Malcolm X

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110 Important Films About the Black Experience

By Shawn Edwards, Co-Founder, African American Film Critics Association

Cinema can be a powerful tool for education. Back in February, for Black History Month, Rotten Tomatoes’ sister site Fandango reached out to members of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) to curate a list of 100 important films about the Black experience.

In the spirit of creating a dialogue, Rotten Tomatoes is republishing Fandango’s list, which has been updated by AAFCA members with an additional 10 titles like George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give and Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. We also arranged the movies in descending chronological order, starting with newer films like 2019’s Just Mercy with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan and finishing with Oscar Micheaux’s ground-breaking 1919 movie, The Homesteader.

This list was designed by AAFCA members as a resource guide to connect movie watchers with more-relevant-than-ever classics like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing or powerful documentaries like the Oscar-nominated James Baldwin doc, I Am Not Your Negro. To find out more about the African American Film Critics Association, visit www.aafca.com  and follow @theaafca on Twitter.

Recommended: The 100 Best Black Movies of the 21st Century
Recommended: 9 Pioneering Black Filmmakers from the Earliest Days of Cinema

#110

Just Mercy (2019)
85%

#110
Adjusted Score: 105705%
Critics Consensus: Just Mercy dramatizes a real-life injustice with solid performances, a steady directorial hand, and enough urgency to overcome a certain degree of earnest advocacy.
Synopsis: After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation.... [More]
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton

#109

Queen & Slim (2019)
83%

#109
Adjusted Score: 95697%
Critics Consensus: Stylish, provocative, and powerful, Queen & Slim tells a gripping fugitive story steeped in timely, thoughtful subtext.
Synopsis: Slim and Queen's first date takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation.... [More]
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas

#108

Waves (2019)
84%

#108
Adjusted Score: 99674%
Critics Consensus: An up-close look at one family's emotional ups and downs, Waves captures complicated dynamics with tenderness and grace.
Synopsis: The epic emotional journey of a suburban African American family as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the... [More]
Directed By: Trey Edward Shults

#107
Adjusted Score: 102697%
Critics Consensus: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am honors its acclaimed subject with a comprehensive, illuminating, and fittingly profound overview of her life and work.
Synopsis: Author Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, history, America and... [More]

#103
#103
Adjusted Score: 116326%
Critics Consensus: If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft.
Synopsis: In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins

#106

Black Panther (2018)
96%

#106
Adjusted Score: 128731%
Critics Consensus: Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU's most absorbing stories -- and introducing some of its most fully realized characters.
Synopsis: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#105

BlacKkKlansman (2018)
96%

#105
Adjusted Score: 122724%
Critics Consensus: BlacKkKlansman uses history to offer bitingly trenchant commentary on current events -- and brings out some of Spike Lee's hardest-hitting work in decades along the way.
Synopsis: Ron Stallworth is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#104

The Hate U Give (2018)
97%

#104
Adjusted Score: 109456%
Critics Consensus: Led by a breakout turn from Amandla Stenberg, the hard-hitting The Hate U Give emphatically proves the YA genre has room for much more than magic and romance.
Synopsis: Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds -- the poor, mostly black neighborhood where she lives and the wealthy,... [More]
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.

#101

Get Out (2017)
98%

#101
Adjusted Score: 128243%
Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#99

Hidden Figures (2016)
93%

#99
Adjusted Score: 117280%
Critics Consensus: In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, Hidden Figures celebrates overlooked -- and crucial -- contributions from a pivotal moment in American history.
Synopsis: Three brilliant African American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- serve as the brains... [More]
Directed By: Theodore Melfi

#98
#98
Adjusted Score: 113487%
Critics Consensus: I Am Not Your Negro offers an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin's crucial observations on American race relations -- and a sobering reminder of how far we've yet to go.
Synopsis: In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, "Remember This House." The book... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Peck

#100

13TH (2016)
97%

#100
Adjusted Score: 104636%
Critics Consensus: 13th strikes at the heart of America's tangled racial history, offering observations as incendiary as they are calmly controlled.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#97

Moonlight (2016)
98%

#97
Adjusted Score: 123130%
Critics Consensus: Moonlight uses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.
Synopsis: A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins

#96
#96
Adjusted Score: 102524%
Critics Consensus: O.J.: Made in America paints a balanced and thorough portrait of the American dream juxtaposed with tragedy and executed with power and skill.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Starring: O.J. Simpson
Directed By: Ezra Edelman

#95
#95
Adjusted Score: 98072%
Critics Consensus: Straight Outta Compton is a biopic that's built to last, thanks to F. Gary Gray's confident direction and engaging performances from a solid cast.
Synopsis: In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album,... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#94

Selma (2014)
99%

#94
Adjusted Score: 111031%
Critics Consensus: Fueled by a gripping performance from David Oyelowo, Selma draws inspiration and dramatic power from the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- but doesn't ignore how far we remain from the ideals his work embodied.
Synopsis: Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#102
#102
Adjusted Score: 96052%
Critics Consensus: Dear White People adds a welcome new voice to cinema's oft-neglected discussion of race, tackling its timely themes with intelligence, honesty, and gratifyingly sharp wit.
Synopsis: A campus culture war between blacks and whites at a predominantly white school comes to a head when the staff... [More]
Directed By: Justin Simien

#93

12 Years a Slave (2013)
95%

#93
Adjusted Score: 110567%
Critics Consensus: It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema.
Synopsis: In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen

#92
#92
Adjusted Score: 101615%
Critics Consensus: Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan.
Synopsis: Though he once spent time in San Quentin, 22-year-old black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is now trying hard... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#91
Adjusted Score: 100832%
Critics Consensus: Precious is a grim yet ultimately triumphant film about abuse and inner-city life, largely bolstered by exceptional performances from its cast.
Synopsis: Pregnant by her own father for the second time, 16-year-old Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) can neither read nor write... [More]
Directed By: Lee Daniels

#90
#90
Adjusted Score: 93148%
Critics Consensus: The warmth of traditional Disney animation makes this occasionally lightweight fairy-tale update a lively and captivating confection for the holidays.
Synopsis: Hardworking and ambitious, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) dreams of one day opening the finest restaurant in New Orleans. Her dream... [More]
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker

#89

Dreamgirls (2006)
78%

#89
Adjusted Score: 86912%
Critics Consensus: Dreamgirls' simple characters and plot hardly detract from the movie's real feats: the electrifying performances and the dazzling musical numbers.
Synopsis: Deena (Beyoncé Knowles),Effie (Jennifer Hudson) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) form a music trio called the Dreamettes. When ambitious manager... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#88
Adjusted Score: 94668%
Critics Consensus: When the Levees Broke offers a heart-rending elegy for an American city overflowing with culture, beset by natural disaster, and betrayed by institutional indifference.
Synopsis: Spike Lee documents life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city's anti-flooding safeguards in 2005. In the film,... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#87

Tsotsi (2005)
82%

#87
Adjusted Score: 87242%
Critics Consensus: Chweneyagae's powerful performance carries this simple yet searing tale of a shantytown teenager's redemption.
Synopsis: A South African hoodlum named Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) lives by a code of violence, and he and his gang of... [More]
Directed By: Gavin Hood

#86

Hotel Rwanda (2004)
91%

#86
Adjusted Score: 97020%
Critics Consensus: A sobering and heartfelt tale about massacre that took place in Rwanda while most of the world looked away.
Synopsis: Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu, manages the Hôtel des Mille Collines and lives a happy life with his Tutsi... [More]
Directed By: Terry George

#85

Ray (2004)
79%

#85
Adjusted Score: 86557%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing and energetic portrait of a great musician's achievements and foibles, Ray is anchored by Jamie Foxx's stunning performance as Ray Charles.
Synopsis: Legendary soul musician Ray Charles is portrayed by Jamie Foxx in this Oscar-winning biopic. Young Ray watches his 7-year-old brother... [More]
Directed By: Taylor Hackford

#84

City of God (2002)
91%

#84
Adjusted Score: 95440%
Critics Consensus: City of God offers a shocking and disturbing -- but always compelling -- look at life in the slums of Rio de Janiero.
Synopsis: In the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s, two young men choose different paths. Rocket (Phellipe Haagensen)... [More]
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles

#83

Bamboozled (2000)
53%

#83
Adjusted Score: 55697%
Critics Consensus: Bamboozled is too heavy-handed in its satire and comes across as more messy and overwrought than biting.
Synopsis: A blistering satire of network television's pitfalls and prejudices, a humorous look at how race, ratings and the pursuit of... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#82
#82
Adjusted Score: 86387%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince

#81
Adjusted Score: 21139%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on a true story, this film chronicles the life of Dorothy Dandridge, the first black woman to be nominated... [More]
Directed By: Martha Coolidge

#80

Blade (1998)
57%

#80
Adjusted Score: 62984%
Critics Consensus: Though some may find the plot a bit lacking, Blade's action is fierce, plentiful, and appropriately stylish for a comic book adaptation.
Synopsis: A half-mortal, half-immortal is out to avenge his mother's death and rid the world of vampires. The modern-day technologically advanced... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Norrington

#78

Love Jones (1997)
73%

#78
Adjusted Score: 73122%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two urban African-Americans, Darius (Larenz Tate), an aspiring writer, and Nina (Nia Long), an aspiring photographer, share an instant connection... [More]
Directed By: Theodore Witcher

#77

Rosewood (1997)
87%

#77
Adjusted Score: 90112%
Critics Consensus: In some respects, Rosewood struggles to present a full picture of the real-life tragedy it dramatizes, but it remains a harrowing depiction of racial violence.
Synopsis: Rosewood, Florida, is a small, peaceful town with an almost entirely African-American population of middle-class homeowners, until New Year's Day... [More]
Directed By: John Singleton

#76

Soul Food (1997)
81%

#76
Adjusted Score: 82140%
Critics Consensus: Much like the titular cuisine, Soul Food blends a series of savory ingredients to offer warm, generous helpings of nourishment and comfort.
Synopsis: When Ahmad Simmons' (Brandon Hammond) diabetic grandmother, Josephine "Big Mama" Joseph (Irma P. Hall), falls into a coma during an... [More]
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.

#79

Eve's Bayou (1997)
82%

#79
Adjusted Score: 85261%
Critics Consensus: Eve's Bayou marks a striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, layering terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness.
Synopsis: Over the course of a long, hot Louisiana summer, a 10-year-old black girl, Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), discovers that her... [More]
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons

#75

Set It Off (1996)
70%

#75
Adjusted Score: 71138%
Critics Consensus: It may not boast an original plot, but Set It Off is a satisfying, socially conscious heist film thanks largely to fine performances from its leads.
Synopsis: After being fired from her job as a bank teller, Frankie (Vivica A. Fox) begins working at a janitorial service... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#74
#74
Adjusted Score: 99493%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing documentary that's as much about a time and a place as it is about a fight.
Synopsis: On October 30, 1974, perhaps the most famous heavyweight championship boxing match of all time took place in Kinshasa, Zaire:... [More]
Directed By: Leon Gast

#70

Hate (1995)
100%

#70
Adjusted Score: 101563%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and breathtakingly effective, La Haine takes an uncompromising look at long-festering social and economic divisions affecting 1990s Paris.
Synopsis: When a young Arab is arrested and beaten unconscious by police, a riot erupts in the notoriously violent suburbs outside... [More]
Directed By: Mathieu Kassovitz

#73
#73
Adjusted Score: 99009%
Critics Consensus: Humor, interesting characters, and attention to details make the stylish Devil in a Blue Dress an above average noir.
Synopsis: In late 1940s Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is an unemployed black World War II veteran with few job... [More]
Directed By: Carl Franklin

#72

Friday (1995)
78%

#72
Adjusted Score: 78097%
Critics Consensus: What Friday might lack in taut construction or directorial flair, it more than makes up with its vibrant (albeit consistently crass) humor and the charming, energetic performances of its leads.
Synopsis: It's Friday and Craig Jones (Ice Cube) has just gotten fired for stealing cardboard boxes. To make matters worse, rent... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#69
#69
Adjusted Score: 61330%
Critics Consensus: Waiting to Exhale looks at life's ups and downs from an underseen perspective -- albeit one that's poorly served by uneven acting and a sporadically interesting story.
Synopsis: Navigating through careers, family and romance, four friends bond over the shortcomings in their love lives -- namely, the scarcity... [More]
Directed By: Forest Whitaker

#71

Hoop Dreams (1994)
98%

#71
Adjusted Score: 101750%
Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.
Synopsis: Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St.... [More]
Directed By: Steve James

#68
#68
Adjusted Score: 87361%
Critics Consensus: Told with grit and verve by the Hughes brothers in their feature debut, Menace II Society is a gangland epic that breathes with authenticity while steeped in style.
Synopsis: After growing up in the gang lifestyle of the Los Angeles projects, 18-year-old Caine Lawson (Tyrin Turner) wants a way... [More]

#67

Sankofa (1993)
93%

#67
Adjusted Score: 92357%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: SANKOFA follows Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), a Black American fashion model on a photo shoot in Cape Coast, Ghana. Through Mr.... [More]
Directed By: Haile Gerima

#66
Adjusted Score: 100620%
Critics Consensus: With a fascinating real-life story and powerhouse performances from Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, What's Love Got to Do With It? is a can't miss biopic.
Synopsis: Based on the life of the legendary soul singer, Tina Turner (Angela Bassett) -- born Anna Mae Bullock -- discovers... [More]
Directed By: Brian Gibson

#65

Juice (1992)
79%

#65
Adjusted Score: 80809%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Four Harlem friends -- Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Q (Omar Epps), Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) and Raheem (Khalil Kain) -- dabble in... [More]
Directed By: Ernest R. Dickerson

#64

Malcolm X (1992)
89%

#64
Adjusted Score: 93103%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by a powerful performance from Denzel Washington, Spike Lee's biopic of legendary civil rights leader Malcolm X brings his autobiography to life with an epic sweep and a nuanced message.
Synopsis: A tribute to the controversial black activist and leader of the struggle for black liberation. He hit bottom during his... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#63

A Rage in Harlem (1991)
65%

#63
Adjusted Score: 66044%
Critics Consensus: If it can't quite live up to its source material, A Rage in Harlem still proves a stylishly effective period thriller.
Synopsis: After her gangster boyfriend, Slim (Badja Djola), has a shootout with the police, Imabelle (Robin Givens) flees Natchez, Miss., with... [More]
Directed By: Bill Duke

#62

Boyz N the Hood (1991)
96%

#62
Adjusted Score: 100267%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and thematically rich, Boyz N the Hood observes Black America with far more depth and compassion than many of the like-minded films its success inspired.
Synopsis: Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is sent to live with his father, Furious Styles (Larry Fishburne), in tough South Central Los... [More]
Directed By: John Singleton

#61
#61
Adjusted Score: 98894%
Critics Consensus: Daughters of the Dust addresses its weighty themes with lovely visuals and a light, poetic touch, offering an original, absorbing look at a largely unexplored corner of American culture.
Synopsis: At the dawn of the 20th century, a family in the Gullah community of coastal South Carolina -- former West... [More]
Directed By: Julie Dash

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 38612%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Coming in on the tail end of a rhythm and blues singing group explosion, The Five Heartbeats (Robert Townsend, Michael... [More]
Directed By: Robert Townsend

#59

Jungle Fever (1991)
82%

#59
Adjusted Score: 84387%
Critics Consensus: Jungle Fever finds Spike Lee tackling timely sociopolitical themes in typically provocative style, even if the result is sometimes ambitious to a fault.
Synopsis: A married black lawyer named Flipper (Wesley Snipes) begins an affair with Angie (Annabella Sciorra), his white secretary. When the... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#58

New Jack City (1991)
77%

#58
Adjusted Score: 78776%
Critics Consensus: Stylishly directed by Mario Van Peebles, New Jack City offsets its melodramatic streak with electrifying action and a cavalcade of effective performances.
Synopsis: Drug tycoon Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) and his minions, known collectively as the Cash Money Brothers, have rapidly risen to... [More]
Directed By: Mario Van Peebles

#56

Paris Is Burning (1990)
98%

#56
Adjusted Score: 101956%
Critics Consensus: Paris Is Burning dives into '80s transgender subculture, with the understated camera allowing this world to flourish and the people to speak (and dance) for themselves.
Synopsis: This documentary focuses on drag queens living in New York City and their "house" culture, which provides a sense of... [More]
Directed By: Jennie Livingston

#57

House Party (1990)
93%

#57
Adjusted Score: 94521%
Critics Consensus: House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.
Synopsis: Play's parents are out of town, and he's planning the house party to end all house parties. His best friend,... [More]
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin

#55
#55
Adjusted Score: 88869%
Critics Consensus: To Sleep with Anger examines cultural tensions with a deft hand and a potent blend of comedy and drama, stirred skillfully to life by a strong cast led by Danny Glover.
Synopsis: Vagabond Harry (Danny Glover) pays an unexpected visit to his old chum Gideon (Paul Butler), who accepts the aimless man... [More]
Directed By: Charles Burnett

#54
#54
Adjusted Score: 82493%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Teacher Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) mostly ignores the problems of apartheid in South Africa until he discovers that the... [More]
Directed By: Euzhan Palcy

#53
#53
Adjusted Score: 100605%
Critics Consensus: Smart, vibrant, and urgent without being didactic, Do the Right Thing is one of Spike Lee's most fully realized efforts -- and one of the most important films of the 1980s.
Synopsis: Salvatore "Sal" Fragione (Danny Aiello) is the Italian owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. A neighborhood local, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#52

Glory (1989)
93%

#52
Adjusted Score: 96362%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by exceptional cinematography, powerful storytelling, and an Oscar-winning performance by Denzel Washington, Glory remains one of the finest Civil War movies ever made.
Synopsis: Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is offered command of the United States' first all-African-American... [More]
Directed By: Edward Zwick

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 75831%
Critics Consensus: Eddie Murphy was in full control at this point, starkly evident in Coming to America's John Landis' coasting direction.
Synopsis: Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is the prince of a wealthy African country and wants for nothing, except a wife who... [More]
Directed By: John Landis

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 63595%
Critics Consensus: I'm Gonna Git You Sucka puts a satirical spin on '70s nostalgia with a comedy whose somewhat scattershot laughs are often offset by pure energetic silliness.
Synopsis: Jack Spade (Keenen Ivory Wayans) comes home to the ghetto and finds his brother dead from a gold chain overdose.... [More]
Directed By: Keenen Ivory Wayans

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 92578%
Critics Consensus: With She's Gotta Have It, Spike Lee delivered his bracing first shot across Hollywood's bow -- and set the template for the groundbreaking act to follow.
Synopsis: Beautiful Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) can't decide what kind of man she wants to date, so she decides to... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#47

The Color Purple (1985)
81%

#47
Adjusted Score: 82021%
Critics Consensus: It might have been better served by a filmmaker with a deeper connection to the source material, but The Color Purple remains a worthy, well-acted adaptation of Alice Walker's classic novel.
Synopsis: An epic tale spanning forty years in the life of Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), an African-American woman living in the South... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#46

Krush Groove (1985)
43%

#46
Adjusted Score: 28654%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Russell Walker (Blair Underwood) has started a new hip-hop and rap label called Krush Groove, which features a stellar list... [More]
Directed By: Michael Schultz

#45

Purple Rain (1984)
70%

#45
Adjusted Score: 73320%
Critics Consensus: Purple Rain makes for undeniably uneven cinema, but it's held together by its star's singular charisma -- not to mention a slew of classic songs.
Synopsis: A victim of his own anger, the Kid (Prince) is a Minneapolis musician on the rise with his band, the... [More]
Directed By: Albert Magnoli

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 92280%
Critics Consensus: A meticulously-crafted murder mystery with incisive observations about race in America, A Soldier's Story benefits from a roundly excellent ensemble and Charles Fuller's politically urgent screenplay.
Synopsis: A black Army investigator (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) travels to a remote military base in the heart of the Louisiana... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#43

Sugar Cane Alley (1983)
100%

#43
Adjusted Score: 103233%
Critics Consensus: Visually and thematically evocative, Sugar Cane Alley tells a story that's heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.
Synopsis: In the French colony of Martinique in the 1930s, rambunctious teenager Jose (Garry Cadenat) lives in a rundown shack in... [More]
Directed By: Euzhan Palcy

#42

Wild Style (1983)
89%

#42
Adjusted Score: 90011%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: South Bronx graffiti artist Shy Zoro is commissioned to paint a backdrop for a rap/break-dance concert.... [More]
Directed By: Charlie Ahearn

#49
#49
Adjusted Score: 86738%
Critics Consensus: Hollywood Shuffle overcomes budgetary constraints with sharp humor and infectious energy, heralding the arrival of an exciting new filmmaking talent in the bargain.
Synopsis: Aspiring actor and hot-dog stand employee Bobby Taylor (Robert Townsend) catches the ire of his grandmother (Helen Martin) for auditioning... [More]
Directed By: Robert Townsend

#41
#41
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A young British-born woman of color searches for security in her life and hopes to achieve it through marriage; however,... [More]
Directed By: Menelik Shabazz

#40
Adjusted Score: 56971%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The late Richard Pryor influenced a generation of comedians of all races, and his scathing brand of satire is offered... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Margolis

#39

Killer of Sheep (1977)
98%

#39
Adjusted Score: 99687%
Critics Consensus: By turns funny, sad, and profound, Killer of Sheep offers a sympathetic and humane glimpse into inner-city life.
Synopsis: In Watts, an urban and mostly African-American section of Los Angeles, Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders) spends his days toiling away... [More]
Directed By: Charles Burnett

#38
#38
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a poor African-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, once-aspiring poet Johnny Williams (James Earl Jones) takes a low-paying job as... [More]
Directed By: Krishna Shah

#37

Cooley High (1975)
85%

#37
Adjusted Score: 84408%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Richard "Cochise" Morris (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), a local basketball hero, and Leroy "Preach" Jackson (Glynn Turman), who dreams of a career... [More]
Directed By: Michael Schultz

#36
Adjusted Score: 88049%
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

#35

Claudine (1974)
57%

#35
Adjusted Score: 46555%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Claudine (Diahann Carroll) is a single mother in New York City who endures an exhausting commute to the suburbs where... [More]
Directed By: John Berry

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 66049%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Blue-collar buddies (Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby) search the underworld for a winning lottery ticket lost in a nightclub holdup.... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Poitier

#33
Adjusted Score: 72219%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A former CIA agent (Lawrence Cook) organizes black teenagers into well-trained guerrilla bands bent on overthrowing the white establishment.... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Dixon

#32

Black Caesar (1973)
64%

#32
Adjusted Score: 64552%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Growing up on the tough streets of Harlem, Tommy Gibbs (Fred Williamson) has his life made even harder by John... [More]
Directed By: Larry Cohen

#31
#31
Adjusted Score: 85552%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Tired of poverty, two Senegalese men steal money and clothing, then book passage to France to start new lives.... [More]
Directed By: Djibril Diop Mambety

#30

The Mack (1973)
60%

#30
Adjusted Score: 11375%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After a few years in the slammer on a drug bust, John "Goldie" Mickens (Max Julien) returns to Oakland, Calif.,... [More]
Directed By: Michael Campus

#29

Wattstax (1973)
90%

#29
Adjusted Score: 93440%
Critics Consensus: From the stage to the street, Wattstax brilliantly captures a musical moment -- and a poignantly passionate response to painful social upheaval.
Synopsis: In 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, director Mel Stuart captures the performances of the Watts Summer Festival. Organized by... [More]
Directed By: Mel Stuart

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 67239%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pop star Diana Ross portrays legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in this biographical drama. Beginning with Holiday's traumatic youth, the... [More]
Directed By: Sidney J. Furie

#27

Sounder (1972)
90%

#27
Adjusted Score: 91612%
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

#26

Superfly (1972)
93%

#26
Adjusted Score: 94359%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Priest (Ron O'Neal), a suave top-rung New York City drug dealer, decides that he wants to get out of his... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Parks Jr.

#16

Black Girl (1972)

#16
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The 17-year-old dreamer Billie Jean (Peggy Pettit) is the youngest in a family of loving yet discouraging women. Billie Jean's... [More]
Directed By: Ossie Davis

#25

Shaft (1971)
88%

#25
Adjusted Score: 91983%
Critics Consensus: This is the man that would risk his neck for his brother, man. Can you dig it?
Synopsis: John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is the ultimate in suave black detectives. He first finds himself up against Bumpy (Moses Gunn),... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Parks

#24
Adjusted Score: 73966%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Sweet Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles) is a black orphan who, having grown up in a brothel, now works there as... [More]
Directed By: Melvin Van Peebles

#23
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Harlem's African-American population is being ripped off by the Rev. Deke O'Malley (Calvin Lockhart), who dishonestly claims that small donations... [More]
Directed By: Ossie Davis

#22

Watermelon Man (1970)
86%

#22
Adjusted Score: 71730%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A white insurance salesman, Jeff Gerber (Godfrey Cambridge), gets the surprise of his life when he wakes up and discovers... [More]
Directed By: Melvin Van Peebles

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 72032%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: As an African-American teen in small-town Kansas in the 1920s, Newt Winger (Kyle Johnson) largely shrugs off the racial prejudice... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Parks

#20
Adjusted Score: 74288%
Critics Consensus: More well-intentioned than insightful in its approach to interracial marriage, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner succeeds thanks to the fizzy chemistry of its star-studded ensemble.
Synopsis: When Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton), a free-thinking white woman, and black doctor John Prentice (Sidney Poitier) become engaged, they travel... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kramer

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 99268%
Critics Consensus: Tense, funny, and thought-provoking all at once, and lifted by strong performances from Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger, director Norman Jewison's look at murder and racism in small-town America continues to resonate today.
Synopsis: African-American Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is arrested on suspicion of murder by Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger), the... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 91189%
Critics Consensus: While it's a bit dated and overly schmaltzy, To Sir, With Love remains compelling because of Sidney Poitier's outstanding performance -- and the catchy theme song is a classic.
Synopsis: American Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) recently received his degree in engineering, but cannot find work. To make ends meet, he... [More]
Directed By: James Clavell

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 106787%
Critics Consensus: A documentary-like depiction of a nation's real-life efforts to expel a colonizing force, The Battle of Algiers puts viewers on the front lines with gripping realism.
Synopsis: Paratrooper commander Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin), a former French Resistance fighter during World War II, is sent to 1950s Algeria... [More]
Directed By: Gillo Pontecorvo

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 90326%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: African-American rail worker Duff Anderson (Ivan Dixon) has left his 4-year old son with a nanny, and now drifts through... [More]
Directed By: Michael Roemer

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 92838%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When traveling African-American handyman Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier) stops by a farm in rural Arizona, he is welcomed by a... [More]
Directed By: Ralph Nelson

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 95177%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This lauded drama follows the Youngers, an African-American family living together in an apartment in Chicago. Following the death of... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Petrie

#12

Black Orpheus (1959)
87%

#12
Adjusted Score: 89599%
Critics Consensus: Colorful, atmospheric, and infections, Black Orpheus takes an ancient tale and makes it fresh anew, thanks in part to its bewitching bossa nova soundtrack.
Synopsis: Young lovers Orfeu (Breno Mello) and Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) run through the favelas of Rio during Carnaval, on the lam... [More]
Directed By: Marcel Camus

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On a Caribbean island, a rich landowner's son, Maxwell Fleury (James Mason), is fighting for political office against black labor... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rossen

#10

Carmen Jones (1954)
77%

#10
Adjusted Score: 78623%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Screen version of the musical "Carmen Jones," which adapted Bizet's opera Carmen for an African-American cast. A soldier falls for... [More]
Directed By: Otto Preminger

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 97793%
Critics Consensus: Home of the Brave is a powerful portrayal of the soldier's life, a strong indictment of discrimination, and above all an engaging, well-acted drama.
Synopsis: Paralyzed African-American veteran Peter Moss (James Edwards) is undergoing psychoanalysis after suffering a nervous breakdown. As Moss recounts his trauma... [More]
Directed By: Mark Robson

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 33125%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An old widow's (Hilda Offley) foster daughter (Sheila Guyse) is accused of murder after mobsters take over their candy shop.... [More]
Directed By: Jack Kemp

#7

Cabin in the Sky (1943)
81%

#7
Adjusted Score: 86936%
Critics Consensus: Cabin in the Sky's racial stereotypes are impossible to ignore -- but so are its irresistible musical numbers and brilliantly talented cast.
Synopsis: When compulsive gambler Little Joe Jackson (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) dies in a drunken fight, he awakens in purgatory, where he... [More]

#6

Stormy Weather (1943)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 100923%
Critics Consensus: Stormy Weather's depiction of the Black community is disappointingly facile, but its delightful musical numbers drown out any missed narrative notes.
Synopsis: Bill Williamson (Bill Robinson), a struggling performer, meets a beautiful vocalist named Selina Rogers (Lena Horne). Bill promises her that... [More]
Directed By: Andrew L. Stone

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 66046%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A preacher in a small African-American church in Louisiana tells his Sunday school class stories from the Bible as if... [More]
Directed By: William Keighley

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 66524%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A black congregation prays for the wily and ambitious Brutus Jones (Paul Robeson), who is off to work on the... [More]
Directed By: Dudley Murphy

#3

Hallelujah (1929)
86%

#3
Adjusted Score: 86317%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Zeke Johnson (Daniel L. Haynes) and his brother, Spunk (Everett McGarrity), sell their family's crops for $100. When Zeke manages... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#2

Within Our Gates (1920)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100291%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this early silent film from pioneering director Oscar Micheaux, kindly Sylvia Landry (Flo Clements) takes a fundraising trip to... [More]
Directed By: Oscar Micheaux

#1

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#1

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