From tackling racism head-on and exploring its various dimensions, from historical injustice to contemporary struggles, each of these films offers a unique perspective on racism and the profound impact it has on American history and the present time.
1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
12 Years a Slave is a visceral and unflinching portrayal of the brutal realities of slavery in the American South. The film follows the harrowing journey of Solomon Northup, a free Black American man who is abducted and forced into slavery, highlighting the enduring legacy of racism.
2. Hidden Figures (2016)
Based on a true story, Hidden Figures celebrates the brilliant Black American women who played crucial roles at NASA during the Space Race. The film sheds light on their contributions and the racial prejudice they faced in a segregated society, even as top minds. The acting is outstanding in this film. Grab tissues!
3. Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station is a powerful and heartbreaking film based on the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man fatally shot by a transit police officer in Oakland, California. The film serves as a poignant reminder of the tragic consequences of racial profiling and police brutality.
4. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is a searing exploration of racial tensions on a hot summer day in a Brooklyn neighborhood. It explores the complexities of racial prejudice, police brutality, and community conflict, sparking essential conversations about race relations in America.
5. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
If Beale Street Could Talk is a poignant love story that confronts racial injustice and systemic oppression. The film follows a young Black American couple as they navigate the challenges of the criminal justice system.
6. Queen & Slim (2019)
Queen & Slim is a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde story that addresses racial profiling and police violence. The film follows a Black couple on the run after a traffic stop escalates into a tragic incident, sparking a nationwide manhunt.
7. The Color Purple (1985)
The Color Purple is a classic film that explores the lives of Black women in the early 20th century American South. The film tackles themes of racism, sexism, and resilience, with Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg delivering standout performances.
8. American History X (1998)
American History X is a chilling film that explores the consequences of hate and racism through the story of a former neo-Nazi, played by Edward Norton. He attempts to prevent his younger brother from following the same path, but things do not work out. The film’s powerful message challenges viewers to confront the cycle of racial violence.
9. The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
This documentary chronicles the life and tragic assassination of Fred Hampton, a charismatic young leader of the Black Panther Party. Hampton’s activism and his ultimate death at the hands of law enforcement highlight the deeply rooted racism within the government and society.
10. Malcolm X (1992)
Spike Lee’s biographical drama Malcolm X stars Denzel Washington as the iconic civil rights leader. It traces Malcolm X’s transformation from a street hustler to a powerful advocate for racial equality, shedding light on his evolving views on race and identity.
11. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, blends horror and social commentary to address the insidious nature of racism. It follows a Black man who visits his White girlfriend’s family and uncovers disturbing secrets. Get Out is a thought-provoking and chilling exploration of racial exploitation.
12. 13th (2016)
I can not recommend this film enough. 13th examines the history of racial inequality in the U.S., particularly the systemic racism within the criminal justice system. The film’s title refers to the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery but allows for the continued oppression of Black Americans through mass incarceration.
13. Crash (2004)
Crash weaves together multiple storylines that intersect in racially charged Los Angeles. It confronts viewers with uncomfortable scenarios and challenges preconceived notions about race.
14. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
I Am Not Your Negro is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, which reflects on the lives and assassinations of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. The film offers a profound exploration of racism in America through Baldwin’s powerful words.
15. The Glass Shield (1994)
The Glass Shield highlights racial discrimination and corruption within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The film follows a black deputy sheriff who uncovers wrongdoing within the department and faces immense pressure to remain silent. It stars Ice Cube.
16. Moonlight (2016)
Moonlight is a coming-of-age film that explores the intersection of race, sexuality, and identity. It follows the life of a young Black man as he navigates his personal journey in a challenging environment.
17. Just Mercy (2019)
Another increible watch, Just Mercy, is based on the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson, who works to overturn wrongful convictions of death row inmates, particularly those affected by racial bias. The film shines a light on the systemic racism within the criminal justice system. It stars Michael B. Jordan and Jaime Foxx.
18. Fences (2016)
Denzel Washington directs and stars in the adaptation of August Wilson’s play Fences, exploring the complexities of race, family, and unfulfilled dreams in 1950s Pittsburgh. The film delves into the impact of racial discrimination on the aspirations of its characters.
19. Selma (2014)
Selma recounts the pivotal civil rights marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. It captures the courage and determination of those who fought for voting rights in the face of violent opposition. David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Dr. King is both moving and compelling.
20. The Hate U Give (2018)
The Hate U Give will leave you on the floor in a puddle. It follows a young black girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood friend by a white police officer. The film addresses police brutality and the power of activism in the face of racial injustice.
21. Whose Streets (2017)
Whose Streets is a documentary that provides an intimate look at the events surrounding the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent protests against police violence. The film offers a raw and unfiltered view of grassroots activism and the fight against racial injustice.
22. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel comes to life in the iconic film, To Kill a Mockingbird. It follows Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), as he defends a Black man wrongly accused of raping a White woman in a racially divided Southern town. This timeless classic explores the injustice of racism through the eyes of a young girl named Scout.
23. The Help (2011)
The Help depicts the struggles of Black American maids and their relationships with white families in 1960s Mississippi. The film highlights the injustice of segregation and the courage of those who spoke out against it.
24. Green Book (2018)
Green Book is inspired by the true story of Black pianist Don Shirley and his Italian American chauffeur, Tony Vallelonga. The film explores the complexities of racism in the 1960s South and the unlikely friendship that develops between the two men.
25. BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is based on the true story of a black police detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. The film explores themes of racism and white supremacy, drawing eerie parallels to present-day events.
26. Mississippi Burning (1988)
Mississippi Burning is based on the real-life events surrounding the murder of three civil rights activists in Mississippi in 1964. The film examines the FBI’s investigation into the crime and the deeply ingrained racism of the era.
27. A Time to Kill (1996)
Another tearjerker, A Time to Kill, centers on a young black girl who is brutally raped and the subsequent trial of her father, who seeks revenge on her attackers. The film explores the complexities of racial prejudice and justice. It stars Keifer Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, and Sandra Bullock and is a remarkable film, butr difficult story.
28. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Stanley Kramer’s classic, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, tackles interracial marriage in the 1960s. The film stars Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn as a couple facing societal prejudice and parental objections.
29. Cry Freedom (1987)
Cry Freedom tells the story of South African activist Steve Biko and his friendship with journalist Donald Woods. The film highlights the brutality of apartheid and the struggle for human rights in South Africa.
30. When They See Us (2019)
When They See Us is technically a Netflix miniseries, but is an enlightening watch. It chronicles the real-life story of the Central Park Five, a group of young black and Latino men wrongly convicted of a brutal assault in New York City in 1989.
The series explores racial bias in the criminal justice system and the devastating impact of systemic racism on these individuals and their families.
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