I first wrote this list as a ‘thoughts to myself’ about my five favorite movies of all time, but it transformed into my ten favorite movies of all time, and the list continued to grow. I then realized that this list could be pretty important to help some people understand the African American community and it ended up being a list of 60 or so movies and TV programs that I believe those who may not fully understand the struggle of the black community should see. In other words, 60 entertainment opportunities for people to learn from the black community. I have subsequently broken them down into categories starting with the first five and coincidentally these are the most recent and most powerful black movies that have been made.

The First Five

These movies are a tribute to modern African American determination and filmmaking. They are the result of the black community simply not giving up on being unheard and not listened to by others; these are the result of the black community protesting and wanting to be a part of the movie establishment. These are some of the best movies ever made. They are definitely some of the best African American movies made in history. Arguably, the talent in these movies is some of the best on the market today and the message is unquestionable. These first five movies are simply powerhouses of the experience of the black community.

  1. Black Panther
  2. Get Out
  3. Sorry to Bother You
  4. Fences
  5. Hidden Figures

 

Number 6 – 17: Civil Rights Freedom Movies

These are the longstanding stallworth civil rights freedom movies, the kind of movies that make you grit your teeth and makes you understand a lifelong fight that African Americans had for freedom in this country. These are movies that are so solid, so good, so wonderfully perfect that they either tear at your heart or please your soul that they have been created. These are movies simply not to be missed. They don’t need great detailed and long explanations because they’re simply flat-out civil rights freedom movies that every single American who seeks a compassionate understanding should have seen at some point in their lives.

  1. Malcolm X
  2. The Color Purple (#1 of my original top five favorites)
  3. The Road to Freedom: The Vernon John’s Story
  4. A Soldier Story (#4 of my original top five favorites)
  5. Selma
  6. Cry Freedom (Actually about South Africa)
  7. South-Central (#3 of my original top five favorites)
  8. The Brother from Another Planet
  9. Remember the Titans
  10. Boycott (The most important movie about Martin Luther King ever made)
  11. The Piano Lesson (#5 of my original top five favorites)
  12. A Dry White Season (Actually about South Africa)

 

Number 18 – 22: Documentaries

These are the only documentaries that make the list. I’m certain there are more, some might even be a little better – but these are simply powerful. They are worth every single moment of your time, and they will give you a history lesson that will help you understand the reality of racism in America.

  1. Eyes on the Prize
  2. I Am Not Your Negro
  3. 13th
  4. Freedom Riders
  5. Kalief Browder

 

Number 23 – 39: For the Family

The next set of movies depicts African Americans just trying to be a part of the American culture, trying to get over not just racism but the struggle of poverty, the struggle of everyday life. These depict the fight to be a part of the middle-class establishment, fighting to be recognized for who and what we really are and what talents can be found in the African American community. These portray the struggle for everyday life – the fight to go home; the fight to sing; the fight that discovers who you are and where you come from – and help you understand your role in this racist society. These are some well-written, heartwarming, popcorn eating, over the dinner table discussion sitting with your grandchildren on your lap and having a good old time watching movies. Some on this list will simply make you laugh, some will make you cry, and some will just make you angry about how racist some people can be.

  1. Remember the Titans
  2. Akeelah and the Bee
  3. Free of Eden
  4. Eve’s Bayou
  5. Finding Forrester
  6. Coming to America
  7. School Daze
  8. Do the Right Thing
  9. Antwone Fisher
  10. Dream Girls
  11. Car Wash
  12. The Wiz
  13. Lady Sings the Blues
  14. The Five Heart Beats
  15. In the Heat of the Night
  16. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
  17. Fighting Temptations

 

Number 40 – 44: Tough, Hardcore, Not for Children

Keep in mind these next movies are meant to provoke strong reactions about race and racism. Some of them are overtly extremely, others subtle – particularly when it comes to race.

  1. The Magnificent Seven (remake)
  2. American History X
  3. Devil in the Blue and Dress
  4. Friday
  5. Harlem Nights

 

Number 45 – 49: Docu-dramas

  1. The Education of Sonny Carson (#2 of my original top five favorites)
  2. Cooley High
  3. The Autobiography of Jane Pittman
  4. The Hurricane
  5. The Learning Tree

 

Number 50 – 60: As seen on TV

The next set is television programs that can sometimes just be hard to watch. Their realizations are frightening – how people treat each other, how people act, how people treat children. They make us realize how devastating the human condition is when we attempt to understand human nature and one another:

  1. Blackish
  2. Queen Sugar
  3. Greenleaf
  4. The Boondocks
  5. Homicide Life on the Street (1993-1999)
  6. A Different World (1987-1993)
  7. Living Single (1993-1998)
  8. Roc (1991-1994)
  9. 227 (1985-1990)
  10. The Wire (2002-2008)
  11. Girlfriends (2000-2008)

Number 61 – 62: Star Trek

If you ever wanted to find a way to discuss segregation, racism, and hatred with your child but you do know how this last choice is the perfect choice. These absolutely help you to communicate what race and racism are.

  1. Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 3 Episode 15 Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
  2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Season 6 Episode 13 Far Beyond The Stars

 

Number 63 – 64: Great Cartoons

These cartoons, while not specifically about African Americans are intense, exciting, beautiful cartoons that speak of culture and community:

  1. Zootopia
  2. Coco

This list might be controversial with some. You may disagree with it. You may have seen some of these and may have even seen them all. You might agree with me, but this was fun to do. It was fun in that it allowed me to remember how good these movies are and how many good and exciting movies and TV shows about race and racism have been made. I realized, in the process, how the discussion about these things should never be set aside. They could be controversial, but they could lead to a tremendous discussion.

This is my list.

It’s arguably, in my opinion, the most important movie list there is when it comes to race and race relations. I’m wondering what’s your list? What’s your top 10 list of movies that helps discuss race and racism? If you’ve never thought about it, maybe now’s the time.

Final Thoughts

While I’m at it, I can’t help but share my thoughts on two other lists – those that perpetuate negative beliefs and stereotypes, and those that seem to be about the African American struggle but are told from a white person’s perspective. Again, these are my thoughts – and you might disagree.

Postscript:

The following movies are likely to be presented by others as important portrayals of the African American experience. To me, some of these movies are stereotypical and are what society believes happens in the African American community – and what some African Americans have come to believe about themselves. In essence, while some might think they are funny, these movies perpetuate a self-fulfilling prophesy leading to further stereotypes and self-hatred.

  1. South Central
  2. Barbershop
  3. Waiting to Exhale
  4. All of Tyler Perry’s movies
  5. She’s Gotta Have It
  6. Clockers
  7. Mo Better Blues
  8. Boys in the Hood
  9. Bad Boys
  10. Set it Off
  11. Soul Food
  12. New Jack City
  13. Training Day
  14. Superfly
  15. Higher Learning
  16. Don’t Be a Menace
  17. Menace II Society
  18. Waist Deep
  19. Red Tails
  20. White Chicks
  21. Def’ Jams How to Be a Player
  22. A.P.S.
  23. Big Momma’s House
  24. Lean on Me
  25. The Players’ Club
  26. Coach Carter
  27. American Gangster
  28. Booty Call
  29. All About the Benjamins
  30. Crookland
  31. Beloved
  32. Precious
  33. Princess Frog
  34. Undercover Brother
  35. He Got Game

Postscript II: Movies about black people told from a white person’s perspective.

  1. Django Unchained
  2. The Help
  3. The Ghost of Mississippi
  4. Glory
  5. Jungle Fever
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird
  7. Twelve Years a Slave
  8. Men of Honor
  9. The Bodyguard
  10. A Raisin in the Sun