Five Historic Moments for Black Filmmakers and Actors in the Past 12 Months

Spike's moment in the sun, the $100 million club, Ava's first: At the start of Black History Month, we look back at a landmark year for African Americans at the movies.

by | February 1, 2019 | Comments

It has been just over a year since Jordan Peele made history winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his genre-bending horror film Get Out. He also made history with his nominations: Peele was the first African American to be nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay for a debut film. This awards season he returns to the Oscars stage as one of the producers of Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed BlacKkKlansman, placing a bookend on a historic year for Black filmmakers. Kicked off by Black Panther’s box office dominance and culminating with Into the Spider-Verse‘s Miles Morales’ near-perfect debut, 2018 was a watershed moment for diverse filmmakers and stories. Though vastly different in tone, technique, and genre, each Black-led film added to the history and legacy of Black cinema, and expanded upon it. In honor of Black History Month, we’re taking moment to celebrate some of the most historic moments from the last 12 months for Black filmmakers and performers. These aren’t all of them, of course: so please add your favorites in the comments.

Spike Finally gets his due

(Photo by David Lee /© Focus Features /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Spike Lee presented Jordan Peele with the win for Best Director at last year’s Independent Spirit Awards. When the Get Out writer-director got to the stage he made a point to highlight the synergy of that moment saying, “Getting this award from Spike is crazy, let’s make no mistake I would not be standing here if we’re not for this man.” In turn, Lee might not have gained his first directorial Oscar nomination if it were not for Peele passing on the opportunity to helm BlacKkKlansman, signing on as a producer, and hiring Lee to direct. The movie was a big return to form for Lee: It earned the Grand Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival, has nabbed six Oscar nominations, and is his best-reviewed film in over a decade. The ’70s-set dramedy – and scathing indictment on political apathy – earned Lee his first DGA nomination, too, and shows he is still one of the premier cinematic voices when it comes to pointed ‘socio-cinematic’ commentary.

Five Join the $100 million club

Creed II
(Photo by Barry Wetcher /© MGM /Courtesy Everett Collection)

African American filmmakers also shined at the 2018 box office. In February, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther racked up over $700 million at the domestic box office, and finished the year as the highest-earning film of 2018. Other African American filmmakers to earn over $100 million at the box office in 2018 included Antoine Fuqua (Equalizer 2), Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), and Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time). The African American filmmakers’ movies earned a combined $1.2 billion at the domestic box office.

Hannah Beachler’s Oscars First

Hannah Beachler
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)

In the 90-plus years of the Academy Awards there had never been a black production designer nominated for an Oscar – then Hannah Beachler made history. Her Afro-futurist set design for Black Panther helped immerse the audience in the world of Wakanda; from the nation’s “planes” to the Throne Room to Shuri’s laboratory, the detailing of every prop and backdrop was unlike anything we had seen on the big screen. (Music fans may know Beachler for her Emmy-nominated work on Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade. Does Beyoncé trump the Oscars? If Beachler wins we just might find out.)

Ava DuVernay Makes History, Signs Mega Deals

We previously mentioned that DuVernay was one of the five African American directors whose films made more than $100 million at the domestic box office in 2018, but the Selma director distinguishes herself further as the first ever African American female director to do so with A Wrinkle In Time. It was one of several big achievements for DuVernay in 2018: She was also the first Black female director to serve on the Jury at the Cannes film Festival (alongside Denis Villeneuve, Cate Blanchett, and Kristen Stewart); she inked a $100 million multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Television; and wrapped production on her Central Park Five miniseries for Netflix. Did we mention she is directing New Gods for DC? As if that wasn’t enough, the publicist-turned-director continuously works to ensure the next crop of female filmmakers has access to opportunities. DuVernay’s OWN series, Queen Sugar, again led all scripted television programs in the hiring of female filmmakers, particularly women of color.

Sterling K. Brown’s Honors Pile Up 

This Is Us
(Photo by Ron Batzdorff / ©NBC / courtesy Everett Collection)

Sterling K. Brown’s entire 2018 – and early 2019 – has been one for the record books. In January of last year, the This is Us Star became the first African American to win the SAG Award for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series. He also became the first black man to win a Golden Globe for acting in a TV drama. Just this past week he became only the second actor to win Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (for Black Pantherand a TV program (for The Is Us) at the same SAG Awards ceremony, and the first-ever African American to do so.

Tag Cloud

rotten movies we love CBS All Access New York Comic Con biography Tumblr animated Disney Channel werewolf Paramount Network crime drama festivals latino Holidays Spring TV DC streaming service 2015 disaster 2017 CBS psychological thriller TCM 71st Emmy Awards TruTV Cosplay Star Wars Cannes Binge Guide Calendar The Witch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Election Drama screenings cars MTV Disney Plus Comic Book dramedy Fox News RT21 Pop Writers Guild of America Opinion nature GLAAD Lionsgate casting Shondaland Disney+ Disney Plus Western Apple TV Plus Thanksgiving IFC HBO Freeform Brie Larson Food Network Pride Month Mystery Captain marvel Podcast Musical composers Amazon Prime Oscars Pixar zombies diversity doctor who Apple quibi docudrama ESPN Fantasy richard e. Grant Tarantino hist Amazon Awards SundanceTV AMC Logo Biopics Pet Sematary spider-man First Look Mindy Kaling halloween cats Martial Arts witnail Mary poppins History spinoff 20th Century Fox sitcom theme song joker BBC Film Festival Mary Tyler Moore Rom-Com Disney E3 Rocky Showtime Photos Reality Competition The CW award winner singing competition zombie movies TNT free movies Anna Paquin independent canceled TV renewals Spike blockbuster Toys Britbox Black Mirror MCU adaptation thriller ghosts YouTube Red Women's History Month Sundance Now DGA what to watch President SXSW Star Trek politics Television Academy CW Seed Shudder discovery San Diego Comic-Con Superheroes Reality Marvel Nickelodeon PaleyFest binge GIFs BBC America Heroines Polls and Games streaming GoT FOX anime romantic comedy Watching Series Infographic PBS travel technology green book Sci-Fi cartoon 2018 Marvel Studios crime Awards Tour See It Skip It comiccon book comics versus Pirates Hulu Cartoon Network game of thrones Video Games Crackle hispanic sports YouTube mutant APB Chilling Adventures of Sabrina adventure 007 war Interview police drama Lifetime HBO Max Masterpiece miniseries LGBT Acorn TV Trailer FX Countdown jamie lee curtis OWN batman Nat Geo Winter TV cooking Mudbound series cancelled spy thriller serial killer Hallmark Christmas movies Musicals Extras Comics on TV Ellie Kemper romance Schedule christmas movies indie Warner Bros. dceu Marathons Emmy Nominations Best and Worst YA Comedy Nominations cops DC Universe Adult Swim natural history Super Bowl Country dragons Music NBC MSNBC ABC Family science fiction Comedy Central cancelled TV series Sony Pictures Turner Classic Movies Character Guide Trophy Talk Elton John The Purge 21st Century Fox cancelled television unscripted Certified Fresh VH1 Ovation mockumentary children's TV transformers facebook talk show VICE spain Paramount El Rey USA Rocketman revenge Christmas Dark Horse Comics ratings TBS Esquire Family RT History TV boxoffice 2019 Red Carpet Song of Ice and Fire USA Network south america Animation Holiday robots Disney streaming service blaxploitation spanish language Action Year in Review FXX Summer Mary Poppins Returns based on movie crossover cinemax TV Land kids harry potter 45 CNN Vudu National Geographic Fall TV DC Comics Walt Disney Pictures Crunchyroll Amazon Prime Video zero dark thirty golden globes 2016 LGBTQ Set visit Arrowverse elevated horror social media period drama Netflix tv talk The Walking Dead A24 Ghostbusters Bravo WarnerMedia sequel strong female leads Grammys supernatural comic aliens Trivia Rock Sneak Peek Valentine's Day Marvel Television Lifetime Christmas movies Starz cancelled TV shows dc CMT WGN Netflix Christmas movies Winners YouTube Premium teaser Stephen King historical drama Apple TV+ true crime slashers Film space renewed TV shows TCA 2017 24 frames Epix finale Columbia Pictures Universal crime thriller stand-up comedy SDCC Classic Film Emmys E! IFC Films Sundance vampires X-Men Superheroe NYCC breaking bad Spectrum Originals anthology ABC Box Office Creative Arts Emmys The Arrangement television foreign Tomatazos Peacock BET medical drama justice league Premiere Dates Quiz TIFF toy story A&E Syfy Turner TCA video American Society of Cinematographers political drama Lucasfilm First Reviews ITV Kids & Family canceled TV shows TLC Chernobyl Hallmark game show DirecTV cults psycho Horror Teen