A clenched fist in honor of Black History Month.
Illustration by Laura Chan-Sing, Ryerson University

10 Black History Month Films To Watch This Month, and Every Month After

From documentaries to historical dramas, there are so many films to consider watching this February.

Screens /// Thoughts x
A clenched fist in honor of Black History Month.
Illustration by Laura Chan-Sing, Ryerson University

From documentaries to historical dramas, there are so many films to consider watching this February.

As January’s last sun sets, we welcome the first sunrise of February with wide arms, unlocked hearts and open minds to all the teachings that accompany the 28 days of Black History Month. In this list, you’ll find a collection of films that have made a powerful impact on the Black community and the world as a whole.

1. “13th” (2016)

A Netflix original directed by Ava DuVernay, this documentary offers an in-depth exploration of racial inequity throughout the history of America and gives a clear look into the meaning of the 13th Amendment. The critically acclaimed film has won a handful of awards, including the NAACP Image Award for outstanding documentary (2017), Africa Movie Academy Award for best diaspora documentary (2017), MTV Movie & TV Award for best documentary (2017) and the list goes on. Although the subject matter is tough to swallow, the film introduces viewers to the question, “Are we really free?”

Where to Watch: Available to watch with Netflix subscription.

2. “Selma” (2014)

The story of “Selma” is based on the fight for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which included marches that stretched from Selma to Montgomery led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The historical drama, written by Paul Webb and directed by Ava DuVernay, has received immense praise, earning four Golden Globe Awards nominations, as well as a nomination for best picture. We’ve all heard the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but “Selma” gives viewers an even deeper look inside the trials and tribulations it took for King’s voice to be heard. “Selma” is a must-watch this Black History Month.

Where to Watch: Available for rent on YouTube.

3. “Moonlight” (2016)

This 2016 coming-of-age drama was written and directed by Barry Jenkins and is especially monumental, being one of the first LGBTQ+ films with an all-Black cast. “Moonlight” depicts a heart-tugging tale of acceptance and self-discovery. The film scored a whopping 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and walked away with the Academy Award for best picture, further instilling how beloved and important the film is to audiences. It explores the happiness, fears and complex nature of dealing with sexuality, while allowing for Black LGBTQ+ members to be represented in a conversation that commonly excludes them, making it a must-see film this month.

Where to Watch: Available to watch with Showtime subscription.

4. “Boyz n the Hood” (1991)

This American crime drama was written and directed by John Singleton and is his directorial debut. The film stars Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and even more A-listers. “Boyz n the Hood” follows Tre Styles (Gooding Jr.), who moves in with his father (Fishburne) in the heart of South Central Los Angeles. This change of location drops Tre right in the middle of the neighborhood’s heated gang culture. The film received praise from critics for its acting, script and ability to tackle uncomfortable topics.

Where to Watch: Available for rent on Prime Video.

5. “Fruitvale Station” (2013)

This biographical drama is written and directed by Ryan Coogler and stars actor Michael B. Jordan. “Fruitvale Station” depicts the last day of Oscar Grant’s life before it was unjustly taken by BART police during the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009. The film is more somber in comparison to the other nine films on this list and is guaranteed to evoke many emotions in the viewer. From the scenes between Grant and family to the Rodney King Riots, the content of “Fruitvale Station” is sadly all too familiar.

Where to Watch: Available to watch with Showtime subscription.

6. “Black Panther” (2018)

“Black Panther” is a 2018 Marvel Comics film and the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The superhero flick stars Chadwick Boseman, accompanied by Michael B. Jordan. “Black Panther” is one of the most monumental films to be released in the 21st century and deserves its place on this list without a doubt, making it worth seeing this Black History Month. It is the first MCU film with a predominantly Black cast, as well as the first film in the MCU universe with a Black director. The heroic successes don’t stop there. “Black Panther” grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide, breaking many box office records and making it the highest-grossing film by a Black director.

Where to Watch: Available to watch with Disney+ subscription.

7. “BlacKkKlansman” (2018)

“BlacKkKlansman” is a 2018 black comedy crime film based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth. The film is set in 1970s Colorado Springs, Colorado, and viewers can feel the nostalgia oozing through the big screen.“BlacKkKlansman” follows the first African American detective at the Colorado Springs Police Department as he and his partner go undercover to expose the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. Directed by Spike Lee, the film was awarded best adapted screenplay at the 91st Academy Awards and was nominated for five other categories, including best picture. Some may think a comedy movie about the Ku Klux Klan sounds distasteful; however, Lee handles the subject matter with grace and gives viewers a chance to laugh at the tough stuff, while simultaneously bringing it full circle to modern-day times. Released on the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville attack, Lee paints a heartbreaking picture of “how things are so different, yet so the same.” As an exceptionally told cautionary tale, “BlacKkKlansman” is a must-watch this Black History Month.

Where to Watch: Available for rent on YouTube.

8. “Do the Right Thing” (1989)

”Do the Right Thing” is a 1989 comedy-drama directed, produced and written by Spike Lee. The film features himself, Danny Aiello, Samuel L. Jackson and Martin Lawrence on the big screen. The story navigates racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood between the African American community and the owners of a local pizza shop. Back in 1999, the film was labeled “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. It is also commonly listed among the greatest films of all time, making it a great choice to watch this month.

Where to Watch: Free to stream with PeacockTV.

9. “Queen & Slim” (2019)

“Queen & Slim” is a 2019 romantic crime drama directed by Melina Matsoukas. The story follows a young Black couple (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) who end up on the run after killing a police officer in self-defense during a heated exchange at a routine traffic stop. Aside from the chaos surrounding the two main characters, the film tells a beautiful story of love and unity within the Black community, making it a standout must-see in the month of February.

Where to Watch: Available for rent on Prime Video.

10. “The Princess and the Frog” (2009)

“The Princess and the Frog” is a 2009 film produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studios and is based on the novel “The Frog Princess” by E.D. Baker. The animated film’s story follows a hardworking, young woman named Tiana, who strives to achieve her dream of opening her own restaurant. However, when she decides to take a night off, she gets mixed up with Prince Naveen and they somehow both end up being turned into frogs. The duo must now set out on a comedic and chaotic journey against the clock to undo the spell that turned them into amphibians. After many years of Disney’s solely fair-skinned royalty, “The Princess and the Frog” offered young Black viewers long-awaited representation, accompanied with an even stronger message that no dream is unachievable if you work hard enough. Consider watching the movie this Black History Month and every month after, due to its cultural significance and major impact on young audiences.

Where to Watch: Available to watch with Disney+ subscription.

Writer Profile

Asiya Robinson

Rowan University
Writing Arts

Asiya Robinson is a bookworm from Deptford, New Jersey, with dreams of an exhilarating writing career. Whether it’s becoming a novelist or journalist, Asiya plans to pen herself an alluring and prosperous tomorrow.

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