Entertainment

The Best Black Movies of the 1980s 

Ranker Film
Updated July 13, 2020 4.8k votes 793 voters 72.2k views 32 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite African American films that were released in the 1980s.

From Oscar-winners to dance epics, '80s Black movies cover an incredible range of film genres and styles. This list of the best 1980s Black movies ranks films about the African American experience from the decade, so your votes will decide whether the greatest '80s Black movie is an artful drama, a searing political statement, or even a blockbuster comedy.

Several of the top '80s Black movies have one thing in common: Eddie Murphy. Coming to America, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop, all of which star Murphy, appear on this great 1980s Black movies list. While Murphy was the heaviest comedic hitter of the 1980s, Richard Pryor comedies like Brewster's Millions, Stir Crazy, and The Toy also made big impressions.

On the more serious side, the '80s saw the release of great Black dramas like The Color Purple and Glory. The 1980s also introduced audiences to Spike Lee. His 1989 classic Do the Right Thing appears on this great 1980s Black films list, as does his 1986 film,She's Gotta Have It. Prince's Purple Rain is another good African American film from the '80s.

Which is your favorite '80s Black film? Vote up the best and vote down the worst. Your votes will decide the top Black movie of the 1980s. If any great '80's African American film is missing, add it, and if you're an expert, then rerank the whole list!

list ordered by
1
Coming to America is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones

Released: 1988

Directed by: John Landis

Coming to America is a 1988 American comedy film directed by John Landis, and based on a story originally created by Eddie Murphy, who also starred in the lead role. The film also co-stars ...more

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After A Contentious Six-Month Production, It's A Miracle 'Coming To America' Even Exists #6 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #34 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

2
The Color Purple is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Laurence Fishburne

Released: 1985

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

The Color Purple is a 1985 American period drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker. It was Spielberg's eighth film as ...more

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#4 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #178 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #50 of 360 The Best Movies Based On Books

3
Beverly Hills Cop is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Damon Wayans, Paul Reiser

Released: 1984

Directed by: Martin Brest

Beverly Hills Cop is a 1984 American action comedy film directed by Martin Brest and starring Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who heads to Beverly Hills, California to ...more

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#96 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #12 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #175 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

4
Lean on Me is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Morgan Freeman, Tony Todd, Regina Taylor

Released: 1989

Directed by: John G. Avildsen

Lean on Me is a 1989 dramatized biographical film written by Michael Schiffer, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Morgan Freeman. Lean on Me is loosely based on the story of Joe Louis ...more

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#8 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #9 of 40 The Most Inspirational Black Movies #33 of 112 The Best Inspirational Movies

5
Harlem Nights is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Arsenio Hall

Released: 1989

Directed by: Eddie Murphy

Harlem Nights is a 1989 comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor and directed by Murphy. The film featured Michael Lerner, Danny Aiello, Redd Foxx, Della Reese and Murphy's brother ...more

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#74 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #380 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #495 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

6
Do the Right Thing is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Spike Lee

Released: 1989

Directed by: Spike Lee

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American comedy-drama hood film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who also played the part of Mookie in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny ...more

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#28 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #314 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Movies Set in Brooklyn

7
Purple Rain is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Wendy Melvoin

Released: 1984

Directed by: Albert Magnoli

Purple Rain is a 1984 American rock musical drama film directed by Albert Magnoli and written by Magnoli and William Blinn. In it, Prince makes his film debut, which was developed to showcase ...more

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#242 of 584 The Greatest Guitar Rock Albums of All Time #66 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
Trading Places is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd

Released: 1983

Directed by: John Landis

Trading Places is a 1983 American comedy film directed by John Landis, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. It tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker and a homeless street ...more

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#307 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #33 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #108 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

9
The Last Dragon is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
William H. Macy, Vanity, Keshia Knight Pulliam

Released: 1985

Directed by: Michael Schultz

The Last Dragon is a 1985 martial arts musical film produced by Rupert Hitzig for Berry Gordy and directed by Michael Schultz. The film was a critical disappointment but a financial success, and ...more

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#253 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #358 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #242 of 324 The Funniest '80s Movies

10
Glory is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick

Released: 1989

Directed by: Edward Zwick

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, based on ...more

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#16 of 378 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #37 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
School Daze is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Spike Lee

Released: 1988

Directed by: Spike Lee

School Daze is a 1988 American musical-drama film, written and directed by Spike Lee, and starring Larry Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Based in part on Spike Lee's ...more

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#86 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #297 of 324 The Funniest '80s Movies #86 of 120 The Best College Movies Ever

12
The Temptations is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Life And Shyt Radio added Smokey Robinson, Bianca Lawson, D. B. Woodside

Released: 1998

Directed by: Allan Arkush

The Temptations is a four-hour television miniseries broadcast in two-hour halves on NBC, based upon the history of one of Motown's longest-lived acts, The Temptations. Executive produced by ...more

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#71 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #58 of 171 The Best Miniseries in TV History #13 of 52 The Best Movies About Real Bands & Musicians

13
Beverly Hills Cop II is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Gilbert Gottfried

Released: 1987

Directed by: Tony Scott

Beverly Hills Cop II is a 1987 action comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and directed by Tony Scott. It is the first sequel in the Beverly Hills Cop series. Murphy returns as Detroit police ...more

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#89 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #36 of 158 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made #274 of 923 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

14
Brewster's Millions is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Richard Pryor, John Candy, Rick Moranis

Released: 1985

Directed by: Walter Hill

Brewster's Millions is a 1985 comedy film starring Richard Pryor and John Candy based on the 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon. It is the seventh film based on the story, ...more

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#525 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #207 of 923 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #193 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

15
Stir Crazy is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Craig T. Nelson

Released: 1980

Directed by: Sidney Poitier

Stir Crazy is a 1980 American comedy film directed by Sidney Poitier and starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor as down-on-their-luck friends who are given 125-year prison sentences after being ...more

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#210 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #1,255 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #116 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

16
Mississippi Burning is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand

Released: 1988

Directed by: Alan Parker

Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo. It was loosely based on the FBI investigation into the incidents involving of three ...more

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#196 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #289 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
Breakin' is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ice-T, Christopher McDonald

Released: 1984

Directed by: Joel Silberg

Breakin', released as Breakdance: The Movie or Break Street '84 in some countries, is a 1984 breakdancing-themed film directed by Joel Silberg. The film setting was inspired by a 1983 German ...more
18
Krush Groove is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Chris Rock, LL Cool J, Bobby Brown

Released: 1985

Directed by: Michael Schultz

Krush Groove is a 1985 Warner Bros. film that was written by Ralph Farquhar and directed by Michael Schultz. This film is based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings and up-and-coming record ...more
19
A Soldier's Story is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Denzel Washington, Patti LaBelle, David Alan Grier

Released: 1984

Directed by: Norman Jewison

A Soldier's Story is a 1984 American drama film directed by Norman Jewison, based upon Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning Off Broadway production A Soldier's Play. A black officer is sent ...more

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#117 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #114 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #41 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '80s

20
The Toy is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Wilfrid Hyde-White

Released: 1982

Directed by: Richard Donner

The Toy is a 1982 American comedy film directed by Richard Donner, and starring Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason, with Ned Beatty, Scott Schwartz, Teresa Ganzel, and Virginia Capers in ...more

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#382 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #354 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #101 of 324 The Funniest '80s Movies

21
A Raisin in the Sun is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Danny Glover, Esther Rolle, Helen Martin

Released: 1989

Directed by: Bill Duke

A Raisin In The Sun is a TV program.
22
Jumpin' Jack Flash is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Whoopi Goldberg, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz

Released: 1986

Directed by: Penny Marshall

Jumpin' Jack Flash is a 1986 spy comedy film starring Whoopi Goldberg. The film was directed by Penny Marshall in her theatrical film directorial debut. The film was one of the first to feature ...more

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#277 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #645 of 923 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Filmslisted on The Very Best Movies About Hackers

23
Beat Street is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Rae Dawn Chong, Mary Alice, Kadeem Hardison

Released: 1984

Directed by: Stan Lathan

Beat Street is an American 1984 drama film featuring New York City hip hop culture of the early 1980s; breakdancing, DJing, and graffiti. It began with a script written by Steven Hager titled ...more
24
Disorderlies is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Helen Reddy, Ralph Bellamy, Tony Plana

Released: 1987

Directed by: Michael Schultz

Disorderlies is a 1987 comedy film starring the rap group, The Fat Boys, and Ralph Bellamy.
25
She's Gotta Have It is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Black Movies of the 1980s
Spike Lee, S. Epatha Merkerson, Joie Lee

Released: 1986

Directed by: Spike Lee

She's Gotta Have It is a 1986 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Spike Lee. Indecisive with her romantic preferences, Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) decides to date three ...more

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#152 of 630 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #1,641 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Movies Set in Brooklyn