Nowhere has the depiction of black life been more diverse than in the world of cinema. Go to any video store, surf any video rental website and look at the wide selection of films in the African-American/Black films section. The variety is vast, so if you’re having trouble where to start, here are nine of our top picks.
1. The Wiz (1978)
Two names: Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. Need we say more? This black remake of the Wizard of Oz is one of those films every black person has seen not once, but more likely, twice.
2. The Color Purple (1985)
The Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of Alice Walker’s unforgettable book about a young African-American’s coming of age is still one of the most difficult to movies to watch. But that’s exactly why it has become an essential film in the African-American film lexicon.
3.Love Jones (1997)
The black romantic comedy about a young black writer who falls in love with a young black photographer has a cult-like following amongst the black bourgeoisie. Love Jones still sets the standard for black rom-coms (and the soundtrack was major).
4. Boyz N The Hood (1991)
In 1991, a young unknown film director named John Singleton took Hollywood by storm. How did he do it? He made a film about young black men growing up on the streets of Hollywood’s own backyard, in South Central, Los Angeles. Boyz In The Hood was such an iconic film, Singleton was nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, the first African-American to ever receive such an honor.
5. The Best Man (1999)
A beautiful cast of African-American actors — including Nia Long, Tamala Jones, Taye Diggs, and Morris Chestnut — were cast to star in this romantic comedy about a novelist’s book and the trouble it stirs amongst his close circle of friends who have reunited for a wedding.
6. Coming To America (1988)
From the opening scene of Eddie Murphy’s comedy about an African prince who moves to Queens to find a wife, the jokes don’t stop. Few films going on 25 years, especially comedies, maintain their funny. Coming To America, does the opposite and gets funnier with time.
7. Do The Right Thing (1989)
In recent years, Spike Lee’s major-studio film debut has gained notoriety for being the movie President Barack Obama went to see with the First Lady Michelle Obama on their first date. But before that little factoid was known to the world, Spike’s film about a day in the life of a group of residents living in Brooklyn told a story of race of which few outside of New York knew about.
8. A Raisin In The Sun (1962)
Lorraine Hansberry’s poignant piece of work about a family struggling to make ends meet went from the stage to the silver screen almost seamlessly. With a cast that boasts Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, the original A Raisin In The Sun is not only a classic black film, it’s a classic film in any category.
9. Cooley High (1975)
Released near the tail end of the Blaxploitation era, Cooley High became one of the most important films of the 1970’s. The story of a group of young black men living life to the limit only to see their lives shook by a series of unfortunate events is both funny and heart wrenching. Cooley High showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of young black men in America in the tumultuous 1970’s.