1. Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
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This true story film should be required viewing for everyone as long as we live in a country where the police commit acts of racial violence. During the 1960s, FBI informant William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrated the Black Panther Party, which ultimately led to Chairman Fred Hampton being murdered. The film was nominated for an Oscar (Daniel Kaluuya).
2. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)
It’s horrifying but true that Ted Bundy had a long-term girlfriend and co-parented her daughter. There is also a Netflix Original film starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins about a convicted serial killer.
3. Nomadland (2020)
This Acadamy Award-nominated film follows Fern, a woman in her 60s who loses everything during the Great Recession and decides to travel through the American West in a van while doing so. Based on the non-fiction book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century,” the modern-day nomad story is set in the United States today.
4. Hustlers (2019)
It’s fascinating to watch Jennifer Lopez do a complicated pole dance. What a gift! What a commitment! The glitz and glamour! Watching her defraud dozens of businessmen of tens of thousands of dollars is fascinating. It took a New York magazine article before it was made into a movie about a group of New York City dancers who drugged stock traders and CEOs to run up their credit cards.
5. Mank (2020)
A lot goes into making an Old Hollywood classic movie, so have you ever wondered how they do it? If that’s the case, then this Netflix original film will offer some fascinating perspective. As alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz works to complete one of the greatest American films of all time, Citizen Kane, the film examines 1930s Hollywood through his eyes.
6. Hidden Figures (2016)
Three Black women mathematicians who worked for NASA during the space race are portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe in this biopic. Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are all played by different actors. It’s one of those tales you may not have read about in history class, but you should have.
7. The Imitation Game (2014)
This historical drama centers on the British intelligence agency MI6 and features Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead actor. After the agency hires Alan Turing (played by Cumberbatch), a graduate of Cambridge University’s department of mathematics, he becomes a hero for his discoveries. He is, however, convicted of indecency and subjected to abhorrent treatment after his homosexuality is made public.
8. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)
The United States vs. Billie Holiday is based on the book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, which details the FBI’s undercover sting operation against jazz singer Billie Holiday. Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day plays the title role in the film, which earned her an Academy Award nomination as well.
9. Becoming Jane (2007)
If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s romantic comedies, but aren’t familiar with her life story, you’re missing out. This biographical drama explores the rumored romance between the author and a future judge and how that might have influenced her writing later on in her life.
10. Spotlight (2015)
For a good reason, the film Spotlight took home Oscars for best picture and best original screenplay. Observing a team of Boston Globe journalists dig into decades of systemic sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests makes it impossible not to be moved. There are three actors: Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo.
11. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
As a result of the federal government’s investigation into the 1968 DNC protests, seven people were indicted on conspiracy charges in 1969 and tried in federal court. The film stars Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Michael Keaton. The film’s message couldn’t be more relevant right now.
12. The Mauritanian (2021)
The role of defense attorney Nancy Hollander was awarded to Jodie Foster at the 2021 Golden Globes for best supporting actress. According to Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s 2015 memoir Guantanamo Diary, a Mauritania citizen was held at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years without charge.
13. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Even though this Will Smith film isn’t a comedy, it will leave you with a positive feeling about life after watching it. According to Chris Gardner’s autobiography, the film is loosely inspired by his year without a permanent residence while he worked to establish a successful stockbroking career.
14. Snowden (2016)
Likely, you’ve heard of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) computer analyst and CIA employee who leaked classified information in 2013. According to him, the United States was keeping tabs on both foreign governments and terrorists in addition to the average person in the United States. While some see him as a traitor, others hail his actions as heroic.
15. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
As Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy plays comedian Dolemite, a stage name he adopted for both his stand-up routines and his film roles. As a result of his impressive work, Murphy received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a limited series or miniseries.
16. The Two Popes (2019)
It’s not hard to guess what The Two Popes is all about, but just to be sure, here’s a quick rundown: It’s based on Anthony McCarten’s play The Pope, which depicts what happens after the Vatican leaks scandal. Anthony Hopkins plays Pope Benedict XVI, and Jonathan Pryce portrays Pope Francis. The two men are attempting to reroute the Catholic Church in a new direction.
17. Selma (2014)
This historical drama was directed by Ava DuVernay and depicts the 1965 voting rights marches in Alabama, from Selma to Montgomery. Learn from Dr. MLK Jr., played by David Oyelowo; Coretta Scott King, played by Carmen Ejogo; James Bevel (played by Common).
18. Eat Pray Love (2010)
With its portrayal of a woman on a quest for self-discovery, Eat Pray Love established the memoir-turned-movie trend. (Also see the article on Wild.) In this romantic drama, Julia Roberts plays author Elizabeth Gilbert, who travels to Italy, India, and Bali in search of…well, food, prayer, and love.
19. The Social Network (2010)
This is the story of how Facebook got its start. Regardless of whether you’ve watched the movie or not, you’re probably familiar with the company’s origin story. After creating a website that was only available to his Harvard University classmates when he founded it, Harvard University undergrad Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) becomes one of the world’s youngest billionaires.
20. The Farewell (2019)
In part, The Farewell is based on Lulu Wang’s life, and it’s clear that this was a deeply personal project for the director and writer. They decide not to tell their grandmother when they learn she has only a few months to live. They devise a clever ruse for a family reunion to get everyone together one last time before she passes away. It’s a heavy premise, but don’t worry, there’s a lot of heart and humor in there somewhere along the line.
21. The Theory of Everything (2014)
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking passed away in 2018 after a long illness. His life story is told in the film, including his early diagnosis of a motor neuron disease at age 21, as well as how his marriage to Jane Wilde spurred him on to new medical and scientific discoveries.
22. A League of Their Own (1992)
Okay, so A League of Their Own is largely based on made-up characters and events. However, it’s based on fact: During World War II, an all-women professional baseball league was established, and this film gives viewers a glimpse into this little-known period of American history.
23. Selena (1997)
Following her role in Selena, the excellent film about the life and career of singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who tragically died at the age of 23, Lopez became a well-known star and a household name. Even if you don’t like the film, listen to the soundtrack.