20 Black Films to Add Your Watch List Right Now (2023)

20 Black Films to Add Your Watch List Right Now (1)

Blackness has been represented on-screen in many ways. However, not all stories about Black people are by Black people—and sometimes that’s a bit too obvious. Critical components to consider beyond the screen are who’s behind the lens, who’s writing the screenplay, and who’s producing the film. (Although, if Loretta Devine ever makes an appearance, you’re probably safe to assume that you’re watching a Black classic.)

Luckily over the past few decades, more room has been made for Black directors, writers, and creators to serve as driving forces behind the scenes, resulting in high-quality work that every film lover should add to their watch list immediately. Ahead, a few choice titles, from side-splitting comedies to contemporary horror, to keep you thoroughly entertained. Of course, stellar Black cinema goes far beyond these 20 films, so we highly recommend exploring further work produced by the talents noted.

Pariah (2011)

20 Black Films to Add Your Watch List Right Now (3)

Director: Dee Rees

This feature chronicles the double life of 17-year-old Alike, who struggles with the pressure to conceal her sexuality from her parents. There’s a heartbreaking juxtaposition between the awkwardness of Alike’s strained relationships at home and the beautiful vulnerability of her time spent with outside confidants. She embraces those who offer even a sense of liberation, so her story speaks to the experiences of countless adolescents that have ever felt stuck.

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Get Out (2017)

20 Black Films to Add Your Watch List Right Now (4)

Director: Jordan Peele

Covert racism gets the terrifying portrayal it rightfully deserves in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. Every re-watch of this thriller will reveal even more of the modern microaggressions it explores. This blockbuster also made the phrase, stuck in the sunken place, a widely adopted dig. So, yes, it’s a modern classic.

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Selah and the Spades (2019)

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Director: Tayarisha Poe

It’s easy to love films that place a hilariously heavy significance on high school hierarchies, but if you’ve grown weary of the typical alpha blonde, this movie really stands out. The politics at an elite Pennsylvania boarding school are explored in depth here, as senior queen bee Selah tries to determine who she will pass her status on to after graduation.

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A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

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Director: Daniel Petrie (screenplay by Lorraine Hansberry)

If you love a black-and-white-era vibe, the screen adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play is perfect. It’s focused on a Black family in Chicago navigating how to manage their sudden influx of insurance money alongside their conflicting ideas of progress. Many early pioneers of Black Hollywood lead the movie, like Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, and Claudia McNeil, making it a must-watch for any film lover.

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Girls Trip (2017)

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Director: Malcolm D. Lee

Bear witness to 122 minutes of ceaseless joy. As we follow a group of reunited college girlfriends on a weekend getaway, the bizarre hijinks and slightly emotional reconnections make for a great watch. The strong lineup of hilarious leading ladies includes Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish. It’s basically cinematic serotonin.

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Set It Off (1996)

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Director: F. Gary Gray

Like Girls Trip, Set It Off stars bona fide Hollywood icons Queen Latifah and Jada Pickett Smith. And like Girls Trip, it details the heartwarming journey of four very different women who find family in each other. But unlike Girls Trip, it features shootings, car chases, and a bank robbery or two. Who would’ve thought that crime and sisterhood would make for such an iconic combo?

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Crooklyn (1994)

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Director: Spike Lee

Through the eyes of nine-year-old Troy Carmichael during her summer in Brooklyn, Spike Lee successfully uses this story to profile both a family and a neighborhood. By capturing such a tender time in life with humor and accuracy, it’s an enjoyable watch for all ages.

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Coming to America (1988)

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Director: John Landis (Story by Eddie Murphy)

In a story led and developed by Eddie Murphy himself, this fish-out-of-water tale goes unmatched to this day. It’s safe to say that one of this movie’s core takeaways is how we can’t judge people different from us too harshly. With that said, however, if you haven’t seen this classic yet, any judgment that comes your way may be warranted.

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Daughters of the Dust (1991)

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Director: Julie Dash

The Gullah community, one of America’s richest subcultures, thrives along the Southeast coast. Through the eyes of a group of characters across generations, Gullah culture receives its due platform and respect in this poetic film. Director Julie Dash makes gorgeous use of the physical atmosphere, and in addition, the ancestral storyline will inspire a desire to reconnect to your roots. It’s a story so affecting that even Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade cited the film as inspiration 25 years later.

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Eve’s Bayou (1997)

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Director: Kasi Lemmons

Pre-Lovecraft Country, Jurnee Smollett was flexing her acting range as a curious young girl who slowly uncovers her prosperous family’s facades. This story skillfully documents the universal process we all go through once we begin to realize that the adults in our life are imperfectly human.

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Boyz n the Hood (1991)

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Director: John Singleton

One of John Singleton’s greatest strengths as a creator was his ability to translate experiences with an intimate understanding on-screen, experiences that his non-Black peers might’ve been tempted to either demonize or sanitize through their gaze. This iconic coming-of-age story is a great example, as it follows the journeys of three young men all confronting their approach to adulthood differently, but all within the confines of the country’s most dangerous, heavily policed neighborhoods.

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I Am Not a Witch (2017)

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Director: Rungano Nyoni

A satirical exploration of witch persecutions in Zambia, this film follows a wrongly accused nine-year-old girl sentenced to life at a state-run witch camp. As a BAFTA-winning debut feature from Rungano Nyoni, it artfully maneuvers its way through a tragic injustice with wit, creative storytelling, and a significant respect for the subject matter. Through very few words, the film’s star, Maggie Mulubwa, steers the movie with a gripping presence, elevating its impact.

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My Brother’s Wedding (1983)

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Director: Charles Burnett

This title may not ring a bell, but it deserves to. During this film’s initial festival run in 1983, producers rushed director Charles Burnett to submit a rough cut of the movie for screening. Unfortunately, the far-from-finished version of My Brother’s Wedding failed to impress distributors, and the film was never widely released. But the complete version is now finally available. The story follows the rudderless Pierce (Everett Silas), who is chosen as the best man to his practical lawyer brother, despite his contempt for the haughty fiancée.

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Hair Love (2019)

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Directors: Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr., Bruce W. Smith

This Oscar-winning short uses the famously mundane morning routine as a backdrop and manages to detail some of the most intimate, frustrating, and beautiful elements of Black girlhood in just under seven minutes. This animated tearjerker is both heartwarming and engaging for all ages and backgrounds.

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Barbershop (2002)

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Director: Tim Story

During this movie, Cedric the Entertainer’s character ponders the many roles of a barber. He can be your therapist, style coach, confidante, and far more, which makes this hysterical classic a completely unique addition to the canon of workplace comedies.

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Dope (2015)

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Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Even though the story is led by an awkward, pedantic bookworm, everything about this movie is just cool. The wardrobe, soundtrack, and action-packed plot all exude the energy of a party you’d hope to secure an invite to. The cast is stacked with stars like LaKeith Stanfield, Zoë Kravitz, and A$AP Rocky, and it’s all the best parts of your Instagram feed on the big screen.

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Sorry to Bother You (2018)

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Director: Boots Riley

There are lots of ways to describe this film: provocative, unique, politically relevant. The one thing you truly can’t call this movie is predictable. Honestly, if you can anticipate anything that occurs next in this story, I have a crystal ball and a corner of Times Square for you.

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Moonlight (2016)

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Director: Barry Jenkins

Watching Moonlight feels close to reading through a book trilogy you can’t put down. That’s how thoroughly structured and relentlessly heartfelt the viewing experience is. A film that cares about its characters, no matter how small, it properly details how the process of learning who you are is far from swift.

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Waiting to Exhale (1995)

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Director: Forest Whitaker

Literally nothing is better than watching women free themselves from the societal reins that have restricted them from finding happiness in the past. Especially if it’s set to an iconic Whitney Houston soundtrack and features a Angela Bassett strutting away from a burning car in slow motion.

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Black Panther (2018)

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Director: Ryan Coogler

What discussion is there to be had about Black movies without mention of this game-changing superhero blockbuster starring the late Chadwick Boseman? Its lasting cultural impact is unquestionably widespread, and though Wakanda may be only a sub-Saharan fantasy, the project’s unapologetic African influences were unprecedented on such a global platform.

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Annabel Iwegbue is an editorial assistant who covers entertainment, beauty, fashion & astrology. When she's not writing, she's either deep in her TikTok FYP or harassing people for their birth chart info. Follow Annabel on Instagram here where her account is mostly dedicated to posting Britney Spears songs on her story.

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What is the most influential black film? ›

“Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song,” “Malcolm X,” “Moonlight” and “The Inheritance” are some of the most influential and important movies in Black cinema.

What movie has an all black cast? ›

Black Heritage Films
  • The Birth of a Nation. (1915) Silent classic with music score. ...
  • Beware. (1946) 53 min. ...
  • The Blood of Jesus. (1941) 57 min. ...
  • Boarding House Blues. (1948) 86 min. Moms Mabley and Dusty Fletcher. ...
  • Boy! What a Girl! ...
  • The Bronze Buckaroo. (1939) 58 min. ...
  • The Devil's Daughter. (1939) 59 min. ...
  • Dirty Gertie from Harlem.

What was the first all black movie? ›

1912: 'The Railroad Porter' “The Railroad Porter” was produced by the Photoplay Company in 1912. It is considered the first film with an all-Black cast.

What are some films that would have been better if shot in black and white versus color? ›

The films that should have been shot in black and white
  • RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) ...
  • FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015) ...
  • KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005) ...
  • PRISONERS (2013) ...
  • QUIET CITY (2007) ...
  • JACK AND JILL (2011)
Feb 16, 2016

Who is most famous Black performer? ›

The Top 12 Most-Influential Black Musicians of All Time
  • Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) ...
  • Prince (1958 – 2016) ...
  • Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012) ...
  • Stevie Wonder. ...
  • Ray Charles (1930 – 2004) ...
  • Aretha Franklin (1942 – 2018) ...
  • Louis Armstrong (1901 – 1971) ...
  • James Brown (1933 – 2006)
Jan 31, 2023

Who was the first Black best actor? ›

Sidney Poitier was the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor, for "Lilies of the Field" (1963).

Who was the first black billionaire in America? ›

Bob Johnson knows what it takes for people of color to advance to the highest level of the business world. The founder of Black Entertainment Television, Johnson became the first Black billionaire in American history in terms of personal net worth when he sold the pioneering cable network to Viacom for $3B in 2001.

Who was the first Black actor to win an Oscar? ›

Best Actor in a Leading Role
1963Sidney PoitierWon
1970James Earl JonesNominated
1972Paul WinfieldNominated
1986Dexter GordonNominated
23 more rows

Who was the first Black actor on TV? ›

African Americans have appeared on television as long as the medium has been around. In fact, the first Black person on TV may have been Broadway star Ethel Waters, who hosted a one-off variety show on NBC on June 14, 1939, when television was still being developed.

What movie is black and white then color? ›

In Pleasantville, color represents the transformation from repression to enlightenment. People—and their surroundings—change from black-and-white to color when they connect with the essence of who they really are."

What movie turns from black and white to color? ›

1 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)

The transition from black and white to color is one of the most famous moments in film history, and helped pave the way for more movies throughout the 1940s and beyond to truly utilize color.

Why do movies look better with black bars? ›

To fit the entire picture of a wide-screen movie on a 4:3 TV and maintain the proper dimensions, the size of the movie is reduced. Therefore, since the width of the movie is wider than its height, black bars are seen at the top and bottom of the screen.

Who is the most influential Black person in the world? ›

These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most well-known civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. ...
  • Rosa Parks. ...
  • Barack Obama. ...
  • Frederick Douglass. ...
  • oprah Winfrey. ...
  • Harriet Tubman. ...
  • Medgar Evers. ...
  • Jackie Robinson.
Feb 2, 2022

Who is the highest-grossing Black filmmaker? ›

Gary Gray Is Now The Highest-Grossing Black Director In History. Following the release of The Fate of the Furious, director F. Gary Gray has now become the highest-grossing black director in history.

Who is the most successful Black actor of all time? ›

In the United States, this award is the highest civilian honour. Denzel Washington is probably the best and most successful black actor of all time.


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