It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on some of our favorite films starring, writing, or directing Black artists during the month of February. All the movies I chose have one or more of the following characteristics: they depict a Black historical event or figure, they are innovative and creative, they made history as a result of their influence, or they are simply entertaining. One of the reasons Hidden Figures was chosen for this post is that it tells the story of three Black women who worked with NASA during the John Glenn space launch, a story that is rarely told in popular culture.
Inspiring stories like this one remind us how much valuable Black History Month content there is, and how eager we should be to hear and see more of it in the future. It was important to me that the films on this list represent a wide range of genres and time periods, so I chose mostly recent releases, but there are a few from the 1990s and earlier that you’ll find on this list.
1. Hidden Figures (2016)
Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer star in Hidden Figures. An African American female mathematician who worked at NASA during a critical period of U.S. space advancement, this film was co-written and directed by Theodore Melfi.
Hidden Figures is a film that celebrates the achievements of three remarkable women who had a significant impact on the course of American history. This is a great film to watch during Black History Month because it celebrates the achievements of Black women when given the chance. The entire cast of Hidden Figures delivers strong performances in this biopic, as well.
2. One Night In Miami (2020)
A fictionalized account of the 1964 meeting between Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) is directed by Regina King in One Night in Miami. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, they talk about their jobs, racism in the United States, and their responsibilities to help or inspire Black people.
A fascinating look at four important Black figures in fiction, One Night in Miami is set primarily in a hotel but gives a clear picture of the time period and the challenges these men faced because of their race and beliefs. Even though it is fictional, It’s a good idea to watch One Night in Miami during Black History Month in order to be inspired to learn more about these historical figures and others like them.
3. Get Out (2017)
With Get Out, Jordan Peele has created a new masterpiece of horror cinema. It follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) as he goes to Rose’s (Allison William) family’s house for the weekend to spend time with her. It doesn’t take Chris long to realize that this isn’t the nice, liberal family he had hoped for.
Get Out is so popular because it tells a compelling story that many people can identify with. To make the subject more relatable, it addresses race-based issues in a way that is understandable to the general public. Instead of focusing solely on the past, Black History Month seeks to address some of the pressing issues that African-Americans and others face today. Get Out is a game-changer for the horror genre because it features a Black lead actor in a leading role.
4. Coming To America (1988)
Coming to America, a film directed by John Landis, stars Eddie Murphy. The movie follows Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), the Prince of Zamunda, on his quest to find a wife in Queens, New York, after leaving Africa. Akeem, who is 21, believes he hasn’t lived his life to the fullest and refuses to accept his arranged marriage. Supporting roles are filled by Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, and Shari Headley in Coming to America.
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall’s comedic abilities are on full display in Coming to America. Besides being good protagonists, they also play a variety of interesting side characters. An additional fun way to commemorate Black History Month is to watch a film or television show created by an African-American director or writer. The movie Coming to America, starring Eddie Murphy, is a good choice for Black History Month viewing if you’re a fan of Murphy or Hall’s work.
5. Soul (2020)
The film tells the story of Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a jazz singer in his forties who is still searching for his big break in the music industry. He finally understands, but a tragic accident causes him to lose his soul. He then travels to the Great Before, where he is tasked with assisting a soul named 22 (played by Tina Fey) in locating its innate light.
For the first time in its history, Pixar’s film Soul features a Black lead character. Aside from its historical significance, Soul is a film about appreciating all that life has to offer, and not just the bad. It’s all about making the most of the time you have left. This is a crucial message for the entire world to hear.
6. Black Panther (2018)
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the king of Wakanda in the Marvel superhero film Black Panther. In Ryan Coogler’s film, T’Challa goes up against his cousin Killmonger, and the film follows their battle (Michael B. Jordan). Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Angela Bassett round out the cast of Black Panther.
For a superhero, T’Challa is a pioneering figure because of his African descent. The Black Panther movie is the only one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a cast that is predominantly black. An enormous box-office hit, it gave many Black and brown children a sense of belonging and heroism in film. Black Panther is also a celebration of black people’s ability to overcome adversity.
7. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
‘I Am Not Your Negro,’ a Raoul Peck documentary, explores racism in the United States. It’s based on James Baldwin’s memoir Remember This House. I Am Not Your Negro is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, who also stars in the film. More light is shed on Baldwin’s life and struggles in the United States through this film. It also discusses the assassinated civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers to address race relations in the United States.
For example, Raoul Peck shows how the problems faced by Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers are still problems faced by Americans today. While capturing the Civil Rights era, I Am Not Your Negro also reflects on society as a whole and in particular on the United States’ relationship with racism. If you’re a fan of James Baldwin or just want to learn more about the struggles of African-Americans in the 1950s, 1960s, and today, this documentary is for you.
8. BlacKkKlansman (2018)
When Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American police officer, infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan, things get interesting (KKK). To gain respect in the KKK, he uses his charm to call David Duke (Topher Grace), the state’s KKK leader, and talk with him on the phone. His accomplice, Flip (Adam Driver), shows up to meetings and events dressed as Duke (Topher Grace).
In recent years, the name Spike Lee has come to mean comedies that deal with racial and social justice issues. He has a knack for creating memorable characters or bringing them to life, and his films have left an impression on audiences. With BlacKKKlansman, Lee continues this trend. There is humor in the dark situations it addresses while also teaching about an important moment in African-American history.
9. Moonlight (2016)
Chiron (the adult version played by Trevante Rhodes) is the protagonist of Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight, which follows him as he deals with his drug-addicted mother (played by Emma Stone) and grows up in Liberty City, Miami. Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, and Mahershala Ali are among the film’s other cast members.
For the first time ever, Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017 with an all-Black cast. As a result of its success, Moonlight became the first openly gay film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. For Black History Month, it’s a crucial coming-of-age film not only because of its critical acclaim, but also because it tackles issues of masculinity and sexuality in a way that isn’t often seen in films with Black leads.
10. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite is My Name, a comedy about a struggling comic named Dolemite. As a result of his success in the nightclub scene and with Black customers, Rudy becomes well-known. In the end, he decides to make a Dolemite film.
In the 1970s, blaxploitation movies were popular and played a significant role in the development of Black cinema. Dolemite is My Name pays homage to that subgenre as well as the African-American audience that fueled the careers of the genre’s pioneers. An important theme throughout the entire film is the importance of building and maintaining an engaged online community. In addition to being a hilarious comedy, Dolemite is My Name is a film about pursuing one’s goals and dreams. Nothing is insurmountable if you pursue your dreams with passion and perseverance.
11. Fast Color (2018)
Fast Color is a superhero film directed and co-written by Julia Hart about Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a woman fleeing from the authorities and scientists who want to study her and her abilities as she returns to her daughter and mother’s house. Seizures in Ruth are causing earthquakes that aren’t of this world. Both her daughter and mother have the same superpower: the ability to disassemble and reassemble objects without touching them.
There aren’t many Black-led science-fiction films, so I thought it was important to include one like Fast Color. Superhero movies like Fast Color are more often than not science fiction. During Black History Month, it’s a good idea to check out films with Black leads that aren’t as well-known.
12. Do The Right Thing (1989)
It’s a hot day in Brooklyn in Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing. Throughout the day, racial tensions escalate until a tragic event occurs. Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Giancarlo Esposito also star in the film, which is directed by Spike Lee.
Do the Right Thing is a masterpiece from director Spike Lee. Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, and Samuel L. Jackson are among the many up-and-coming actors in the cast. This is a well-written film that tackles important racial issues that are unfortunately still relevant today.
Only one month of the year is designated as Black History Month; however, movies such as Hidden Figures, Do the Right Thing, and Black Panther can be enjoyed at any time of the year to honor Black artists and their work.
I’ve lived most of my life in and around Illinois, including a stint at Northwestern University in Evanston. I’ve always loved pop culture, especially television, and I’ve turned that love into a career as a writer who covers everything entertainment. Whenever I’m not penning pop culture articles, you’ll find me channeling Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen and evicting guests.