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Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories

Updated July 13, 2020 4.5k votes 979 voters 84.7k views42 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.

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  • 1
    Hidden Figures
    264
    40

    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 on Wikipedia
  • 2
    12 Years a Slave
    246
    50

    12 Years a Slave

    Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

    Released2013

    Directed bySteve McQueen

    12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    The Help
    162
    21

    The Help

    Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain

    Released2011

    Directed byTate Taylor

    The Help is a 2011 American period drama film directed and written by Tate Taylor, and adapted... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Malcolm X
    221
    52

    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 on Wikipedia

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  • 5
    42
    213
    51

    42

    Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni

    Released2013

    Directed byBrian Helgeland

    42 is a 2013 American biographical sports film written and directed by Brian Helgeland about... more on Wikipedia

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    #26 of 172 The Best Sports Movies Ever Made#3 of 78 The All-Time Best Baseball Films

  • 6
    The Color Purple
    138
    14

    The Color Purple

    Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg

    Released1985

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    The Color Purple is a 1985 American period drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    Glory
    159
    33

    Glory

    Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington

    Released1989

    Directed byEdward Zwick

    Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 8
    The Butler
    147
    30

    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 on Wikipedia

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  • 9
    Hotel Rwanda
    139
    34

    Hotel Rwanda

    Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix

    Released2004

    Directed byTerry George

    Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American historical drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    The Tuskegee Airmen
    94
    19

    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 on Wikipedia

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  • 11
    Selma
    116
    39

    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 on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Amistad
    109
    35

    Amistad

    Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey

    Released1997

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Amistad is a 1997 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the true story... more on Wikipedia

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  • 13
    Ali
    91
    28

    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 on Wikipedia

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  • 14
    Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
    87
    27

    Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

    Idris Elba, Naomie Harris

    Released2013

    Directed byJustin Chadwick

    Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a 2013 British-South African biographical film directed by... more on Wikipedia

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    #26 of 46 35+ Great Political Movies Based on True Stories#17 of 42 The Best Idris Elba Movies

  • 15
    Django Unchained
    92
    32

    Django Unchained

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington

    Released2012

    Directed byQuentin Tarantino

    Django Unchained is a 2012 American revisionist Western film directed by Quentin Tarantino.... more on Wikipedia

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  • 16
    Invictus
    88
    32

    Invictus

    Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

    Released2009

    Directed byClint Eastwood

    "From director Clint Eastwood, “Invictus” tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Fences
    65
    13

    Fences

    Denzel Washington, Viola Davis

    Directed byDenzel Washington

    Fences is 2016 American drama film written by August Wilson and directed by Denzel Washington... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Rosewood
    85
    31

    Rosewood

    Jon Voight, Don Cheadle

    Released1997

    Directed byJohn Singleton

    Rosewood is a 1997 film directed by John Singleton. While based on historic events of the 1923... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    The Great Debaters
    74
    22

    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 on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Cool Runnings
    95
    42

    Cool Runnings

    John Candy, Malik Yoba

    Released1993

    Directed byJon Turteltaub

    Cool Runnings is a 1993 American sports film directed by Jon Turteltaub, and starring Leon,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 21
    Ghosts of Mississippi
    71
    28

    Ghosts of Mississippi

    Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg

    Released1996

    Directed byRob Reiner

    Ghosts of Mississippi is a 1996 American drama film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Alec... more on Wikipedia

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  • 22
    The Hurricane
    62
    22

    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 on Wikipedia

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  • 23
    Red Tails
    65
    25

    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 on Wikipedia
  • 24
    The Long Walk Home
    58
    22

    The Long Walk Home

    Whoopi Goldberg, Sissy Spacek

    Released1990

    Directed byRichard Pearce

    The Long Walk Home is a 1990 film starring Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg, and directed by... more on Wikipedia

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  • 25
    Loving
    36
    7

    Loving

    Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga

    Released2016

    Directed byJeff Nichols

    Loving is a 2016 historical drama film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It features Joel... more on Wikipedia