Only a few years after #OscarsSoWhite made its splashy, social media-fueled takeover of the 2016 Academy Awards, there has been a call for more diversity and representation in Hollywood. The much-acclaimed Get Out released in theaters in 2017, and Marvel's 2018 Black Panther debuted to success with the box office and critics alike. Still, these are considered anomalies: blockbuster films are still monopolized by the white, male side of the movie-making industry.
The thing is, there are a lot of movies made by great black directors: black filmmakers have been creating amazing work for decades. Often, their work is under recognized, particularly when it comes to elite awards. But there remains a stellar canon of films from black directors that deserve to be watched and shared. Some of the best movies from black filmmakers — beyond hits like Black Panther and Get Out or Oscar darlings like Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave — are straight up classics and modern masterpieces which every movie lover should know.
So why not make it a point to watch some other great films by black directors? Here are some movies for film lovers by black directors. And remember, this is just a selection of some of the best to get you started. There's a lot out there to explore.
It's hard to believe Julie Dash's 1991 Daughters of the Dust was the first film by an African-American woman to get a US theatrical release ever, just as it's hard to believe it took 25 years and a re-release for Dash to be recognized as the trailblazer she was (and is).
A look at the Gullah culture of the islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia told through a family of women, Daughters of the Dust reentered the public consciousness in 2016 not just through anniversary screenings, but through Beyoncé's Lemonade video, which made allusions to Dash's work.
Actors: Bahni Turpin, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Cora Lee Day, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Tommy Redmond Hicks, + more
Initial Release: 1991
Directed by: Julie Dash
Before Ryan Coogler conquered the MCU with Black Panther, he took on a much older, but still beloved, Hollywood franchise, with this 2015 riff on the Rocky franchise. Starring frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan and the Italian stallion himself, Sylvester Stallone, Creed is not only a hugely successful entry in the Rocky series, but also a deft piece of commentary on the "great, white hope" concept it was built on in the first place.
Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Graham McTavish
Initial Release: 2015
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
#6 on The Best Rocky Movies
When you you watch Boyz N the Hood for the first time, you may realize, "Hey, Slumdog Millionaire was just a big ripoff of this movie!" But even more important than the influence Boyz N the Hood has had on countless titles since its release are the seismic waves it created when it first came out in 1991.
John Singleton made the film, based loosely on the violence he himself witnessed growing up in South Central LA, when he was just 23, becoming both the youngest person in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Director, as well as the first black filmmaker to ever receive the distinction. With a little help from established heavyweights Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, Boyz N the Hood also helped launch the careers of Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Regina King, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Ice Cube.
Actors: Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, + more
Initial Release: 1991
Directed by: John Singleton
#3 on The Best Movies of 1991
African director Ousmane Sembène's 1966 work about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white family is truly a seminal work of art. Sembène, who was also a novelist in his native Senegal, never got his due as a filmmaker during his lifetime, but this searing critique of supposedly post-colonial western society solidifies him as a master on its own.
Actors: Anne-Marie Jelinck, Toto Bissainthe, Robert Fontaine, Therèse N’Bissine Diop, Momar Nar Sene, + more
Initial Release: 1966
Directed by: Ousmane Sembène