Top Films to Watch on Black History Month

Black History Month Films

A Collection of Films to Celebrate Black Cinema

February is known as Black History Month for coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Watching noteworthy films for the black community is also part of commemorating or celebrating Black History Month. So here are my picks for top Black History Month picks. 

Please note this is our first list of films about black history and the black community. There will be more lists featuring more prominent movies in the future, so let us know your favorites in the comments. 

10 Black Panther

Property of Disney

Let’s kick off our first Black History Month with Ryan Coogler’s first MCU film, Black Panther. The long-awaited Black Panther debut celebrates the character and his African roots. With a predominantly black cast and crew, this movie is an achievement in mainstream blockbuster cinema. 

9 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Property of Netflix

Viola Davis does an extraordinary performance as ” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey. She definitely replicates the singing, the sweating, and the sassiness of that character. She lives and breathes “The Mother of Blues”. It’s arguably the best performance of her career. Chadwick Boseman’s performance as Levee Green is also notable. 

Actually, we’re not done with him yet. One of his other incredible performances is…

8 42

Property of Warner Bros

…in 42 as the first black Major League baseball player, Jackie Robinson. Like other films in this list, it can be unsettling in some sequences. However, seeing this real-life triumph on screen is also thrilling and rewarding. 

7 Judas and the Black Messiah

Property of Warner Bros

Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah chronicles the betrayal of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late-1960s Chicago, by William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), an FBI informant. In this crime thriller about this notable event in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, both Kaluuya and Stanfield give excellent performances. 

6 One Night In Miami

Property of Amazon MGM Studios

Regina King’s directorial debut is a fictional account of a real-life meeting of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke. The four men discussed their roles in the civil rights movement as successful men of color. Written by Kemp Powers, based on his own stage play, this drama touches on various topics related to race, religion, public perception, and their future. With an intense and razor-sharp dialogue, there’s no dull moment in that hotel room.

5 The Watermelon Woman

Property of First Run Pictures

Cheryl Dunye writes, directs, edits, and makes history as the first black lesbian to do a feature film. She stars as a young woman who works at a video store during the day and tries to complete a movie about a black actress from the 1930s known for playing the stereotypical “mammy” roles relegated to black actresses during the period. Considered a landmark in the New Queer Cinema movement, this film is a recognition and love letter to those who made it against all odds and racist stereotypes from the past.

4 Boyz n the Hood

Property of Columbia Pictures

Ironically, we can buy Boyz n the Hood posters and t-shirts in our local Old Navy or Target. In 1991, though, John Singleton’s seminal crime thriller about the youth of South Central LA caused controversy and fear. Of course, people feared this movie. How dare a black director do such a horrific thing as a realistic take on life in the streets of South Central. Maybe the police wanted people to be cautious of this dangerous film so everyone could forget what they did to Rodney King a few months prior. Just saying. 

3 Selma

Property of Paramount Pictures

Ava DuVernay is one of the best filmmakers today, and her cinematic reenactment of the Selma to Montgomery march is one of the reasons why. Not only is this an achievement in DuVernay’s career, but it’s also a reminder of our voting rights. Therefore, we can consider this a must-watch in electoral years

2 Moonlight

Property of A24

Nowadays, A24 is such a phenomenon that terms like “A24 vibes” are part of the Internet film community’s conversation. Whether or not you love A24’s importance in the cinephile community or cringe about it, we have Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight to thank for putting independent films on the map again. Most importantly, we have to say thanks for its themes of discrimination, masculinity, and identity. 

1 Malcolm X

Property of Warner Bros

No Black History Month movie list would be complete without a “Spike Lee joint.” Though one of my all-time favorite films is Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X is his biographical epic about the title activist and leader. It’s one of the monumental films about black history in America. 

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