Entertainment
224 voters

The Greatest African American Biopics

Updated December 28, 2020 2.0k votes 224 voters 10.7k views85 items

Though we tend to get the most entertainment out of action-packed thrillers, sci-fi flicks, and comedies, a good biopic every now and then can be just as captivating. Not only that, but these biographical films can span a range of genres—no matter the subject at hand. Some of the most moving and interesting of them all, however, are African American biopics. As you can imagine, these typically fall within dramas and period pieces, but they're incredible movies nonetheless. Whether you're talking about breakthrough athlete biopics, notable figures in history, or the greatest musicians, Black biopics are aplenty. 

It's no secret: racial tension has long been a problem in our world and instead of sitting idly by, a great deal of African Americans have made great strides in such difficult circumstances. Considering this, such is often the topic of biopics. From being the first Black baseball player to becoming a leading political rights activist, these moving stories were rightfully made into biopics, and some are simply the greatest biographical films of all time. Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Winnie Mandela, and Ray Charles are just a few wonderful subjects of top African American biopics and there are plenty more where that came from. What's your favorite?

Check out the list of African American biopics below and vote up those you think are the best—whether that be the most influential, inspiring, or downright impactful films. Of course, feel free to add any others that may be missing from the list. 

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  • Malcolm X1
    128
    12

    Malcolm X

    Denzel Washington, Al Sharpton

    Released1992

    Directed bySpike Lee

    Malcolm X is a 1992 American biographical drama film about the African-American activist...  more

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  • Ray2
    117
    13

    Ray

    Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx

    Released2004

    Directed byTaylor Hackford

    Ray is a biographical film focusing on 30 years in the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray...  more

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  • Straight Outta Compton3
    96
    26

    Straight Outta Compton

    O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins

    Released2015

    Directed byF. Gary Gray

    Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 American biographical film directed by F. Gary Gray. The...  more

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  • Hidden Figures4
    84
    21

    Hidden Figures

    Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer

    Released2016

    Directed byTheodore Melfi

    Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on...  more

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  • 12 Years a Slave5
    75
    16

    12 Years a Slave

    Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

    Released2013

    Directed bySteve McQueen

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  • Glory6
    67
    11

    Glory

    Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington

    Released1989

    Directed byEdward Zwick

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  • Get on Up7
    69
    16

    Get on Up

    Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis

    Released2014

    Directed byTate Taylor

    Get on Up is a 2014 American biographical drama film about the life of singer James Brown...  more
  • Ali8
    66
    16

    Ali

    Will Smith, Jamie Foxx

    Released2001

    Directed byMichael Mann

    Ali is a 2001 American biographical film directed by Michael Mann. The film tells the story of...  more

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  • American Gangster9
    63
    16

    American Gangster

    Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe

    Released2007

    Directed byRidley Scott

    American Gangster is a 2007 American biographical crime film directed by Ridley Scott, based...  more

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  • 4210
    64
    19

    42

    Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie

    Released2013

    Directed byBrian Helgeland

    42 is a 2013 American biographical sports film directed by Brian Helgeland. The powerful story...  more

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  • Antwone Fisher11
    51
    8

    Antwone Fisher

    Denzel Washington, Viola Davis

    Released2002

    Directed byDenzel Washington

    Antwone Fisher is a 2002 American biographical drama film directed by and starring Denzel...  more

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  • The Butler12
    54
    15

    The Butler

    Mariah Carey, Robin Williams

    Released2013

    Directed byLee Daniels

    The Butler is a 2013 American historical drama film directed and produced by Lee Daniels and...  more

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  • The Tuskegee Airmen13
    52
    13

    The Tuskegee Airmen

    John Lithgow, Cuba Gooding Jr.

    Released1995

    Directed byRobert Markowitz

    The Tuskegee Airmen is a 1995 HBO television movie based on the exploits of an actual...  more

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  • Rosewood14
    50
    13

    Rosewood

    Jon Voight, Don Cheadle

    Released1997

    Directed byJohn Singleton

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  • Introducing Dorothy Dandridge15
    40
    6

    Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

    Halle Berry, Tamara Taylor

    Released1999

    Directed byMartha Coolidge

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  • Notorious16
    48
    16

    Notorious

    Angela Bassett, Anthony Mackie

    Released2009

    Directed byGeorge Tillman, Jr.

    Notorious is a 2009 American biographical film about the life of Christopher Wallace, an...  more

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  • Selma17
    46
    14

    Selma

    Oprah Winfrey, Common

    Released2014

    Directed byAva DuVernay

    Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is...  more

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  • Red Tails18
    40
    8

    Red Tails

    Daniela Ruah, Bryan Cranston

    Released2012

    Directed byAnthony Hemingway

    Red Tails is a 2012 American film directed by Anthony Hemingway in his feature film...  more

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  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman19
    39
    10

    The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

    Cicely Tyson, Katherine Helmond

    Released1973

    Directed byJohn Korty

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  • All Eyez On Me20
    42
    17

    All Eyez On Me

    Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham

    Released2017

    Directed byBenny Boom

    All Eyez on Me is a 2017 American biographical drama film about hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur,...  more
  • Bird21
    39
    15

    Bird

    Forest Whitaker, Keith David

    Released1988

    Directed byClint Eastwood

    Bird is a 1988 American biographical film, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood of a...  more

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  • The Hurricane22
    45
    20

    The Hurricane

    Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber

    Released1999

    Directed byNorman Jewison

    The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel...  more

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  • The New Edition Story23
    24
    2

    The New Edition Story

    Keith Powers, Algee Smith

    Directed byChris Robinson

  • The Great Debaters24
    38
    21

    The Great Debaters

    Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker

    Released2007

    Directed byDenzel Washington

    The Great Debaters is a 2007 American biopic period drama film directed by and starring Denzel...  more

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  • The Jackie Robinson Story25
    27
    18

    The Jackie Robinson Story

    Jackie Robinson, Ruby Dee

    Released1950

    Directed byAlfred E. Green

    The Jackie Robinson Story is a 1950 biographical film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring...  more