A List of Must-Watch Movies for Black History Month

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans throughout our history. With film being an extraordinary tool for storytelling and a way to learn about the world around you, watching Black cinema is a great way to learn about Black America and the different aspects of the experience. Here are some essential movies to get started on the Black Experience:

  1. 1. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

    If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful depiction of young, black love in 1970s New York City. Based on the James Baldwin novel, it centers on Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), who are expecting a child as Fonny is in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It is a moving portrait of love, family, and both the beauty and struggle of being Black in America.

    Beale Street is currently in theaters nationwide and on DVD/Blu Ray March 26.

  2. 2. The Hate U Give (2018)

    What happens after you witness the death of your best friend at the hands of a police officer? In The Hate U Give, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) balances her different worlds at school and at home, all while dealing with the pain and loss of her friend Khalil (Algee Smith). The film is a powerful examination of police brutality, police relations with the black community, code-switching, and interracial relationships. The Hate U Give is an essential watch in today's current world.

    The Hate U Give is available now on DVD & Blu-Ray at Target, Walmart, and Best Buy. 

  3. 3. Daughters of the Dust (1991)

    Set in 1902, Daughters of the Dust tells the story of three generations of Gullah women in the Peazant family on Saint Helena Island as they prepare to migrate to the North on the mainland (Wikipedia). This movie is special because of the way it focuses on African-Americans in a time that isn't very often depicted in Hollywood. This is a multi-generational family who were descendants of slaves and going through a transitional phase, at a time when slavery was being phased out in certain parts of the world. In 2004, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

    Daughters of the Dust is available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

  4. 4. Selma (2014)

    Selma is a historical drama film by Ava Duvernay. It follows civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) during 1965 Selma to Montgomery Marches for voting rights. It is all around powerfully written, directed, and acted. It's an essential movie to watch to go more in depth about the history of Civil Rights, a topic we've all learned about and is important now more than ever.

    Selma is available for purchase on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu.

  5. 5. Pariah (2011)

    According to IMDBPariah follows a Brooklyn teenager who juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression. It's a groundbreaking film because it depicts a young African-American woman who is lesbian. It received rave reviews, with a 93% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. It was written and directed by Dee Rees, also a gay African-American woman.

    Pariah is available for streaming on Prime Video.

  6. 6. Black Panther (2018)

    Does this one need an introduction? Black Panther shattered box offices records and received numerous accolades during the first year of its release. It is currently up for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards. Black Panther succeeded in being an action packed, fun-for-everyone movie, while also touching on points that the Black community has discussed for generations. Historian Nathan D.B. Connolly said Black Panther was "a powerful fictional analogy for real-life struggles" that taps into a "500-year history of African-descended people imagining freedom, land and national autonomy." This movie has certainly cemented its place as one of the most influential Black films of all time.

    Black Panther is now streaming on Netflix and available for purchase on YouTube, Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu.

  7. 7. Dear White People (2014)

    Dear White People is a funny yet thoughtful film that perfectly captures the experience many Black students who attend PWIs (Predominately White Institutions) face. The movie, written, directed and co-produced by Justin Simien, focuses on rising racial tensions at an Ivy League school, and is told through the eyes of various Black students. The movie was later adapted into a Netflix series, which will be releasing its third season later this year. It is definitely a must see for any college student!

    Dear White People available for download on YouTube, Google Play, Prime Video, and iTunes.


  8. 8. Moonlight (2016)

    2017 Best Picture winner Moonlight is a powerful, moving portrait of a young Black boy struggling with his sexual identity. We see the boy, Chiron (played at different stages by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) grow up and deal with struggles within himself as well as the physical and emotionable abuse he endures at home and school. Moonlight is based on the unpublished semi-autobiographical story by Tarell Alvin McCraney In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue. This movie will definitely stay with you after viewing!

    Moonlight is available for purchase on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu.


  9. 9. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

    I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film directed by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Like If Beale Street Could Talk, it is based off a work by James Baldwin, an unfinished manuscript titled Remember This House. Over the course of 90 minutes, the documentary walks us through the history of racism in the United States, highlighting civil rights leaders such as MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers.

    I Am Not Your Negro is available for purchase on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes.

  10. 10. Girlhood (2014)

    Girlhood is a must-watch. Another film told from the unfortunately rare perspective of a young Black girl, it focuses on the life of Marieme (Karidja Touré), a girl who lives in a rough neighborhood right outside of Paris. Girlhood discusses the factors of race, gender and class, and challenges preconceived notions about them in relation to Black teens. It received universal acclaim at the time of its release, with British newspaper The Guardian referring to it as "a work of cinematic art". 

    Girlhood is available for purchase on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes.

  11. 11. Do The Right Thing (1989)

    Do The Right Thing is an American classic. Produced, directed, and written by Spike Lee, it focuses on a Brooklyn neighborhood and the racial tensions that boil under, resulting in a tragedy. It's an incredible film that makes you think and reflect on how different, if much, the world has changed since 1989 - only thirty years ago. Do The Right Thing in 1999 was deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" in its first year of eligibility by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It is also considered one of the greatest films of all time.

    Do The Right Thing is available to download on Google Play, Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, and iTunes.

  12. 12. The Color Purple (1985)

    When talking about Black film, The Color Purple is sure to come up. The Steven Spielberg film is a classic coming of age drama about the life of Celie Harris (Whoopi Goldberg) and the hardships she endured growing up. It addressed many problems African American women faced during the early 20th Century - domestic violence, racism, incest, pedophilia, poverty, and sexism - all of which are still issues today. If there is any film you see this month, make this be it.

    The Color Purple is available on Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, and iTunes.