The Blacker the Netflix…

Over in some other corner of the internets, my friend Hello Kitty and I were compiling a list of Black Movies, and she encouraged me to present it here.  This is by no means a definitive list, just some movies we both like and that we feel everyone, no matter what their racial background, should see.  And not just because they are “Black,” but because they are freaking good.

Here’s the list.

Amistad, Roots, Glory, Sounder, A Raisin in the Sun, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Stories of life during the years between slavery and segregation.Running film projector

The Defiant Ones, A Soldier’s Story, In the Heat of the Night. Ground-breaking movies.  These films challenged conventional racial stereotypes and were well ahead of their time.

Imitation of Life. The story of a light-skinned eight-year-old daughter who rejects her mother by trying to pass for White.

Mahogany. A Black model/fashion designer struggles to make it in an all-White industry.

No Way Out, American History X, The Birth of a Nation, Rosewood , Song of the South. Haters gonna hate.  Keep you friends close, but your enemies closer.  Gotta understand the ugliness.

Do the Right Thing. When worlds collide.  And it was a travesty this film was “overlooked” during awards season.  It scared everybody sh*tless because of its power and truths.  And also, bullshit rumors of riots and shootings in theaters.  Thanks “liberal” media!

Malcolm X. Beautiful film. And you realize Denzel’s Oscar was supposed to be for this film, not Training Day, right?

Boyz n the “˜Hood, Menace II SocietyStraight Outta Brooklyn, Just Another Girl on the IRT, New Jack City, Belly. Street life… it’s the only life I know…

BoomerangThe Best ManLove JonesLove and Basketball, The Inkwell, Crooklyn, Eve’s Bayou, Akeelah and the Bee. Movies about people who also happen to be Black.  YouKnowWhatI’mSaying?

Hollywood Shuffle. A scathing yet funny commentary on being Black in Hollywood.  See also: Bamboozled.

Bamboozled. I really can’t classify this flick.  I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I thought it touched upon some very important and sensitive issues about depictions of Blacks in mainstream media.  For a more digestible version of a similar message, try Dancing in September.

The Five Heartbeats, Dreamgirls, The Wiz, Carmen Jones, Porgy and Bess. Musical movies.  All classics.

Movies about famous/important African-Americans. The Josephine Baker Story, Lady Sings the Blues, Something the Lord Made, The Tuskegee Airmen, Buffalo Soldiers, Hotel Rwanda, Bird.

The Color Purple. A masterful adaption of Alice Walker’s powerful novel.

Posse. Finally! A Western that prominently features Blacks, Native Americans, and Asians in the Wild West.  No giant spiders, I promise!

Dead Presidents, Set It Off. Heist movies.  When good people are pushed to do bad things.

Harlem Nights.  Eddie Murphy. Richard Pryor. Della Reese.  Red Foxx.  This movie is a Who’s Who of comedy all-stars.  Funny from beginning to end.

Daughters of the Dust. A film about the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.

Bebe’s Kids, The Princess and the Frog. Sadly, the only two not-blatantly-racist animated movies in existence.

School Daze, Drumline, Stomp the Yard. Three very accurate portrayals of life at an Historically Black College/University.

She’s Gotta Have It. In my opinion, the most honest look at female sexuality in film history.

Blade, Spawn. Black superheroes.  Super awesome.

Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. This movie is in a class by itself.  The description reads, “An African American mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.”  Oh, but it’s so much more than that.  Forest Whittaker with a sword.  Soundtrack by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.  Need I say more?

Black Dynamite.  A send-up of every Blaxsploitation movie ever made.

Jackie Brown.  Pam Grier being a BAMF.  Watch this movie!

Tales from the ‘Hood, Bones. Horror movies where the Black people live.  Well, some of them do.

Jungle Fever,  ZebraheadSomething New. Honorable Mentions in this category: A Bronx Tale and Strange Days.

Whew! It’s a long list, but definitely not complete.  What Black movies would you like to see included on this list?  Add yours in the comments.

42 replies on “The Blacker the Netflix…”

What about Blaxploitation movies themselves? Jackie Brown is a tribute to the films of the 1970s, to the extent of having the genre’s most famous star, Pam Grier, star as Jackie Brown. Sure they could be OTT, but some of them were great movies too. (my personal favourites are Across 110th Street, Shaft and Truck Turner).

These films are all great mentions. I have some other favorites to add:

The Wood, a coming-of-age story about three guys growing up in 80’s L.A. They are at both immature and sweet, and most of the film is a flashback, as one of them is on his wedding day and is freaking out about it. It’s just a really touching and nice movie.

Someone once said that The Town is a ripoff of Set it Off, and I agree. Despite that The Town comes from a novel, the story is very similar, like a white guy’s version of it.

Brown Sugar has always been one of my favorite romantic comedies. It has great music, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan share a sweet chemistry, Mos Def and Queen Latifah were scene-stealers as best friend characters, and everyone in the movie just looks like a regular person, not too glam, and nobody is really the bad guy, even when they do something wrong or aren’t sympathetic in some way.

Ah, Set it Off. Such a great movie. The copy I have of it is so scratched up from years of watching it over and over again.
I saw The Town a few weekends ago, and I didn’t immediately think of it as a rip-off of Set it Off, but now I want to watch them both back to back to analyze the similarities.

Also, Separate But Equal. It’s a 1991 made for TV movie that depicts the Brown v Board of Education case. Sidney Poitier plays Thurgood Marshall. It’s split into two parts, the first half takes place in Clarendon County, SC and shows how the community dealt with the “separate but equal” issue and how they ended up getting involved with Brown V. Board of Education. The second half of the movie follows the Supreme Court trial. It’s a very interesting movie.

The first half filled me with righteous anger, the second half was a lot calmer, but still kept me enthralled. Although I knew how the trial would end up, the movie had me at the edge of my seat.

Hi it’s HK here.

For those of us who were born post Civil Rights Act of 1964 I really have to recommend “No Way Out”. It’s tough film, but the brutal language and violence gives you a glimpse what life was like for Black Americans. There are scenes of Black people in different walks of life, just living and working. There’s even a tender scene between Sidney Poitier and Cora Joanne Smith, as husband and wife. All the Black actors give authentic performances, none have to adapt stereotypical behaviors or language–rather progressive for 1950. Plus you get an early glimpse of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.

It’s a great history lesson.

And yes Richard Widmark was good friends with Sidney Poitier in real life, so it truly pained him to do those scenes and utter those epithets.

I, too, can’t believe I left off A Lesson Before Dying! I haven’t seen that movie in forever, but the message still resonates with me.

And Idlewild was a vastly underrated movie.

There are SO many good Black movies, it’s a shame they typically aren’t seen by a lot of non-Black people. I wonder why that is?

They aren’t marketed to mass audiences unless you have Hollywood moneymakers like Will Smith or Eddie Murphy. Hollywood marketing/PR still has segregationist notions IMO. They put business first. With business you use shorthand and the thinking is based on stereotypes, the tried and true.

I like a lot of the pre code films — I think most people would be shocked to know what was going on in pre-code Hollywood. But in general a bunch of my favorite movies came out right around the same time — The Thin Man, It Happened One Night, Captain Blood, A Night at the Opera, The 39 Steps, I’m No Angel. The Women is 1939 and is high on my list of fantastic, untopable movies.

Hollywood Shuffle was brilliant. I turned it on once on TV, in the middle of it, and wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but thought it was at both funny and fascinating. Robert Townsend continued on the themes of Hollywood Shuffle in his sitcom The Parent ‘Hood, where he had an episode talking about the marginalized roles black actors played in the 1930s. I thought it was an excellent episode, but the show wasn’t too popular when it was around.

Great list!

I really enjoyed Lackawanna Blues, although I didn’t realize until just now getting the link from IMDB that it was a tv movie. For some reason I thought it had a limited theatrical release.

Anyway, it’s about a young kid from a mixed background (black and latino) growing up in a boarding house in Lackawanna, NY, being raised by the house mother S. Epatha Merkerson, and interacting with the folks who pass through the boarding house. Really beautiful stuff.

Has anyone else seen Ballast?

It’s a snapshot of the lives of a single mother raising her troubled teenaged boy in the Mississipi Delta area. Her son’s father commits suicide and that sends her, her son’s and his (deceased man’s) twin brother into a downward spiral.

The film is beautifully acted although none of the actors are professionals. The movie unfolds almost like a documentary–which can be attributed to the fact it was filmed with a hand-held camera.

It’s a short film (96 minutes), but it’s one of the more powerful Black films I’ve seen in the last 5 years.

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