(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.

Adjusted Score: 100.064%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, John Singer is a deaf man who moves to a small town to be close to his... [More]
Directed By: Robert Ellis Miller


Sounder (1972)

Adjusted Score: 91.833%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Set during the 1930s, Sounder is the tale of a family of black sharecroppers struggling to survive the Great Depression.... [More]
Directed By: Martin Ritt

Adjusted Score: 89.12%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on the book by Ernest Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman originally aired on CBS in 1974. In... [More]
Directed By: John Korty

Synopsis: A law professor and a group of her best students are drawn into a real-life murder conspiracy.... [More]

Adjusted Score: 20.469%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Don Cheadle, Mekhi Phifer, and Cicely Tyson star in this drama set in the 1940s about a black man sentenced... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Sargent

Cherish the Day (2020)

Synopsis: The relationship of one couple is chronicled, with each episode spanning a single day.... [More]

Roots (1977)

Synopsis: The landmark dramatization of Alex Haley's classic saga followed his ancestors from Africa into slavery and then to their freedom... [More]


Last Flag Flying (2017)

Adjusted Score: 85.913%
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: In 2003, 30 years after they served together in the Vietnam War, former Navy Corps medic Richard "Doc" Shepherd (Steve... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater


The Help (2011)

Adjusted Score: 83.24%
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: The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny-three very different, extraordinary women... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

Adjusted Score: 76.642%
Critics Consensus: Fried Green Tomatoes' tearjerking drama is undeniably manipulative, but in the hands of a skilled cast that includes Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates, it's also powerfully effective.
Synopsis: A woman learns the value of friendship as she hears the story of two women and how their friendship shaped... [More]
Directed By: Jon Avnet


Bustin' Loose (1981)

Adjusted Score: 27.752%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: It's The African Queen meets Richard Pryor in this schmaltzy and salty attempt by Pryor to appeal to the family... [More]
Directed By: Oz Scott

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