Celebrate Black History Month with These 12 Amazing Films

KC Frankenburger

Read Time 4 minutes

Black History Month: Academy Award Winning Film "Moonlight."
Black History Month: Academy Award Winning Film “Moonlight.”

Black History Month, the annual celebration of black history, culture, innovations and contributions is almost over, but it’s not too late to celebrate and learn more. 2019’s black history month theme is Black Migrations, and it puts emphasis on the movement of people of African descent to new destinations an, ultimately, to new social realities. 

So without further ado, here are 12 outstanding films you can watch in honor of Black History Month.

Lilies of the Field
Type: Drama, Comedy
Release Date: 1963
Director: Ralph Nelson
Starring: Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Isa Crino
Rating: 90% RT, 7.6/10 IMDb

When Sidney Poitier won the Oscar for lead actor in 1964, ten years into the civil rights movement, it was a historic moment not only in Hollywood history but in American history. This moment was preceded only by Hattie McDaniel’s win for best supporting actress in 1939’s Gone With the Wind. Black representation and acknowledgement in movies is still an important issue, even in 2019, but this honor was so important in a way that people today simply cannot fathom, and the performance is absolutely worth revisiting. The film is about a black man who comes across a group of German nuns in his travels. The women hire him to help build their chapel, and believe he was sent by God.

Type: Documentary
Release Date: 2016
Director: Ava DuVernay
Starring: Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Cory Booker
Rating: 96%, 8.2/10 IMDb

This documentary from filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores racial inequality in the United States by drawing a line from the abolition of slavery and the 13th amendment, to the justice system and the prison industrial complex. Powerful, affecting, and at times painful to watch, the film is more than just a documentary. 13th is also a call to action.

The Princess and the Frog
Type: Romance, Family, Fantasy, Children, Action & Adventure, Musical, Animation
Release Date: 2009
Director: John Musker & Ron Clements
Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Michael Leon Wooley
Rating: 85% RT, 7.1/10 IMDb

The classic fairytale The Frog Prince was given an upgrade with this film. As Disney’s one and only black princess, Tiana and her beignets charmed their way into our hearts in Disney’s 2009 animated feature, The Princess and the Frog.

Type: Drama, LGBTQ
Release Date: 2016
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, André Holland
Rating: 98% RT, 7.4/10 IMDb

Speaking of historic Oscar wins, Moonlight was not only the first ever movie with an all-black cast to win best picture, but was also the first film centered on an LGBTQ character to win. Movies like Moonlight are a rarity. It is poetry in motion, a work of moving art, and so so important.

Type: Drama, Biography, History
Release Date: 2014
Director: Ava Duvernay
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo
Rating: 99% RT, 7.5/10 IMDb

Another film from director Ava Duvernay, Selma tells the gripping story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This civil rights era picture is filled with intense performances and a breathtaking view of history that allows audiences to witness something truly remarkable.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Type: Drama, Biography, History
Release Date: 2013
Director: Justin Chadwick
Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge
Rating: 61% RT, 7.1/10 IMDb

Telling the story of South African freedom-fighter-turned-president Nelson Mandela is probably one of the most challenging projects that director Justin Chadwick has faced to date. The film chronicles Mandela’s early life throughout his unjust and lengthy incarceration and his eventual presidency.

Malcolm X
Type: Drama, Biography, History, Documentary, Romance
Release Date: 1992
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall
Rating: 88% RT, 7.7/10 IMDb

With Denzel Washington in the starring role and Spike Lee in the director’s chair, Malcolm X is a powerful piece. This 1992 biopic is about the controversial activist Malcolm X and the events leading to his tragic assassination in 1965.

12 Years a Slave
Type: Drama, Biography, History
Release Date: 2013
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Kenneth Williams
Rating: 95% RT, 8.1/10 IMDb

The true story of a free black man who is abducted and sold into slavery prior to the Civil War. With an all-star cast at the forefront and a powerful true story as its backbone, 12 Years a Slave was one of the best films of 2013.

Type:  Drama, History
Release Date: 2016
Starring: Malachi Kirby, Forest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose
Rating: 96% RT, 7.9/10 IMDb

In this television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots, Malachi Kirby takes on the role of Kunta Kinte, an African slave who is sold to America.

Hidden Figures
Type:  Drama, Biography, History
Release Date: 2016
Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
Rating: 93% RT, 7.8/10 IMDb

Hidden Figures is the story of three black women mathematicians who defied odds and played pivotal roles in NASA’s race for the moon.

Type:  Drama
Release Date: 2017
Director: Dee Rees
Starring: Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan
Rating: 96% RT, 7.4/10 IMDb

Based on the novel of the same name by author Hillary Jordan, Mudbound is the story of a black WWII veteran, Ronsel Jackson, who fought valiantly as a war hero, but is still faced with bigotry upon his return home.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Type: Documentary
Release Date: 2018
Director: RaMell Ross
Starring: Quincy Bryant, Daniel Collins
Rating: 97% RT, 6.4/10 IMDb

A sleepy and poignant documentary about the lives of Daniel Collins and Quincy Bryant, two black men who happen to live in rural Hale County, Alabama. The documentary follows the two men’s lives over the course of five years. The film is currently streaming for free on PBS.

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