25 Movies Every Black Woman Should Watch

Written by admin   // February 19, 2013   // 0 Comments


Like books and music, few things in this world can make us lose ourselves quite like good films. They make us laugh, cry, discover our history, and even shape our identities. We’re celebrating Black History Month by taking a look at 25 memorable films (in no particular order) that brilliantly capture the Black experience. Enjoy!

by ESSENCE Editors
  • ‘Malcolm X‘ (1992)
  • 1. “Malcolm X” (1992)

    “When it was released in ’92, Spike Lee’sMalcolm X was not only a movie but a movement. Suddenly kids in the neighborhood were proudly wearing baseball caps and sweatshirts emblazoned with that giant “X,” and Alex Haley’s 1965 biography, upon which the film is based, became a must-read. Because finally, we saw the celebration of a civil rights hero different from the ones we learned about in school — an icon who, as played by Denzel Washington in an Oscar-worthy performance, was fiery, fearless and free-thinking.” —Dawnie Walton, Managing Editor, ESSENCE.com
    • ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?‘ (1993)

    2. “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (1993)

    “Angela Bassett channeled Tina Turner in the role of a lifetime. Classic storytelling, amazing performances, and Angela’s arms.” —Emil Wilbekin, Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE

    3. “Mahogany” (1975)

    “Seeing Diana Ross transform from aspiring fashion designer to supermodel with the backdrop of a love affair with Billy Dee Williams is fabulous, dramatic and romantic.” —Emil Wilbekin, Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE

    4. “The Color Purple” (1985)

    “The acting in this film is so powerful, dramatic and rich that I can watch it over and over again and see something new. It’s the personification of a Black narrative and is a classic.” —Emil Wilbekin, Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE

    5. “Carmen Jones” (1954)

    “It’s vintage Harry Belafonte, and the chemistry with Dorothy Dandridge was dripping with sizzle and seduction. Dandridge also became the first Black women to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.” —Wendy Wilson, News Editor, ESSENCE

    6. “Waiting to Exhale” (1995)

    “Yes, Black women date and have sex on our terms! From abortion to sleeping with another woman’s husband, this classic didn’t shy away from the real-life drama that comes along with falling in love. I am thankful this film showed Black professional women to the world, owning our bodies and the beautiful bonds inside our sisterhood. And I still jam hard to this soundtrack. Brandy better do ‘Sittin’ Up in My Room’ at ESSENCE Festival!” —Charreah Jackson, Relationships Editor, ESSENCE

    7. “Daughters of the Dust” (1991)

    “I’ve never seen another movie like it. It’s a uniquely African and African-American story, but also a universal one at the same time. It’s the lyrical story of a Gullah family on St. Helena Island on the eve of their move to the mainland (United States/South Carolina). The visuals are stunning, the acting is great, and the story is just original. To boot, the filmmaker Julie Dash was the first Black woman to have her feature film (this one) distributed theatrically nationwide. The Library of Congress selected the film for the National Film Registry.” —Akkida McDowell, Deputy Research Editor, ESSENCE

    8. “Do the Right Thing” (1989)

    “Because who can forget Radio Raheem, Mookie, Buggin Out and Mother Sister surviving in inner-city Brooklyn in the summertime. Through them we experience racism, inequality, and police brutality head on.” —Yolanda Sangweni, Entertainment Editor, ESSENCE.com

    9. “Boomerang” (1992)

    “If you don’t know the dialogue from this film, you need to learn it ASAP. Boomerang really created the blueprint for the Black creative executive. Love, money, drama and sex. What more could you ask for?” —Emil Wilbekin, Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE

    10. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967)

    “This film was so visionary and addresses challenges with mixed-race relationships that are still prevalent today. The actors — Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn — are all incredible, which makes the story even more powerful.” —Emil Wilbekin, Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE

    11. “Life” (1995)

    “I love the comedic genius of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence and I think they had the potential of becoming the Black Martin and Lewis.” —Wendy Wilson, News Editor, ESSENCE

    12. “Friday” (1995)

    “Chris Tucker, Bernie Mack and Pops at their best. It was funny by being honest and showing real people living and going to work every day — or getting fired on their day off. I still quote MANY lines from this iconic tale.” —Charreah Jackson, Relationships Editor, ESSENCE

    13. “Love Jones” (1997)

    “The late 1990s marked a Renaissance for Black film, and one of the best productions of the era is this romance starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long. As Darius and Nina, they are witty, sophisticated, charged, sexy, poetic — in other words, everything you’d like to be in a relationship. Plus… that soundtrack!” —Dawnie Walton, Managing Editor, ESSENCE.com

    14. “Cleopatra Jones” (1973)

    “This was first Black woman I ever saw take down a whole gang of men and look fly as hell doing it.” —Wendy Wilson, News Editor, ESSENCE

    15. “Boyz N the Hood” (1991)

    “While the nightly news showed young Black men as hoodlums, this was the first movie to humanize their struggles and show the underbelly of Los Angeles. It was amazing storytelling and captured an era. I still laugh at the Jheri curls and tear up when Ricky (Morris Chestnut) gets shot.” —Charreah Jackson, Relationships Editor, ESSENCE

    16. “Boycott” (2001)

    “Jeffrey Wright and his real-life wife Carmen Ejogo star as the premier couple of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, in this little-seen HBO film. Instead of attempting to squeeze the entire story of Dr. King’s life into a running time of two hours, Boycottsmartly zooms in on his specific involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott — and in doing so, fully illuminates a moment that deserves its own feature-length shine.” —Dawnie Walton, Managing Editor, ESSENCE.com

    17. “Cooley High” (1975)

    “I can hear my brother in my ear right now. Cooley High is THE quintessential high school movie. This coming-of-age story of a group of best buddies, set in the 1960s (and released in the 1975), was before our time (my brother’s and mine), but the escapades of high school seniors Cochise, Preach, Pooter and their crew resonated with us. Those names alone! Plus the movie had all these classic Motown tunes and the ultimate fave, ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.’ Sure, the plot was a little uneven, but the characters are familiar, the dialogue is funny, and the whole thing just tugs at the heartstrings.” —Akkida McDowell, Deputy Research Editor, ESSENCE

    18. “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961)

    “There’s a reason Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play has been adapted and revived so many times through the years: Its characters struggle with money, dreams deferred, and their own identities, struggles that many of us face today. The most memorable adaptation is this film starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Diana Sands — as members of the Younger family, they embody the frustrations and hopes of the young, gifted and Black.” —Dawnie Walton, Managing Editor, ESSENCE.com

    19. “School Daze” (1988)

    “Spike Lee’s School Daze is one of the most brilliant depictions of life at historically Black colleges. Featuring a roster of colorful characters, the film tackles hot-button issues like hair (whose is good and whose isn’t?), light skin vs. dark skin, and the tension between campus revolutionaries and fraternities.” —Yolanda Sangweni, Entertainment Editor, ESSENCE.com

    20. “Hollywood Shuffle” (1987)

    “Why? One word: hilarious. This film was so super smart, relatable and just downright funny. Robert Townsend is a genius. He put together an exploration of racism in Hollywood that came off as authentic, biting, and entertaining. The same could be said for Keenan Ivory Wayans’ I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Too many funny lines, people and scenes that other movies have tried and failed to imitate.” Akkida McDowell, Deputy Research Editor, ESSENCE

    21. “The Best Man” (1999)

    “Black people get married too — but prior to the release of The Best Man in 1999, you wouldn’t know it from watching romance play out on the big screen. When seven dear old college friends came together for a wedding, some of the most memorable (and lovable) antics ensued and their bonds were tested in very real ways. Their problems, their love, and ultimately their faith in each other inspired us all to believe in love, Black love especially, again.” —Charli Penn, Relationships Editor, ESSENCE.com

    22. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (2005)

    “It’s a fantastic movie adaption to the famed book by Zora Neale Hurston starring Halle Berry and Michael Ealy. Not only does the main character, Janie Crawford (Berry), represent many women struggling to find themselves in life, she also fights to not let love rule her.” —Derrick Taylor, Associate Editor, ESSENCE.com

    23. “Coming to America” (1988)

    “Who could forget Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall as Prince Akeem and Semmi? Everybody knows the words, everybody knows what’s going to happen, but it never gets old. From the numerous characters to the witty lines, it’s the gold standard in Black comedy.” —Derrick Taylor, Associate Editor, ESSENCE.com

    24. “Brown Sugar” (2005)

    “When this film hit theaters, it was the first time many young Black women saw a leading lady they could identify with in a romantic comedy. Sanaa Lathan’s Syd and Taye Diggs’ Dre were in love with each other and hip-hop, and we were rooting for them almost instantly. We just have one question for you: Did you love it too? Circle Yes or No!” —Charli Penn, Relationships Editor, ESSENCE.com

    25. “The Wiz” (1978)

    This lavish musical production, an all-Black retelling of The Wizard of Oz, showcased some of the greatest talents of all time — Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow, Lena Horne as Glinda the Good Witch and Richard Pryor as the Wizard, plus songs by Ashford & Simpson, Luther Vandross and Quincy Jones. But amid all that easin’ down the road, it also slipped in sly commentary about what it meant to be Black at the time it was made — notice, for example, how every taxi in Oz speeds away when Dorothy and her friends approach.” —Dawnie Walton, Managing Editor, ESSENCE.com


black experience

Black History Month



good films



Similar posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *