Entertainment

Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories  

Ranker Film
3.2k votes 846 voters 72.1k views 39 items

Historical movies about famous black people often focus on stories of bravery in the face of oppression. The top historical black movies are based on civil rights leaders, sports stars, and legendary musicians. This is a list of true black movies featuring everything from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom to 12 Years a Slave to Malcolm X.

What movies will you find on this list of the best historical black films? History buffs might place Glory near the top. Based on the Civil War experiences of one of the first military units of the Union Army to be comprised entirely of African-American men, this great film went on to win three Academy Awards, including a Best Supporting Actor trophy for Denzel Washington. Ali, starring Will Smith, is another good black movie based on true events. Selma took an in-depth look at Martin Luther King's iconic march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for equal voting rights for African Americans. Other good movies featured on this best historical black films list include The Hurricane, Rosewood, and The Last King of Scotland, not to mention a great deal of top African American biopics.

Do you have a favorite historical black movie? Give the best films a thumbs up and please add any good movies that are missing. And when you're done, be sure to check out our list of movies about discrimination.

list ordered by
1
Hidden Figures is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Amy Boal added Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae
Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The story of a team of female African-American ...more

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2
12 Years a Slave is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch
12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free ...more

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3
The Color Purple is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Laurence Fishburne
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
Malcolm X is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Denzel Washington, Al Sharpton, Nelson Mandela
Malcolm X is a 1992 American biographical drama film about the African-American activist Malcolm X. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee. The film dramatizes key events in Malcolm X's life: his ...more

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#2 of 719 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #264 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars #2 of 26 The Greatest African American Biopics

5
42 is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni, Nicole Beharie
42 is a 2013 American biographical sports film written and directed by Brian Helgeland about the racial integration of American professional baseball by player Jackie Robinson, who wore jersey ...more

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#167 of 719 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #9 of 26 The Greatest African American Biopics #33 of 241 The Most Inspirational Movies Ever

6
The Help is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard
The Help is a 2011 American period drama film directed and written by Tate Taylor, and adapted from Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the same name. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film is about ...more

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7
Glory is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick
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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#18 of 382 The Best War Movies Ever #191 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
The Butler is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Mariah Carey, Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey
The Butler is a 2013 American historical drama film directed and produced by Lee Daniels and written by Danny Strong. Loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, the film stars Forest ...more

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9
Hotel Rwanda is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Don Cheadle
Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American historical drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay written by both George and Keir Pearson. It stars Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo ...more

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10
Amistad is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, Anna Paquin
Amistad is a 1997 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the true story of the 1839 mutiny aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen taken and managed ...more

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11
The Tuskegee Airmen is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
John Lithgow, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne
The Tuskegee Airmen is a 1995 HBO television movie based on the exploits of an actual groundbreaking unit, the first African American combat pilots in the United States Army Air Corps, that ...more

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#99 of 382 The Best War Movies Ever #53 of 719 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #54 of 220 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

12
Django Unchained is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
15019hh added Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Django Unchained is a 2012 American revisionist Western film directed by Quentin Tarantino. With the help of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) sets out to ...more

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13
Mandela: Long Walk to Fr... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a 2013 British-South African biographical film directed by Justin Chadwick from a script written by William Nicholson and starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris. ...more
14
Selma is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Oprah Winfrey, Common, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and ...more

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#441 of 719 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #23 of 26 The Greatest African American Biopicslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

15
Ali is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith
Ali is a 2001 American biographical film directed by Michael Mann. The film tells the story of the boxer Muhammad Ali, played by Will Smith, from 1964-74 featuring his capture of the heavyweight ...more

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16
Invictus is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Langley Kirkwood
"From director Clint Eastwood, “Invictus” tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar ...more

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17
Rosewood is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Jon Voight, Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames
Rosewood is a 1997 film directed by John Singleton. While based on historic events of the 1923 in Florida, when a white mob takes out blacks and destroyed their town, the film introduces ...more

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18
Fences is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson
Fences is 2016 American drama film written by August Wilson and directed by Denzel Washington in his directorial debut, based on his play of the same name. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, a former ...more
19
The Great Debaters is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett
The Great Debaters is a 2007 American biopic period drama film directed by and starring Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey and her production company, Harpo Productions. It is based ...more

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#56 of 719 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #20 of 26 The Greatest African American Biopics #8 of 33 The Most Inspirational Black Movies

20
The Hurricane is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Rod Steiger
The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel Washington. The script was adapted by Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the ...more

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21
Loving is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll
Loving is a 2016 historical drama film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It features Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ...more
22
The Long Walk Home is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Long Walk Home Whoopi Goldberg, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen
The Long Walk Home is a 1990 film starring Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg, and directed by Richard Pearce. Set in Alabama, it is based on a screenplay about the Montgomery Bus Boycott by John ...more

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23
Ghosts of Mississippi is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, James Woods
Ghosts of Mississippi is a 1996 American drama film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, and James Woods. The plot is based on the true story of the 1994 trial of ...more

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24
Cool Runnings is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
John Candy, Malik Yoba, Jay Brazeau
Cool Runnings is a 1993 American sports film directed by Jon Turteltaub, and starring Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba and John Candy. The film was released in the United States on ...more

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25
The Birth of a Nation is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Lillian Gish, John Ford, Raoul Walsh
The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 American silent epic drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Griffith co-wrote the ...more

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