Black History Month – Movies to Stream

In the spirit of President Obama’s empathic words, we curated a collection of movies, documentaries, and television shows that reflect on America’s history of racism, celebrate the achievements of black social activists, and highlight a range of experiences of black communities.

Whether in honor of Black History Month each February, or for a good dose of perspective any time of year, here are 20 films and shows to watch that put black lives front and center.

01of 20

 

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight movie poster

 

A24, PASTEL, PLAN B ENTERTAINMENT

Director Barry Jenkin’s coming-of-age film chronicles the life of a young black man named Chiron in three defining chapters. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes star as Chiron at various points in his life (child, teen, and adult, respectively) in this must-watch Academy Award–winning film.

02of 20

 

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures movie poster

 

FOX 2000 PICTURES, CHERNIN ENTERTAINMENT, LEVANTINE FILMS, TSG ENTERTAINMENT

Hidden Figures is another biopic. This one tells the previously untold, true story of three women who played a vital role to help launch the first American astronaut into orbit. Three mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, brought their brilliance to NASA during this incredible moment in history.

03of 20

 

The Wiz (1978)

The Wiz movie poster

 

 UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Nipsey Russell star in this energetic reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. In this version, the setting is 1970s New York City, and Dorothy is a black, 20-something schoolteacher.

04of 20

 

Step (2017)

Step movie poster

 

FOX SEARCHLIGHT

This inspiring documentary follows a Baltimore high school step team as they attempt to win a championship. Director Amanda Lipitz’s film focuses on the high school seniors on the team as they prepare for the competition, and college. Notably, Michelle Obama loved this uplifting film.

05of 20

 

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro movie poster

 

 PBS

Based on the unfinished book by author James Baldwin, Remember This HouseI Am Not A Negro is a documentary that reflects on the civil rights movement. Upon its release in 2017, the The New York Times described the documentary as the film that “will make you rethink race.”

06of 20

 

13th (2016)

13th

 

NETFLIX

Ava DuVernay’s provocative documentary delves into America’s prison system, where 25 percent of the world’s population is incarcerated, reports NPR. The film highlights oft-overlooked effects the Constitution’s 13th Amendment has had on black communities around the country. In that same NPR report, DuVernay explains, “The documentary was built for two different kinds of audiences – folks out there that know about this and folks out there that have never heard of it.”

Available on: Netflix

07of 20

 

School Daze (1988)

School Daze movie poster

 

 COLUMBIA PICTURES

Written, produced, and directed by Spike Lee, School Daze traces the academic year of two cousins and their extra-curricular pursuits. Though School Daze is largely a comedy, the film illuminates class discrimination and sexism within the Black community.

Available on: Amazon Prime VideoCrackle (free), Google PlayiTunesVuduYouTube Movies

08of 20

 

Whose Streets? (2017)

Whose Streets? movie poster

 

 MAGNOLIA PICTURES

In this documentary, activist filmmakers chronicle protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death in 2014. Firsthand accounts and powerful footage pull you into the community and offer an emotional and intimate point of view.

09of 20

 

The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple movie poster

 

WARNER BROS., AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT

Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker’s novel comes to life in the cinematic adaptation of The Color Purple. Whoopi Goldberg plays protagonist Celie, seemingly trapped by layers of oppression—by racism, by her sharecropper husband (played by Danny Glover), by the early 20th century South. The women she encounters throughout the film may be her only hope.

10of 20

 

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

What Happened, Miss Simone? movie poster

 

 NETFLIX

This Oscar-nominated biographical documentary highlights the life of infamous American singer and Black Power movement icon, Nina Simone. The film, directed by Liz Garbus, includes never-before-seen clips of performances and interviews with friends and loved ones that create an intimate portrait of Simone, and is told from her daughter’s point of view.

Available on: Amazon Prime VideoiTunesNetflix

11of 20

 

Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine movie poster

 

DUPLASS BROTHERS PRODUCTIONS, THROUGH FILMS

After serving a 28-day prison sentence, a transgender sex worker learns her boyfriend (and pimp) has been cheating on her. Armed with this information, she teams up with her best friend to track him and his new lover down to teach them a lesson.

12of 20

 

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther movie poster

 

 MARVEL

To date, Black Panther has been Marvel’s most successful movie in its cinematic history, reported Vox in 2018. And it’s abundantly clear why. The film portrays the nation of Wakanda and its black characters with multifaceted strength, heroism, and nuance. Our protagonist, T’Challa, must return home to Wakanda to succeed the throne following his father’s death, and faces fatal opposition.

13of 20

 

Get Out (2017)

Get Out movie poster

 

 UNIVERSAL PICTURES, BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS, MONKEYPAW PRODUCTIONS, DENTSU, FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK

The New York Times praised Jordan Peele’s Get Out as “a meme generator, a social critique, and a metaphor for our times.” In this movie, the dreaded relationship milestone of meeting the parents takes an especially horrifying turn.

14of 20

 

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station movie poster

 

 FOREST WHITAKER’S SIGNIFICANT PRODUCTIONS, OG PROJECT

Michael B. Jordan stars as 22-year-old Oscar Grant in the biopic, Fruitvale Station. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, follows events leading up to the night an unarmed Grant was shot and killed by police at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California.

Available on: Amazon Prime VideoiTunesVudu

15of 20

 

Atlanta (2016)

Atlanta movie poster

 

FX

A hilarious comedy starring Donald Glover premiered its second season in 2018. In the show, Glover stars as Earn, a father trying to help his up-and-coming rapper cousin break into Atlanta’s music scene.

16of 20

 

Malcolm X (1992)

Malcolm X movie poster

 

 WARNER BROS.

One of the foremost public figures of the civil rights movement and challengers of nonviolent protest upheld by Martin Luther King, Jr., gets the Hollywood treatment. Directed by Spike Lee, Denzel Washington plays the outspoken and controversial Malcolm X (formerly Malcolm Little), who converted to Islam while serving jail time. Part of X’s transformation would be his rise as public activist, which the film follows in three parts, until his inevitable assassination in February, 1965.

17of 20

 

Queen Sugar (2016)

Queen Sugar movie poster

 

HARPO PRODUCTIONS, WARNER HORIZON TELEVISION

Produced by Oprah Winfrey and award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Queen Sugar unspools the story of the estranged Bordelon siblings. When a family tragedy forces them to reunite, siblings return to the family-run sugar cane farm in Louisiana.

18of 20

 

Insecure (2016)

Insecure promo poster

 

3 ARTS ENTERTAINMENT

Show creator Issa Rae, known for her popular web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, stars as Issa Dee in this series. Issa navigates complicated romances, burgeoning friendships, and tricky work situations in Los Angeles.

19of 20

 

Underground (2016)

Underground movie poster

 

GET LIFTED FILM COMPANY, SAFEHOUSE PICTURES, SONY PICTURES TELEVISION

Underground, a historical drama about the Underground Railroad made The New York Times list of Best TV Shows of 2017. Set in the 1850s, the series illuminates heroic people of the time. As the Times mentions, Aisha Hinds’s performance as Harriet Tubman is outstanding.

20of 20

 

Black-ish (2014)

Black-ish promo poster

 

 ABC

If you’re a fan of family sitcoms, Black-ish is a must-watch series that fuses familiar tropes of the genre with plots that touch on specific issues that affect black families, including racism and police brutality. If you already love this show, check out Freeform’s spinoff series Grown-ish.

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