29 voters

The Most Powerful Movies About Racism Streaming Online

July 15, 2020 218 votes 29 voters15 items

List RulesMovies that show characters dealing with and overcoming racism.

If you're looking for the best films about racism on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or other streaming service, we've got you covered. Regardless of the racial climate - whether in times of unrest or relative quiet - film is and has always been a socially relevant lens for discussing racism. The work of Spike Lee has covered racial tension and discrimination in the Black community for over thirty years with films like Da 5 Bloods and BlacKkKlansman. More recently, films like show how pervasive and dangerous racism is from the perspective of reformed white supremacist members. Underrepresented groups have their voices and stories shown in films like Gook. From each of their individual points-of-view, genres, and historical backgrounds, these films serve as important cinematic achievements because of their stark social commentary.

Based on your opinion of what makes them socially and artistically important, vote up the movies on this list that you think share the most important messages about racism. Vote down the ones that you think miss the mark.

  • Photo: The Weinstein Company

    In yet another biographical feature depicting acts of racist brutality from police officers, Fruitvale Station has become a film, that to many, marks the beginning of a more mainstream conversation about racism in cinema. In a role that launched his career, Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant, a man who was murdered by a BART police officer on a train platform in 2009. By taking a glimpse into Grant's life leading up to the event, this film humanizes the victim and paints a fuller picture of the circumstances that led to this tragic killing. Fruitvale Station also marks the directorial debut of Ryan Coogler, who has gone to make several more films with Jordan, including Creed and Black Panther.

    Where to watch: Amazon Prime

    • Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand
    • Released: 2013
    • Directed by: Ryan Coogler
    An impactful film?
  • Photo: Focus Features

    Based on the true-life story and memoir by Ron Stallworth, BlacKkKlansman follows a Colorado Springs police officer who infiltrated the local Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. At times uproariously funny, but also carrying the heavy weight of spotlighting the most vile terrorist group in American history, this film earned six Academy Award nominations in 2019 and took home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Again, Spike Lee delivers.

    Where to watch: Hulu, HBO

    • Actors: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen
    • Released: 2018
    • Directed by: Spike Lee
    An impactful film?
  • Photo: Columbia Pictures

    Few films nor filmmakers have made a bigger debut than John Singleton's Boyz in the Hood. Originally developed as part of Singleton's application to the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the film went into production in 1990. Of note, the project was shot in sequence. Boyz in the Hood launched the acting careers of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ice Cube, but it's permanence as one of the most important films of the decade is due to it's honest, lived-in storytelling depicting the perils and joys of everyday life in South Los Angeles.

    Where to watch: Showtime, Hulu

    • Actors: Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long
    • Released: 1991
    • Directed by: John Singleton
    An impactful film?
  • Photo: Netflix

    In this Spike Lee feature, five Black Vietnam veterans travel back to the East to uncover a buried stash of gold and recover the remains of a fallen soldier, only to be faced with physical danger and emotional strife, both from outside and within. The film makes very clear that Black soldiers (like in every American war) were put on the frontline of the War in Vietnam (or, as it's called on domestic soil, the American War). They were faced with the most dangerous situations and received the least recognition. Delroy Lindo gives a particularly stirring performance as Paul, a man suffering from severe PTSD who (unlike his fellow travel mates) fuels his anger and righteousness under a "Make America Great Again" hat.

    Where to watch: Netflix

    • Actors: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
    • Released: 2020
    • Directed by: Spike Lee
    An impactful film?