Every year, after the Oscars, there’s inevitably a rush to go see the movies that won awards. This year Green Book, a movie about Dr. Don Shirley and more specifically the relationship between him and his white driver, won Best Picture to a fair amount of criticism. The movie received critical acclaim but was criticized for being more of a comfort to white audiences than anything else. Not only did the writers not consult Shirley’s family, but one of them even said he didn’t know they existed. In light of this, and in light of Black History Month, I’ve compiled a list of movies by and about Black people that you’re better off watching.
1. Malcolm X
In light of Spike Lee’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, it’s worth taking a look at what many consider to be his masterpiece: Malcolm X (sometimes styled as just “X”), with Denzel Washington in the title role. In 2010, the film was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved due to it being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The movie not only shows an important figure in Black history, but it was made by Black people.
Belle tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of Sir John Lindsay, a British naval officer. It’s inspired by the above painting of her and her cousin at Kenwood House in Hampstead, U.K., which was unusual because it portrayed Belle as a gentlewoman. Although the movie isn’t as dramatic or scandalous as your average period drama, it’s a beautifully done story and it was directed by a Black woman. It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (San Junipero, anyone?), Tom Felton, and Emily Watson.
The MLK biopic starring David Oyelowo, Selma, made waves at the 2015 Oscars, where it won Best Original Song. In addition to this, it’s nomination was a landmark moment because it was the first time an African-American woman (Oprah Winfrey) was nominated for best picture. Although it didn’t win, it was widely regarded as an incredible movie. It also swept the NAACP awards, where ironically enough it was up against Belle.
4. Hidden Figures
In addition to being Her Campus Utah’s book of the month, Hidden Figures is also an excellent screenplay starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer. The movie follows the lives of some of the most instrumental figures in the success of NASA during the Space Race. This pick is especially relevant because NASA just renamed a facility after Katherine Johnson, one of the heroes of the film.
5. The Loving Story
This documentary tells the story of the arrest of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving and subsequent landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia. Although there’s also a biopic, Loving, about this story, I chose this documentary because of the evident care and love that was put into it.
6. Southside With You
Slightly more lighthearted than some of the others on this list, Southside With You stars Parker Sawyers as Barak Obama and Tika Sumpter as Michelle Robinson on their first date on Chicago’s South Side. It’s a lovely movie for anyone who looks up to the Obamas’ relationship, and its simplicity is where it shines.
Before February is over, turn on the T.V., pop some popcorn, and sit down to watch one of these movies!