Black history movies have assumed a position of unprecedented acclaim especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death last year and the ensuing protests over Black Lives Matter. Several films by Black filmmakers and about Black voices started seeing the light of day like never before. While some have gained immense popularity and reached an award winning status, others are small scale yet packs a punch.
Ranging in genres, some of these black history movies are funny or heartfelt while others are terrifying or dark. However, they all have a unique story to tell that also augments the Black voice in a profound manner. So, if you are looking for the best movies for black history month.
Regina King, Keith Calder
Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Oscar nominee Leslie Odom Jr. and Aldis Hodge
The Oscar nominated movie is based on real life and is an adaptation of a play by Kemp Powers. The story revolves around four friends, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown, who spend an evening in a hotel in Miami. During their time together, they discuss religion, what it is like to be a Black in America and the legacies they leave behind.
David France, L.A. Teodosio
Victoria Cruz, Sylvia Rivera
The theme revolves around a trans activist, Victoria Cruz, who probes the murder of Marsha P. Johnson, an LGBTQ rights activist whose death was proclaimed a suicide by the NYPD. A primary figure in the Stonewall Riots, Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River. She had left a good deal of historic work behind her which is revisited by Cruz during the course of her investigation.
Fred Schepisi, Nina Yang Bongiovi
Chante Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long
This is the story of a teenaged girl from New York, Lolita “Roxanne Shante” Gooden and her struggles to keep her family going in the 1980s as she pursues her dream to become an MC. Also featuring Mahershala Ali and Nia Long, the film is a must-watch for some extraordinary performances.
Dorian Corey, Pepper LaBeija
The film follows the underground ballroom culture during the ‘80s in New York especially the way it influenced the then Black and Latinx trans and queer population who were ether fighting HIV, rejected by family members or fleeing some form of violence. Released in 1991. The film went on to be an inspiration for several other hit TV shows.
T.J. Martin, Simon Chinn
Scott Stevenson, Tom Bradle
LA 92 follows the events leading up to the 1992 demonstrations urging for justice for Rodney King after the acquittal of the four policemen charged with assaulting him. It showcases a video compilation that features years of such viciousness that ultimately culminated in the 1992 events.
Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski
Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris
This winner of an Academy Award Best Picture traces the life of a young Black boy living in the ‘80s in Miami, USA. It is a poignant tale of the youngster and his inner fight to reconcile with his sexuality having undergone years of abuse by his mother.
Janelle Monae, Jena Malone
The film attempts at explaining the Black people’s way of dealing with traumatic circumstances. It follows author Veronica Henley who is on her way home to a loving family after completion of a successful book tour. However, an unfortunate turn of events hoists her life upside down where she is forced to come face to face with not only her past, but also her present and future, while there is still time.
Elle Lorraine, Justin Simien
This horror satire features an ambitious Video Jockey who is told her career cannot take off until she alters her natural hair and gets a new weave. The story takes a bizarre turn when she realizes that her new hair may not be as simple as it looks and may well have a mind of its own.
Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong
The film opens up the intriguing life of Billie Holiday to the world based on the works of journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl. She spent 8 long years tracking the brief and thunderous life of the iconic singer through almost 200 hours of interviews with incredible people who had been, in some way, associated with the life of Billie.
Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, John H. Brister
Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad
This science fiction tells the story of a young man suffering from amnesia after being in a terrible accident. He is seen grappling with trying to find his identity until he agrees to a sinister experiment that promises to work on a memory treatment.
Angel Manuel Soto, Caleeb Pinkett
Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Kezil Curtis
The story of this Black history movie revolves around a teenage boy in this coming of age drama, who, to his mother’s absolute chagrin, decides to be a part of the same notorious group of Baltimore dirt bikers that his deceased brother was a part of.
Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Chadwick Boseman
This Screen Actors Guild nominated film trails four aged Black veterans who decide to go back to the soil they had fought on, in Vietnam to look for a lost treasure as well as the last vestiges of their departed squad leader who had helped them hide their fortune.
Radha Blank, Peter Kim
In this semi-autobiographical work by writer, director and actor Radha Blank, the life of a playwright based in New York is depicted as she struggles to hold her own in the cut-throat theatre scene. However, she finally finds her calling and discovers her new self as a rapper.
Remi Weekes, Martin Gentles
Wunmi Mosaku, Matt Smith
Writer director Remi Weekes tells the harrowing tale of a couple who are seeking refuge having fled from a war torn South Sudan. They however, find themselves in a strange place in an English town and have to now deal with the evil and old horrors that lurk under the surface.
Tamara Bass, Victor Oladipo
Meagan Good, Meagan HolderMekia Cox, Valarie Pettiford
Co-director Tamara Bass stars in this movie where she plays a single mother to a teenage daughter. The film is about the friendship of four women who were inseparable when in high school and how they come together to support her during her moment of crisis and take care of her daughter.
David Talbert, Lyn Sisson-Talbert
Forest Whitaker, Madalen Mills
Toymaker Jeronicus is dealt the blow of a lifetime when his assistant sneaks away his unique matador doll and book of ideas. The incident leaves him shattered so much so that he gives up on his passion of creating new toys until several years later when he has an unexpected visitor, his granddaughter. It is one of the most popular Black history movies for kids.
Dawn Porter, Laura Michalchyshyn
Stacey Abrams, Alexandria Ocasio
The documentary film showcases the history of John Lewis, the congressman from Georgia. It traces Lewis’ life from when he was a civil-rights leader and worked shoulder to shoulder with Martin Luther King Jr. to when he took on a political career that was predominantly spent wrangling for voting rights for the Black people.
Channing Godfrey Peoples, Neil Creque Williams
Nicole Beharie, Alexis Chikaeze
In this heartfelt 2020 drama, the journey of a single mother and former beauty queen is traced as she grooms her teenage daughter to pick up on her lost glory and participate in the Miss Juneteenth Pageant.
Shaka King, Charles D. King
Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield
Biographical Crime Drama
In this 2021 biographical drama, the perfidy of FBI informant William O’Neal is impeccably portrayed as he probes the Illinois leg of the Black Panther Party and Chairman Fred Hampton. Set in Chicago of the late 1960s, the movie depicts a stirring performance by Kaluuya as Fred Hampton.
George C. Wolfe/ Denzel Washington, Dany Wolf and Todd Black
Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis
Influential American blues singer Ma Rainey also renowned as the “Mother of the blues” is brought back to life in this August Wilson adaptation. The Black history movie attempts at unearthing the truth about Levee, an ambitious, young trumpet player who is troubled with his secondary role in the band. Tensions mount finally culminating in a sinister murder.
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What is the Black History Month?
Black history month is in February. During this time, the glory and achievements of the Black community is highlighted as opposed to its constant association with racism and slavery. Movies for Black history month include stories that showcase representation, diversity and identity in the African-American movement.
Soul, Self Made, Harriet, Hidden Figures, A Ballerina’s Tale, Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story, Selma, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Princess and the Frog, Pride, Garrett’s Gift.
The national theme for Black History month this year is Black Health and Wellness. This theme pays tribute to the ways in which the African American community have played a part in every aspect of healthcare, apart from Black scholars and medical practitioners.
If you are an ardent movie fan that appreciates a good film, watch some of the best Black history month movies that commemorate the lives of African-American champions who have done their bit for greater human dignity and propriety. While the list can go on, we have picked the best 20 that include great black history movies for kids, albeit sometimes older kids, and families. Several of these movies are recent and thus is an almost accurate portrayal of the current social fabric and racial summation in America.