Just a couple of days ago, one of those horrid riots in response to the murder of George Floyd happened right in my own city, in Bellevue, Washington. Protests called for police cars to control massive crowds, and looters took advantage of the protest to break the windows of stores and spray paint graffiti all over public property; such graffiti included, "AmeriKKKa," and "I Can't Breathe." I am in genuine fury that people would stoop this low. Though I can't comprehend the exact feeling of injustice that those who were there felt, as I'm not Black, nor have I ever had a bad experience with a police officer. But the state of our country right now has just gone from worse to much worse only a week. It's completely shameful that so many people across the world allow their skin color to define differences, and even decide who's a good person and who's not. It's an absolute tragedy that a frightening number of innocent Black folks got killed by the same people who are expected to protect them, and my heart goes out to the friends and families of those murdered. So I believe this is the perfect time to share with you ten movies about Blackness that I feel are genuinely worth your time, they can allow Black people to feel proud of themselves, and can help educate other ethnicities about Black culture.
The movie that finally got Spike Lee his overdue Oscar love, BlacKkKlansman combines wild entertainment with a harsh social message about how little anything's really changed since the Civil Rights Era. While it's great to see how a Black man got hired with the police department and helped them uncover a secret KKK organization (which is a true story by the way), the final montage, although a bit too much on the preachy side, strikes home how deaf and blind most people really are to what's secretly happening beneath their noses.
#9) Get Out
The movie that solidified Jordan Peele's reputation as a masterful director, Get Out is a very timely horror-satire on how the history of Blackness in America compares to the way Whiteness wants it to be. It throws in imagery that reminds you about the horrors of Black history in the United States, yet the context of these images is the White characters' attempts to convince us that they're not racist, when in actuality, their racism is as dangerous as it gets. Watch this to know exactly what it feels like to be in the head of a Black man when there's social injustice.
My personal favorite release of 2019, and my personal favorite movie in general with a predominantly Black cast, Us is Jordan Peele's follow-up to his mega hit that proves his last film was not just a one-time-success. This equally as masterful horror-satire isn't nearly as focused on the issue of racism in America as it is about how America's unrealistically happy vision from thirty years ago still leaves a horrific mark on our mental image today. Watch this to see an example of a Black family being portrayed fairly as simply another American family, treated no differently than a White family in movies.
#7) Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures tells the semi-true story about three women who got the muddy end of the stick while working for NASA in the 1960s. One had to run clear across the campus just to use the bathroom, and one couldn't even go to the library with the full privileges of a White person. It's repulsive to see how they were disrespected by their own coworkers and bosses, but lifts you back up once they prove themselves as crucial components to the organization. Watch this when you want to feel inspired, and watch this with the kids too! It's perfect for the whole family!
#6) The Hate U Give
The most direct film in terms of responding to the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give offers a much more personal account of what it really feels like when an innocent Black person is unjustly murdered by a police officer, as told by a close friend of that very victim. The events gradually decline in hope as the climax erupts into the familiar riots, and this girl in the middle of it all is the only one who truly understands the pain. Watch this to get a perspective on what it feels like to be in the other's shoes.
#5) Django Unchained
In what is basically Inglourious Basterds set in the old west, Django Unchained gives a Black slave a chance to get revenge on his oppressors, with the famous stylized violence and monologues that Quentin Tarantino is so well-known for. For anybody who loves his signature film language, they'll get a real kick out of the hilariously exaggerated violence, expert directing and acting, lush cinematography, and irresistible dialogue, but will also be subliminally informed about what this type of treatment really does to a man who doesn't deserve it.
#4) If Beale Street Could Talk
This young couple in love couldn't be together, as he is in prison, while she is pregnant with his child. The focus first and foremost here is on the love story, but the racial undertones are strong. There are many circumstances where they're both the subject of physical and sexual harassment in public places by White men, and these circumstances have led to him getting arrested for unjust cause. Yet the greatest tragedy depicted in If Beale Street Could Talk is that of her mother, played subtly yet powerfully by Regina King in her Academy Award-winning performance.
The setting is the 1950s, and this play-turned-film is a showcase of what is among the most powerful acting some of Hollywood's finest Black actors have ever put on; Viola Davis won an Academy Award for how powerfully she lets herself loose in this role. This heavily character-driven drama gives a deep look into the Black family of the time, including their personal struggles as indirectly influenced by events from the outside. Watch Fences for a strong drama about not strictly a Black family, but primarily, a family.
It's the victim of the most awkward Best Picture win in Oscar history, but Moonlight absolutely deserved the honor for its somber, honest portrait of a boy's growth into a man while he's outcast by even his own ethnicity because of his sexuality. Between the three stages of life you see him in, the bullying penetrates horrifically deep into his mind, and is only doubled by the abuse he must put up with living beneath his drug-addicted mother. Watch this when you feel outcast or left out and need to see what it's like for someone else who feels a lot like you do.
#1) 12 Years a Slave
In my opinion, 12 Years a Slave is the absolute BEST Best Picture winner of all time. Its depiction of slavery is as harsh as it gets, showing a formerly free family man get kidnapped and sold out under a new name, where he sees the most horrifying treatment on humanity ever witnessed. Every actor is putting it all out, every frame is composed to perfection, every image means something profound, not a single second of lingering on the suffering is ever wasted, the story of Solomon Northup needs to be retold again and again until the end of time. Watch this if you want to know what a perfect movie looks like.
Hang in there. Be sure to give someone a hug today.