A drama based on the critically acclaimed young adult novel by Angie Thomas, 16-year-old Starr Carter, straddling two worlds, is torn between two versions of herself. She witnesses her childhood friend gunned down by a white police officer and finds her voice by becoming an activist. This passionate and vibrant story features stirring, spot-on performances.

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  • Love & Basketball

    2000

    Two childhood friends, Quincy and Monica, pursue their dreams of playing professional basketball. When they become a couple, balancing career and relationship brings new challenges and hard decisions. I cannot say enough positive things about this movie that redefined the idea of a sports flick.

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  • Marshall

    2018

    This biopic about Thurgood Marshall focuses on one of his first cases (in 1940) that helped to define his career. This movie gets high marks for the inspiring story, the excellent acting, and being a potboiler of a courtroom drama. Chadwick Boseman plays Marshall; he is also T'Challa in Black Panther.

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  • Moonlight

    2017

    Filmmaker Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) offers a haunting coming-of-age drama, visiting main character Chiron as a child, a teenager, and a young man. In each life stage, a different actor plays Chiron as he struggles to figure out who he is, and when it is OK to be the person that he is. There is hardship and heartbreak; there is also beauty and hope. This won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture.

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  • Selma

    2015

    Ava DuVernay directed this historical drama chronicling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work for equal voting rights, leading a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, AL. Although it received an Oscar nomination for Best Motion Picture, DuVernay did not get nominated for Best Director, a major snub from the Academy. In addition, David Oyelowo, brilliant as Dr. King, did not receive a nomination for his role. In fact, the movie's only other Oscar nomination was for Best Song, which it won.

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  • 12 Years a Slave

    Adapted from the memoir by Solomon Northup, director Steve McQueen (Widows) pulls no punches with this harrowing story about a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. Winning three Academy Awards--Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o in her feature film debut), and Best Adapted Screenplay--Northup's journey brought to cinematic life is an unforgettable viewing experience.

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