Consider These Movies by Black Directors As Required Viewing Today & Always

Malcom X - 1992
Photo: Warner Bros/Largo International/Kobal/Shutterstock.

As protests against racism and police brutality continue to mount across the world, many are also looking for ways to bring the movement home. Searching for movies by Black directors to support is a great place to start. We’ll be weighing in on some options below—but you don’t have to stop here.

Maybe you’ve already signed petitions demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbery—and the countless other Black men and women who died in recent years at the hands of police. Maybe you’ve donated to anti-racist organizations. Maybe you’ve even contacted your elected officials and local police departments to provide concrete plans for change. But in the coming weeks, there are more everyday actions we all must take to reform our racist systems. And they begin at home, at work, and at school.

Reconsider the books you read for fun, the stores you shop at, the cosmetic products you use on the daily. Reorient the films you watch, the television shows you binge on the couch, the music you listen to, and find ways to integrate Black voices and perspectives into these areas of your life. The work of anti-racism begins from a place of knowledge—and the person equipped to get you there is you.

That said: We hope this list makes it that much easier for you to begin the journey. Keep on reading for five movies by Black directors to stream on Netflix, Hulu, and more.

Malcolm X (Dir. Spike Lee)

Spike Lee’s biopic of the legendary Black nationalist, Malcolm X, is as necessary now as it was in 1992—if not more so. Quotes by his contemporary, Martin Luther King, continue to circulate on social media these days by self-described allies leaning on messages of “peace” in times of turmoil. A look at Malcolm’s more radical ideologies may help viewers understand the limits and benefits of active rebellion. Plus, Lee proves himself to be the best director for Denzel Washington—even Scorsese thinks so.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Dir. Barry Jenkins)

From the director of 2016 Best Picture-winning Moonlight, we somehow got an even more heartrending story. That’s in no small part thanks to Jenkins’ skill, but we can thank one of America’s greatest writers, James Baldwin, for laying the groundwork. If Beale Street Could Talk is based on Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, and follows a young couple navigating love and justice in Harlem, New York.

Selma (Dir. Ava DuVernay)

It’s a travesty that Martin Luther King was never featured as the lead focus of a film until 2014’s Selma came along. But we have a Black woman, the illustrious Ava DuVernay, to thank for fixing that. Her adaptation of King’s journey during the American Civil Rights Movement is a work of essential viewing. This perspective on the historic marches from Alabama’s small town of Selma to the state capital of Montgomery will stay with you long after today’s marches in the same vein.

Fruitvale Station (Dir. Ryan Coogler)

If it’s still your first instinct is to call the murder of Black men and women at the hands of police “unbelievable” or “shocking” in today’s America, then simply consider the timeline of a film like 2013’s Fruitvale Station. We are not so far removed from its subject: Oscar Grant was a Black man killed by a white Oakland transit officer in 2009. Over a decade on, these deaths continue. Likewise, Coogler’s film is one of many in recent years to tell the story of the person behind the homicide headline.

I Like It Like That (Dir. Darnell Martin)

Blackness doesn’t always have to feel so heavy, and it’s our duty to celebrate #BlackExcellence and #BlackJoy, too. Darnell Martin’s I Like It Like That is only one example that delivers, without compromising on the complexities of Black identity. In it, we meet Lisette—an Afro-Latina Puerto Rican from the Bronx—who goes from being a housewife to a record executive’s assistant. Her journey tackles everything from romance and heartbreak, to stumbles and successes. And all from the first African-American woman director to helm a film with a major motion picture studio, at that.

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