Best Movies for Black History Month: Movie Reviews

Updated: Feb 21

Once a year Black History Month rolls upon us. A time when people forwardly speak upon African American contributions to society. It’s a time when teachers decorate their classroom doors with black history facts. A time when black pride tee-shirts and sweatshirts fill online storefronts.

Write History Sweatshirt

It’s a time when people search the internet for things like: black history facts, when was black history month created and what are the best black history movies to watch.


But race… dare I saw that word. HOT TOPIC! Since the murder of George Floyd, the subject of race has exploded once again. Social Media comment sections are riddled with opinions. Newspaper article titles are bold --- “Ban Critical Race Theory in our American schools.” Coffee shop conversations, “Whoopi Goldberg is clueless.” No matter what, you can’t escape it.



But many people utilize black history month as a moment to reflect. How far we’ve come as a race, as a society and how far must we go to reach the promise land Martin Luther King Jr. so vividly spoke of. Black people often feel like we’re preaching to the choir on the matter. This is because many times our only audience is other black people. They shout their “Amens” and “yep girl, you’re right” but the knowledge rarely leaves the borders of black-on-black conversations.


THAT ONE TIME I ALMOST WENT VIRAL


When the nation blew up in Black Lives Matter protest in 2020, I was compelled to write a lengthy Facebook post. For some reason I felt an urgency to tell my story and how it related to race. I understood the risk was judgement but didn’t care. Something just didn’t feel right. There were lots of people of all races sharing their thoughts. But to me, it seemed many of them spoke from ZERO experience or white guilt even. The post was liked 1.6K times, 277 people commented, and it was shared 97 times. We connected. Up until that day, my white God son was the only other non-black person who regularly listened to my stories. It felt like progress. I was invited to coffee dates, cook-outs and even local bars. It was short lived due to the pandemic, people just weren’t hanging out. Yet, I still look forward to it in the future.


You can read the post here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/604230789639685/permalink/3229845563744848/


As I reflected on that Facebook post, I realized this list of black history educational movies should be inclusive. I wanted to speak to other races once more. Black history is American History, so I selected family movies for black history month that should receive no pushback. In fact, they offer ways in which we can continue to push through racial barriers and bias.


Black People are More than Ball Players and Musicians


I intentionally didn’t fill the list with athletes and musicians. I questioned, why are Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison household names? Yet, Granville T. Woods, Christopher Young, or Mark E. Dean aren't? Don’t get me wrong here, I’m proud of our athleticism and musical talents but everyone doesn’t stand a chance at becoming the next Michaels – Michael Jordan nor Michael Jackson. And since my list was created to inspire, I wanted to inspire more than sports fanatics.


This list contains of movies all “based on true stories and events.” There are deep lessons to be learned by all. We rated each of the movies at 5 stars.

OUR TOP BLACK HISTORY MONTH MOVIES


Best Movies for Black History Month

Starring:

Alan Rickman

Mos Def

Gabrielle Union


It is a dramatization of two men, Dr. Alfred Blalock (white), and Viven Thomas (black), dedicated to solving the “Blue Baby Syndrome” – A congenital heart defect in babies causing premature death. The movie is set in the end of the Depression Era at John Hopkins Institute. In the 1930’s, when blacks weren’t allowed to use front entrances. And the only black employees were janitors.


In the movie, Something the Lord Made, there was a point where Dr. Alfred Blalock could have given praises to Viven Thomas for his extensive research and talent. He did not. It caused Viven to abandon his love of medicine and pursue a less fulfilling career. The rift broke a lengthy relationship between the two talented men. Will they ever join forces again to save more children? Watch and see.


The movie was originally released in 2004. However, there is still plenty to unpack and apply to today’s society.



Best Movies for Black History Month

Starring:

Denzel Washington

Will Patton

Wood Harris

Ryan Hurst


This plot is sure to take you on an emotional roller coaster. The film is set in 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia. Contextually, in the early 1970’s, racial tensions in the United States “were high as blacks became frustrated with economic conditions that did not improve despite advancements of civil rights (White House History). In 1965 the city of Alexandria integrated their schools. However, it wasn’t until 1971 T.C. Williams, where the film was set, became the only high school in the city serving all 11th and 12th graders. Can you say recipe for the perfect storm? White kids taunted the white football players for befriending their black teammates during training camp, “looks like you found some new monkey friends at the zoo.” While black kids taunted the black football players for the same, “You uncle Tom. You traitor.” The first day of integrated class the school lawn was peppered with picket signs and shouting parents, “We don’t want our kids here.”


The magic happens when both the black and white football players silences the noise. They set their sight on playing in the championship. Friendships were lost and gained. Relationships broken and rekindled, and racial lines were severed forever. This movie is a must see because it teaches conflict resolution, similarities over differences and love over hate.


The movie was originally released in 2000

Best Movies for Black History Month

Starring:

Will Smith

Aunjanue Ellis

Saniyya Sidney

Demi Singleton

Jon Bernthal

Tony Goldwyn


The job of producing a screen adaptation highlighting two of the world’s best tennis players was a huge task. But the production company didn’t fail. Will Smith crunched the character of Richard Williams and did-not-disappoint! And Saniyya Sidney, BODIED the role of Venus Williams. I added King Richard to the list with black children in mind but it’s a great story for all.


Often in black communities, households develop along the lines of the “parent is always right” and “do as I say.” So much so, when I was growing up, I often heard my mother state, “do as I say and not as I do.” Another thing I recall hearing a lot as a child was “kids are to be seen and not heard.” It didn’t leave a lot of opportunity for black children to express themselves freely.


Richard Williams was depicted as that sort of parent. Though strict in his childrearing, he taught all five siblings humbleness, discipline, familial love and loyalty. But most of all, he and his wife taught Venus and Serena the game of tennis. The children displayed a great deal of respect for both parents.


Ghettos exists. It’s a fact. The Williams’ lived and trained in Compton where there’s a shortage of plush tennis courts. That was inspirational – an essence of what it means to start from the bottom but now we’re here!


One main thing I believe families could learn from this film is children aren’t voiceless. It was a lesson Richard learned in the movie. We must listen to our children, cultivate their talents and encourage them. However, the lessons are countless. You gotta see it for yourself.


King Richards was originally released in 2021


Best Movies for Black History Month

Starring:

Taraji P. Henson

Octavia Spencer

Janelle Monáe


Hidden Figures is a staple when discussing best movies for black history month. It highlights three prolific black female mathematicians. They were faced daily with racism, sexism and superiority complexes from some of their employers. Taraji P. Henson who played, Katherine Goble Johnson, wasn’t credited for much of her work but she didn’t concede. She didn’t fold. No matter the obstacles, Katherine allowed her mathematical genius to guide her career choices.


Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, found out human computers were going extinct at NASA due to a new IBM computer system. She steals a coding book and learns it from front to back.

This is an example that angers black people when they're described as LAZY - GOOD FOR NOTHINGS. There's more black people going the extra mile than not.

In an exhibit of loyalty and dedication she teaches her knew coding skills to her black co-workers. Then she agreed to take a new job as the supervisor of the programming department under one condition. Jobs had to be offered to all her black trainees as well. Talk about boss moves – that was a B-O-S-S M-O-V-E!


Although hidden in plain sight, it was Katherine’s mathematical skills that calculated the trajectories for two NASA space missions. One of them was Apollo 11.


Hidden Figures originally released in 2016

Best Movies for Black History Month

Starring:

Taraji P. Henson

Sam Rockwell

Babou Ceesay


Ann Atwater name should send chills down the shaft of your arms when learning about black historical figures. She stood up to a president of one the most wicked hate groups in American History, the KuKluxKlan. Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson, was an activist in the deep south. She was the spokesperson at civil hearings regarding poor landlord/tenant conditions in Durham, North Carolina and her peers looked to her as their voice. The Best of Enemies was set in 1971. It was the same year, Remember the Titans, was set in. Markedly, this era gives us a snapshot of the black conditions across the US in the 1970’s.


C.P. Ellis hated black people. He didn’t want to work beside them and surely didn’t want integrated schools. However, that is exactly what they are up against when the school for black children was destroyed in a fire.


The movie is powerful and impactful because it doesn’t present a white savior. It centered Ann Atwater as a hero in her own right. She stood tall and firm against an evil group who could make you disappear into the night.

I chose this movie because there is only one thing that blots out hate and that is love.


In Conclusion


This is a very different time in our world. We receive quick, short bits of information – so much so, written words are replaced with video shorts, short hand texts and TikToks. Yet, there are still profound movies worth mentioning. We suggest this movie list as an opportunity to connect with your friends and family, denounce racism, prejudice and inequality FOR ALL.


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