Historical Movies Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories  

Ranker Film
1.8k votes 526 voters 34.4k 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.

Do you have a favorite historical black movie? Give the best films a thumbs up and please add any good movies that are missing.

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12 Years a Slave is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
12 Years a Slave 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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42 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
42 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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Glory is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Glory Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick Glory is a 1989 American drama war film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, ...more

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Hidden Figures is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Amy Boal added Hidden Figures 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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Malcolm X is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Malcolm X 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 stars Denzel Washington in the title role, as ...more

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The Butler is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Butler 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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Hotel Rwanda is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Hotel Rwanda 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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Invictus is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Invictus 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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The Help is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added The Help 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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The Color Purple is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added The Color Purple 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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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 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

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Ali is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Ali 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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Selma is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Selma 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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Rosewood is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Rosewood Jon Voight, Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames Rosewood is a 1997 film directed by John Singleton. While based on historic events of the 1923 Rosewood massacre in Florida, when a white mob killed blacks and destroyed their town, the film ...more

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Amistad is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Amistad 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 abducted for the ...more

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The Tuskegee Airmen is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Tuskegee Airmen 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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Cool Runnings is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Cool Runnings 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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Ghosts of Mississippi is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Ghosts of Mississippi 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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The Long Walk Home is listed (or ranked) 19 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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The Birth of a Nation is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Birth of a Nation 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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The Hurricane is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Hurricane 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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Cry Freedom is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Cry Freedom Denzel Washington, Kevin Kline, Julian Glover Cry Freedom is a 1987 British drama film directed by Richard Attenborough, set in the late 1970s, during the apartheid era of South Africa. The screenplay was written by John Briley based on a ...more

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The Great Debaters is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Great Debaters 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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Loving is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added Loving 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

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Django Unchained is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
1520203228445 added Django Unchained 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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Red Tails is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Red Tails Daniela Ruah, Bryan Cranston, Cuba Gooding Jr. Red Tails is a 2012 American war film directed by Anthony Hemingway in his feature film directorial debut, and starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. The film is about the Tuskegee ...more

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The Last King of Scotland is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Last King of Scotland Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, James McAvoy The Last King of Scotland is a 2006 British fiction drama film based on Giles Foden's novel of the same name, adapted by screenwriters Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, and directed by Kevin ...more

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Fences is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added Fences 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

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Miracle at St. Anna is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Miracle at St. Anna Kerry Washington, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Turturro Miracle at St. Anna is a 2008 American–Italian epic war film set primarily in Italy during German-occupied Europe in World War II. Directed by Spike Lee, the film is based on the eponymous 2003 ...more

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Panther is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Panther Chris Rock, Angela Bassett, Chris Tucker Panther is a 1995 film directed by Mario Van Peebles, from a screenplay adapted by his father, Melvin Van Peebles, from his novel of the same name. The film portrays the Black Panther Party for ...more

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The Jackie Robinson Story is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Jackie Robinson Story Jackie Robinson, Ruby Dee, Louise Beavers The Jackie Robinson Story is a 1950 biographical film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring Jackie Robinson as himself. The film focuses on Robinson's struggle with the abuse of racist bigots ...more

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta... is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
G.VanBurenBrown added The Immortal Life of Henritta Lacks Oprah Winfrey, Rose Byrne, Renee Elise

The Immortal Life of Henritta Lacks is a movie about Henritta Lacks, an African-American lady who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 1950s.  Without her or her family's consent, a biospy of her cancer cells were taken.  Her cells became known as HeLa, which changed the course of cancer treatment.  During the time she was hospitalized, African-Americans could have their cells taken without their consent and Ms. Lacks' family was neither told nor were they compensated for it.  When the truth was finally revealed, it raised concerns for patient's right to privacy and consent.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a 2017 drama television film directed by George C. Wolfe. An African-American woman (Renee Elise Goldsberry) becomes an unwitting pioneer for medical ...more

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Winnie Mandela is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Winnie Mandela Jennifer Hudson, Terrence Howard

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Bird is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Bird Forest Whitaker, Keith David, Sam Robards Bird is a 1988 American biographical film, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood of a screenplay written by Joel Oliansky. The film is a tribute to the life and music of jazz saxophonist ...more

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Miles Ahead is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Miles Ahead Ewan McGregor, Don Cheadle, Michael Stuhlbarg

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Get on the Bus is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Get on the Bus Bernie Mac, Randy Quaid, Andre Braugher Get on the Bus is a 1996 film about a group of African-American men who are taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March. The film was directed by Spike Lee ...more

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Night Catches Us is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
Night Catches Us Kerry Washington, Black Thought, Anthony Mackie "In 1978, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power ...more

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The Bingo Long Traveling All-S... is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings Richard Pryor, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings is a comedic sports film about a team of enterprising ex-Negro League baseball players in the era of racial segregation. Loosely based upon ...more

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The Great White Hype is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories
The Great White Hype Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Jeff Goldblum The Great White Hype is a 1996 film directed by Reginald Hudlin. It stars Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Berg, Damon Wayans, Jeff Goldblum, Jon Lovitz, Cheech Marin, John Rhys-Davies, Salli Richardson ...more