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.
Roger Ebert famously called Eve's Bayou the best film of the year when it came out in 1997, and for good reason. Kasi Lemmons's coming of age story set in 1962 Louisiana is a perfect debut, filled with wit, wisdom, and heartbreak.
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- Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Meagan Good, Diahann Carroll, Tamara Tunie, Jurnee Smollett
- Released: 1997
- Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, remains as hard to watch now as it was when it first hit theaters. But just because something is difficult does not mean it isn't worthwhile. Lee Daniels's film about a pregnant teenager trying to recover from a life of horrifying abuse is not an easy movie, but it is a remarkable study in empathy. And the amazing performances in Precious, from Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique, are as powerful as screen acting gets.
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- Actors: Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson, Sherri Shepherd
- Released: 2009
- Directed by: Lee Daniels
Gordon Parks Jr.'s father was already a pioneer in the so-called "blaxploitation" movement — thanks to his release of Shaft in 1971 — when his son started making films. But Parks Jr. was quick to follow in his father's footsteps, even one-upping him with what many still consider to be the defining film in the genre, 1972's Super Fly. The story of a cocaine dealer named Priest trying to get out of the game after one last deal, the film's score certainly ranks among the greatest of all time, thanks to the iconic grooves of Curtis Mayfield.
Parks Jr. died young in a plane crash, never really getting to see the impact his work would have. He even inspired a 2018 remake, starring Straight Outta Compton's Jason Mitchell.
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- Actors: Curtis Mayfield, Julius Harris, Ron O'Neal, Floyd Levine, Carl Lee
- Released: 1972
- Directed by: Gordon Parks, Gordon Parks, Jr.
Before 2018's A Wrinkle in Time, this is the film that made Ava DuVernay a household name. While her 2016 Netflix documentary, 13th, about the prison industrial complex is a powerful watch, Selma's take on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march from Selma to Montgomery and the events around his efforts to secure equal voting rights is restrained and human, in a way that most biopics about great leaders fail to be.
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- Actors: Oprah Winfrey, Common, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson
- Released: 2014
- Directed by: Ava DuVernay