Mandatory Staff Picks: 12 Must-See Black Culture Movies
It’s time to open our eyes. Now more than ever, we need to turn away from white-centric narratives and expose ourselves to diverse perspectives. One way to do that — and be entertained at the same time — is through movies. While Hollywood has long ignored (or at the very least, sidelined) the stories of African-Americans, some films centered around black culture have made it to the silver screen — and they’re superb. From historic epics on black struggles in the South to hard-hitting Spike Lee joints to beautiful same-sex love stories, these must-see movies offer up a wide array of black experiences for all audiences.
Cover Photo: David Lee / Focus Features
Mandatory Reads: The Best Non-Fiction Books About Black Culture
This Spike Lee film is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American detective who infiltrated the Colorado Springs chapter of the KKK.
This emotional film is loosely based on the real-life final days of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a young black man who was fatally shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer on New Year's Day in 2009.
This Academy Award-winning film follows Miami resident Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) at three different points in his life, from a young boy befriended by a drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) to a teen confronting his sexual identity to a shy but sweet adult.
This biopic tells the story of attorney and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who fought for the wrongfully convicted death row inmate Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) in Alabama in the late '80s.
'If Beale Street Could Talk'
This adaptation of James Baldwin's 1984 novel of the same name follows pregnant wife-to-be Tish (KiKi Layne) and her fiancé Fonny (Stephan James), who is wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit in 1970s Harlem.
'The Last Black Man in San Francisco'
This indie darling tracks a man named Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and his obsession with a Victorian house in the Fillmore District where he used to live.
Ex-con Collin (Daveed Diggs) is on his last three days of probation in West Oakland when he witnesses the murder of a black man by a white cop, an event that makes him question everything.
'Boyz in the Hood'
This iconic film centers around Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who moves in with his tough-loving father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne), in South Central Los Angeles.
'Do the Right Thing'
Mookie (Spike Lee) is a black pizza delivery man in Brooklyn who butts heads with the pizzeria's Italian owner, Sal (Danny Aiello) in this 1989 film about racial tension.
This historic film takes place in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of the Voting Rights Act.
'The Color Purple'
Based on the legendary novel of the same name by Alice Walker, this Steven Spielberg film depicts the struggles and strength of black sisters (Whoopie Goldberg and Akosua Busia) in the South during the first half of the 1900s.
'White Men Can't Jump'
This 1992 comedy centers around Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) and Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) who run a basketball game con on courts all across Los Angeles.