(Photo by Universal/ courtesy Everett Collection)

11 Fresh Cicely Tyson Movies and Series

Discovered at age 30 while working as a typist in New York, Cicely Tyson transformed what was an already unlikely, late-blooming modeling stint into a full-blown acting career, and would become a trailblazer for Black artists across film, TV, and theater from the 1950s and well into the 21st century. Tyson’s versatility across stage and screen meant easy occupancy in roles worthy of her dignity and attention, with appearances in I Spy and Mission: Impossible, a co-starring part in kitchen sink TV drama East Side/West Side, and films like The Comedians and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

The Civil Rights era signaled a dramatic societal shift, not just in American civics but in arts and entertainment. This opened the path for Tyson’s creative peaks, starting with 1972’s Sounder, the deeply humanistic Depression-era drama. For her role as a mother whose husband has been incarcerated and is left to care for their only son (along with a runaway dog), Tyson received her sole Best Actress Oscar nomination. (She would become an Honorary Award recipient in 2019.)

Television emerged as a daring storytelling force during the ’70s, thanks to films and miniseries like 1974’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Tyson portrayed Pittman across 90 years of her character’s life, from a child born into slavery to becoming a figurehead of 1960s’ social justice. Tyson won the Best Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy, and the TV-movie would go on to take Outstanding Special. Tyson would make history again as Kunta Kinte’s mother in the first section of the 1977’s legendary miniseries Roots, which garnered a Emmy nomination for her.

Tyson would ultimately be nominated for at least one Emmy every decade afterwards, including a late-career surge starting with 2014’s The Trip to Bountiful, and a stunning five-nomination run into 2020 for How to Get Away with Murder, playing Annalise’s (Viola Davis) mother, Ophelia.

Two days before her death in January 2021, Tyson published her memoir: Just As I AmWe look back on her life and career in film (including Fried Green Tomatoes and The Help), TV (Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman), and series, including Cherish the Day, created by Ava DuVernay. Here are 10 Fresh movies and series starring the legendary Cicely Tyson.

#11
Adjusted Score: 100327%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel, John Singer (Alan Arkin), who is deaf and mute, tries to help... [More]
Directed By: Robert Ellis Miller

#10

Sounder (1972)
90%

#10
Adjusted Score: 92457%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Morgans, a family of poor black sharecroppers in the Depression-plagued South, struggle to find enough to eat despite the... [More]
Directed By: Martin Ritt

#9
Adjusted Score: 88217%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Beginning during the racial turmoil of 1960s Louisiana, 110-year-old ex-slave Jane Pittman (Cicely Tyson) grants an interview to a persistent... [More]
Directed By: John Korty

Synopsis: Annalise Keating (Oscar- and Tony-winning actress Viola Davis), a brilliant, charismatic and seductive professor of defense law, teaches a class... [More]

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 20525%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle) is an African-American schoolteacher in the pre-Civil Rights Movement South who feels conflicted about his status... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Sargent

Cherish the Day (2020)
78%

#6
Synopsis: The stirring romance of a couple is told in segments of a single day.... [More]

Roots (1977)
76%

#5
Synopsis: A 1977 miniseries based on Alex Haley's book tells the story of African teen Kunta Kinte, brought to America to... [More]

#4

Last Flag Flying (2017)
77%

#4
Adjusted Score: 91884%
Critics Consensus: Last Flag Flying balances raw drama against refreshing moments of humor in an impeccably cast film that wrestles with questions of patriotism, family, and grief.
Synopsis: Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry "Doc" Shepherd, Sal Nealon and the Rev. Richard Mueller reunite... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#3

The Help (2011)
76%

#3
Adjusted Score: 84813%
Critics Consensus: Though it fails to fully engage with its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast -- particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own.
Synopsis: In 1960s Mississippi, Southern society girl Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns from college with dreams of being a writer. She turns... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 75679%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On one of trapped housewife Evelyn Couch's (Kathy Bates) Wednesday nursing home visits, she encounters Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy), a... [More]
Directed By: Jon Avnet

#1

Bustin' Loose (1981)
60%

#1
Adjusted Score: 34759%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Parole officer Donald (Robert Christian) compels his foul-mouthed ex-con charge Joe Braxton (Richard Pryor) to escort a bus full of... [More]
Directed By: Oz Scott

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