In honour of Black History Month, we’ve decided to compile a list of some of our favourite movies starring, written by, or directed by Black artists. Some of these movies will tug at your heartstrings with their inspirational stories; some will educate and others you can simply enjoy with your entire family.
Remember folks, diversifying our consumption doesn't just broaden our worldview, it also shows Hollywood that we want to see better Black and BIPOC representation onscreen. It's all about aligning media with what the world actually looks like.
With that said, here are some movies we highly recommend that you can easily stream from the comfort of your own home. If you would like to know where to stream these movies in your region, we recommend simply using JustWatch.com.
Ballerina’s Tale (2015)
A feature documentary on African American ballerina Misty Copeland that examines her prodigious rise, her potentially career-ending injury alongside themes of race and body image in the elite ballet world.
The Princess And the Frog (2009)
A waitress, desperate to fulfill her dreams as a restaurant owner, is set on a journey to turn a frog prince back into a human being, but she has to face the same problem after she kisses him. The 49th Disney animated feature film is loosely based on the novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, which is in turn based on the German folk tale "The Frog Prince" as collected by the Brothers Grimm.
Summer of Soul (2021)
In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten–until now.
Malcom X (1992)
Spike Lee’s biographical epic film follows the life of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee’s Academy Award-winning film is set on the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
12 Years A Slave (2013)
Steve McQueen’s Academy Award-winning film follows Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, who is abducted and sold into slavery.
Ava DuVernay’s shocking documentary takes an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.
From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero. It’s the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
The purportedly true 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. Directed by Ryan Coogler, starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer.
Get Out (2017)
Easily one of the greatest horror movies ever made, Jordan Peele’s Get Out centers on a young black man who visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.
Whose Streets? (2017)
Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy.
Slam, the stunning debut feature from director Marc Levin, stars Saul Williams as Raymond Joshua, a young rapper in Washington D.C. who is arrested on a petty drug charge and is swallowed up by the capital’s criminal justice system. He says he’s innocent, but he’s advised by his public defender to cop a plea so that he could get two to three years in prison instead of up to ten. Slam won the Grand Jury Prize, at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival
Judas & the Black Messiah (2021)
Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O'Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton.
Another brilliant piece of work from Ava Duvernay, Selma charts the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery which took place in 1965. Led by Martin Luther King Jr, this movement saw thousands of black Americans marching in protest in order to bring change to deliberately racist voter registration acts meant to keep black people from voting in their own country.
The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
An unprecedented, historically significant documentary on the slain leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, killed in 1969 by Chicago police while he slept in his apartment. Filmmakers Mike Gray and Howard Alk were already shooting a portrait of this charismatic speaker and community organizer when his murder occurred. The Murder of Fred Hampton would make a great double bill with Judas & the Black Messiah listed above.
A young African American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood. Barry Jenkins’ film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Let the Fire Burn (2013)
A history of the conflict of the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organization, MOVE, that led to the disastrously violent final confrontation in 1985.
LA 92 (2017)
Twenty-five years after the verdict in the Rodney King trial, filmmakers T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay (who previously both won Oscars for directing the feature-length documentary Undefeated)— chronicled L.A.’s heightened racial tensions following the Rodney King trial, in their 2017 Emmy-winning documentary titled, LA 92.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Based on the novel written by James Baldwin about a young woman who embraces her pregnancy while she and her family set out to prove her lover innocent of a crime he didn't commit.
The Hate U Give (2018)
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.
Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.
Just Mercy (2019)
Jamie Foxx stars a world-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson who works to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner.
The life story of Jackie Robinson who became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faced considerable racism in the process.
Spike Lee's vibrant semi-autobiographical portrait of a school teacher, her stubborn jazz musician husband and their five kids living in Brooklyn in 1973.
Drumline brings the world of "show-style" marching bands to the big screen for the first time. The story, by Shawn Schepps, was inspired by the high school drumline experiences of executive producer/executive music producer Dallas Austin and follows the story of a band director who recruits a Harlem street drummer to play at a Southern university.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
A young man searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind. As one of the best films of the 2019 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, The Last Black Man in San Francisco reminds you why cinema was invented. The final shot is worth the price of admission alone— as epic as it is heartbreaking, it will leave you with tears in your eyes.
Directed by Academy Award winner Pete Docter (Inside Out, Up), co-directed by Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Pixar’s Soul is the story about a New York jazz pianist who lands the gig of a lifetime before suddenly finds himself trapped in a strange land between Earth and the afterlife.
Garrett Bradley’s documentary centers around Fox Rich who desperately fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.
Paris Is Burning (1990)
One of the greatest documentaries ever made, Paris is Burning chronicles 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.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House.