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 (2020)
85%

#110
Adjusted Score: 98.247%
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: A powerful and thought-provoking true story, "Just Mercy" follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice.... [More]
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton

#109

Queen & Slim (2019)
83%

#109
Adjusted Score: 92.232%
Critics Consensus: Stylish, provocative, and powerful, Queen & Slim tells a gripping fugitive story steeped in timely, thoughtful subtext.
Synopsis: While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya) and a black woman... [More]
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas

#108

Waves (2019)
84%

#108
Adjusted Score: 94.529%
Critics Consensus: An up-close look at one family's emotional ups and downs, Waves captures complicated dynamics with tenderness and grace.
Synopsis: Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike, Waves... [More]
Directed By: Trey Edward Shults

#107
Adjusted Score: 100.584%
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: This artful and intimate meditation on the legendary storyteller examines her life, her works and the powerful themes she has... [More]

#103
#103
Adjusted Score: 110.483%
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: Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple's... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins (III)

#106

Black Panther (2018)
96%

#106
Adjusted Score: 118.928%
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: "Black Panther" follows T'Challa who, after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#105

BlacKkKlansman (2018)
96%

#105
Adjusted Score: 115.424%
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: From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero. It's the early 1970s, and Ron... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#104

The Hate U Give (2018)
97%

#104
Adjusted Score: 106.281%
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 rich, mostly... [More]
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.

#101

Get Out (2017)
98%

#101
Adjusted Score: 114.916%
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 (2017)
93%

#99
Adjusted Score: 106.534%
Critics Consensus: In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, Hidden Figures celebrates overlooked -- and crucial -- contributions from a pivotal moment in American history.
Synopsis: HIDDEN FIGURES is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary... [More]
Directed By: Ted Melfi

#98
#98
Adjusted Score: 107.461%
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: 100.444%
Critics Consensus: 13th strikes at the heart of America's tangled racial history, offering observations as incendiary as they are calmly controlled.
Synopsis: The title of Ava DuVernay's extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads "Neither... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#97

Moonlight (2016)
98%

#97
Adjusted Score: 113.622%
Critics Consensus: Moonlight uses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.
Synopsis: The tender, heartbreaking story of a young man's struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins (III)

#96
#96
Adjusted Score: 101.265%
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: A look at the rise and fall of sports icon-turned-accused murderer O.J. Simpson. This riveting documentary examines Simpson's 1995 trial... [More]
Starring: O.J. Simpson
Directed By: Ezra Edelman

#95
#95
Adjusted Score: 98.432%
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 the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#94

Selma (2014)
99%

#94
Adjusted Score: 111.71%
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: SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#102
#102
Adjusted Score: 95.932%
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: Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, Dear White People is a sly, provocative... [More]
Directed By: Justin Simien

#93

12 Years a Slave (2013)
95%

#93
Adjusted Score: 110.011%
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: Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, the New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen (III)

#92
#92
Adjusted Score: 102.192%
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: Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#91
Adjusted Score: 99.78%
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: Monster's Ball producer Lee Daniels follows up his 2005 directorial debut, Shadowboxer, with this adaptation of author Sapphire's best-selling novel... [More]
Directed By: Lee Daniels

#90
#90
Adjusted Score: 91.415%
Critics Consensus: The warmth of traditional Disney animation makes this occasionally lightweight fairy-tale update a lively and captivating confection for the holidays.
Synopsis: Walt Disney Animation Studios presents the musical "The Princess and the Frog," an animated comedy set in the great city... [More]
Directed By: John Musker, Ron Clements

#89

Dreamgirls (2006)
78%

#89
Adjusted Score: 85.131%
Critics Consensus: Dreamgirls' simple characters and plot hardly detract from the movie's real feats: the electrifying performances and the dazzling musical numbers.
Synopsis: Director Bill Condon brings Tom Eyen's Tony award-winning Broadway musical to the big screen in a tale of dreams, stardom,... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#88
Adjusted Score: 94.368%
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: Controversial filmmaker Spike Lee explores the U.S. government's response to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina in this made-for-television documentary... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#87

Tsotsi (Thug) (2006)
82%

#87
Adjusted Score: 86.121%
Critics Consensus: Chweneyagae's powerful performance carries this simple yet searing tale of a shantytown teenager's redemption.
Synopsis: An amoral teenager develops an unexpected paternal side in this powerful drama from South Africa. Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is the... [More]
Directed By: Gavin Hood

#86

Hotel Rwanda (2004)
91%

#86
Adjusted Score: 96.429%
Critics Consensus: A sobering and heartfelt tale about massacre that took place in Rwanda while most of the world looked away.
Synopsis: Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda--and... [More]
Directed By: Terry George

#85

Ray (2004)
79%

#85
Adjusted Score: 84.859%
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: Born in a poor town in Georgia, Ray Charles went blind at the age of seven shortly after witnessing his... [More]
Directed By: Taylor Hackford

#84
Adjusted Score: 95.48%
Critics Consensus: City of God offers a shocking and disturbing -- but always compelling -- look at life in the slums of Rio de Janiero.
Synopsis: Fernando Meirelles' City of God is a sweeping tale of how crime affects the poor population of Rio de Janeiro.... [More]

#83

Bamboozled (2000)
52%

#83
Adjusted Score: 55.365%
Critics Consensus: Bamboozled is too heavy-handed in its satire and comes across as more messy and overwrought than biting.
Synopsis: Pierre Delacroix is a hip, young, Harvard-educated writer who is the sole person of color working for an upstart network... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#82
#82
Adjusted Score: 85.908%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Synopsis: A young African-American couple navigates the tricky paths of romance and athletics in this drama. Quincy McCall (Omar Epps) and... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood

#81
Adjusted Score: 25.463%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Dorothy Dandridge was a singer, nightclub entertainer, and actress who became the first African-American woman to receive an Academy award... [More]
Directed By: Martha Coolidge

#80

Blade (1998)
55%

#80
Adjusted Score: 60.62%
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: British director Stephen Norrington helmed this David S. Goyer adaptation of the Marvel Comics character created in 1973 by scripter... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Norrington

#78

Love Jones (1997)
73%

#78
Adjusted Score: 73.074%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: What do you do after love at first sight? That's the question posed in this romantic comedy-drama set in Chicago.... [More]
Directed By: Theodore Witcher

#77

Rosewood (1997)
87%

#77
Adjusted Score: 89.938%
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: In early January 1923, a tiny Florida town primarily inhabited by prosperous African American families was burned to the ground... [More]
Directed By: John Singleton

#76

Soul Food (1997)
81%

#76
Adjusted Score: 83.007%
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: This hit domestic comedy-drama concerned the fortunes of an extended African-American family recalled through the eyes of young narrator Ahmad... [More]
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.

#79

Eve's Bayou (1996)
82%

#79
Adjusted Score: 84.779%
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: Black female writer-director Kasi Lemmons made her feature directorial debut with this period family drama set in the South. Depicting... [More]
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons

#75

Set It Off (1996)
70%

#75
Adjusted Score: 71.025%
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: The sophomore film effort from music video director F. Gary Gray, Set It Off is a crime thriller about four... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#74
#74
Adjusted Score: 100.24%
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

La Haine (1996)
100%

#70
Adjusted Score: 101.16%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and breathtakingly effective, La Haine takes an uncompromising look at long-festering social and economic divisions affecting 1990s Paris.
Synopsis: While to most outsiders Paris seems the very picture of beauty and civility, France has had a long and unfortunate... [More]
Directed By: Mathieu Kassovitz

#73
#73
Adjusted Score: 91.548%
Critics Consensus: Humor, interesting characters, and attention to details make the stylish Devil in a Blue Dress an above average noir.
Synopsis: Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is a decorated war hero who returns home to the segregation of post-war America. Forced to accept... [More]
Directed By: Carl Franklin

#72

Friday (1995)
78%

#72
Adjusted Score: 79.047%
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: Hard-core rapper Ice Cube, after appearing in such hard-hitting films as Boyz 'N the Hood and Higher Learning, played his... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#69
#69
Adjusted Score: 61.274%
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: A surprise Hollywood hit, this film is based on the novel of the same name by Terry McMillan and centers... [More]
Directed By: Forest Whitaker

#71

Hoop Dreams (1994)
98%

#71
Adjusted Score: 101.575%
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: This documentary about the aspirations of high-school basketball players from inner city Chicago won awards from the Sundance film festival,... [More]
Directed By:

#68
#68
Adjusted Score: 85.813%
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: This debut offering from twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes was one of the most critically-acclaimed urban crime films to... [More]

#67

Sankofa (1993)
86%

#67
Adjusted Score: 54.653%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While visiting an old fortress from the slave-trade era in Ghana, Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano) encounters a colorful local character, an... [More]
Directed By: Haile Gerima

#66
Adjusted Score: 99.812%
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: What's Love Got to Do With It? is the filmed biography of R&B/pop singer Tina Turner (Angela Bassett), documenting her... [More]
Directed By: Brian Gibson

#65

Juice (1992)
80%

#65
Adjusted Score: 81.152%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson directed and co-wrote this crime drama about a group of friends who get involved in a... [More]
Directed By: Ernest R. Dickerson

#64

Malcolm X (1992)
89%

#64
Adjusted Score: 93.25%
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: Writer-director Spike Lee's epic portrayal of the life and times of the slain civil rights leader Malcolm X begins with... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#63

A Rage in Harlem (1991)
65%

#63
Adjusted Score: 66.953%
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: Bill Duke directs this quirky film adaptation of Chester Himes' crime novel -- a heavily plotted gangster tale with a... [More]
Directed By: Bill Duke

#62

Boyz n the Hood (1991)
96%

#62
Adjusted Score: 100.994%
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: Director John Singleton's debut chronicles the trials and tribulations of three young African-American males growing up in South Central Los... [More]
Directed By: John Singleton

#61
#61
Adjusted Score: 98.602%
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 multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of... [More]
Directed By: Julie Dash

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 39.564%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This tuneful drama looks back upon the career of a fictional rhythm & blues group and chronicles their rise and... [More]
Directed By: Robert Townsend

#59

Jungle Fever (1991)
81%

#59
Adjusted Score: 84.169%
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: The romance between black architect Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) and his white office temp Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra) is the... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#58

New Jack City (1991)
77%

#58
Adjusted Score: 78.693%
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: The ruthless leader of a New York City drug syndicate battles to maintain his power and avoid imprisonment in this... [More]
Directed By: Mario Van Peebles

#56

Paris Is Burning (1991)
98%

#56
Adjusted Score: 101.777%
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: Jennie Livingston's documentary offers a behind-the-scene glimpse at the golden age of New York "Drag Balls" where rival fashion houses... [More]
Directed By: Jennie Livingston

#57

House Party (1990)
93%

#57
Adjusted Score: 94.326%
Critics Consensus: House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.
Synopsis: House Party is an infectious, engaging comedy starring the rap duo Kid 'N Play. Kid (Christopher Reid) decides to throw... [More]
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin

#55
#55
Adjusted Score: 89.658%
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: The life of a middle-class black family in Los Angeles is disrupted by the arrival of an old friend from... [More]
Directed By: Charles Burnett

#54
#54
Adjusted Score: 83.27%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Set in South Africa during the mid '70s when apartheid was still the norm, this provocative drama centers on a... [More]
Directed By: Euzhan Palcy, Zakes Mokae

#53
#53
Adjusted Score: 100.901%
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: This powerful visual feast combines humor and drama with memorable characters while tracing the course of a single day on... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#52

Glory (1989)
93%

#52
Adjusted Score: 95.996%
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: Glory is a celebration of a little-known act of mass courage during the Civil War. Simply put, the heroes involved... [More]
Directed By: Edward Zwick

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 75.64%
Critics Consensus: Eddie Murphy was in full control at this point, starkly evident in Coming to America's John Landis' coasting direction.
Synopsis: Coming to America casts comedian Eddie Murphy as pampered African prince Akeem, who rebels against an arranged marriage and heads... [More]
Directed By: John Landis

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 65.451%
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: Keenen Ivory Wayans wrote, directed and stars in this spoof of the blaxploitation genre, playing Jack Spade, an Army vet... [More]
Directed By: Keenen Ivory Wayans

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 93.372%
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: Spike Lee's breakthrough independent feature, shot in fifteen days on a budget of $175,000, ushered in (along with Jim Jarmusch's... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#47

The Color Purple (1985)
81%

#47
Adjusted Score: 82.699%
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: Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple spans the years 1909 to 1949, relating the... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#46

Krush Groove (1985)
43%

#46
Adjusted Score: 26.209%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The rap music craze provides the subject and the soundtrack for this musical about a young record producer (Blair Underwood)... [More]
Directed By: Michael Schultz

#45

Purple Rain (1984)
70%

#45
Adjusted Score: 74.163%
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: The Kid is a Minneapolis musician on the rise with his band, the Revolution, escaping a tumultuous home life through... [More]
Directed By: Albert Magnoli

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 93.213%
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: Inspired by the Herman Melville novel Billy Budd, writer Charles Fuller created the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier's Play, which he... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#43
Adjusted Score: 55.32%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The teenage life and adventures of young José who lives in a shanty-town on Martinique in the mid-'30s comprises the... [More]
Directed By: Euzhan Palcy

#42

Wild Style (2013)
89%

#42
Adjusted Score: 69.137%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This docudrama celebrates the colorful lives of teens who live in the South Bronx. There they are seen break dancing,... [More]

#49
#49
Adjusted Score: 89.619%
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: This satirical look at the ambivalent relationship between Hollywood power brokers and African-American performers marked the writing, producing, and directing... [More]
Directed By: Robert Townsend

#41
#41
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This social drama, set in London's Caribbean ghetto, chronicles the struggles of Cassie, a young black woman, to keep her... [More]
Directed By: Menelik Shabazz

#40
Adjusted Score: 92.211%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Richard Pryor was one of the most influential comedians of the 1970s. Here, in his first concert film, he is... [More]
Starring: Richard Pryor
Directed By: Jeff Margolis

#39

Killer of Sheep (2007)
98%

#39
Adjusted Score: 100.065%
Critics Consensus: By turns funny, sad, and profound, Killer of Sheep offers a sympathetic and humane glimpse into inner-city life.
Synopsis: Set in the Watts area of Los Angeles, a slaughterhouse worker must suspend his emotions to continue working at a... [More]
Directed By: Charles Burnett

#38
#38
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: River Niger is a Tony Award-winning play turned to a movie. It features James Earl Jones as a house-painter/poet who... [More]
Directed By: Krishna Shah

#37

Cooley High (1975)
85%

#37
Adjusted Score: 85.58%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Michael Schultz directed this deeply felt recollection of adolescent life on Chicago's near North Side in 1964. Like American Graffiti,... [More]
Directed By: Michael Schultz

#36
Adjusted Score: 89.125%
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

#35

Claudine (1974)
57%

#35
Adjusted Score: 49.875%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Claudine (Diahann Carroll) is an impoverished African-American Harlem resident. Unmarried, Claudine supports herself and her six children by working as... [More]
Directed By: John Berry

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 67.125%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Uptown Saturday Night is a delightful comedy directed by and starring Sidney Poitier. Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier) is a factory... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Poitier

#33
Adjusted Score: 67.045%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on a novel by Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat by the Door chronicles the exploits of a CIA... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Dixon

#32

Black Caesar (1973)
62%

#32
Adjusted Score: 62.509%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Cult director Larry Cohen (It's Alive) directed this violent blaxploitation film. Nasty racist John McKinney cripples a black shoeshine boy,... [More]
Directed By: Larry Cohen

#31
Adjusted Score: 86.625%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two youngsters attempt to escape what they perceive to be the poverty and backwardness of their native Senegal. In this... [More]
Directed By: Djibril Diop Mambéty

#30

The Mack (1973)
60%

#30
Adjusted Score: 34.83%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A box-office success during the early '70s, this blaxploitation flick traces the life of a Bay Area pimp facing drug... [More]
Directed By: Michael Campus

#29

Wattstax (2000)
90%

#29
Adjusted Score: 90.663%
Critics Consensus: From the stage to the street, Wattstax brilliantly captures a musical moment -- and a poignantly passionate response to painful social upheaval.
Synopsis: The climactic concert of the seventh annual Watts Summer Festival, commemorating the 1965 riots, and featuring performances by Isaac Hayes,... [More]
Directed By: Mel Stuart

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 66.413%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Diana Ross plays the magnificent, tragic song stylist Billie Holiday, who while writhing in a strait jacket in a prison... [More]
Directed By: Sidney J. Furie

#27

Sounder (1972)
90%

#27
Adjusted Score: 91.839%
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

#26

Superfly (1972)
92%

#26
Adjusted Score: 94.69%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Perhaps this definitive blaxploitation film is the story a stylish Harlem drug pusher (Ron O'Neal) trying to score one last... [More]

#16

Black Girl (1972)

#16
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this melodrama a mother tries to compensate for her feelings of inadequacy and failure as a parent to her... [More]
Directed By: Ossie Davis

#25

Shaft (1971)
88%

#25
Adjusted Score: 92.143%
Critics Consensus: This is the man that would risk his neck for his brother, man. Can you dig it?
Synopsis: Shaft, a highly successful film, spawned an industry of sequels and imitations. The daughter (Sherri Brewer) of Bumpy Jones (Moses... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Parks

#24
Adjusted Score: 72.939%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Produced, directed, written, scored by, and starring Melvin Van Peebles, this landmark "blaxploitation" film was as controversial as it was... [More]
Directed By: Melvin Van Peebles

#23
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ossie Davis makes his directorial debut a smashing success in the action crime comedy Cotton Comes To Harlem. Coffin Ed... [More]
Directed By: Ossie Davis

#22

Watermelon Man (1970)
86%

#22
Adjusted Score: 85.319%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When racist white insurance agent Jeff Gerber wakes up one morning to discover that his skin has turned black, he... [More]
Directed By: Melvin Van Peebles

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 69.863%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Autobiographical drama based on photographer Gordon Parks's 1963 novel, about the coming-of-age of a black teenager in rural Kansas during... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Parks

#20
Adjusted Score: 73.599%
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: Old-line liberals Matt and Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) have raised their daughter Joey (Katharine Houghton) to think... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kramer

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 100.837%
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: While traveling in the Deep South, Virgil Tibbs, a black Philadelphia homicide detective, becomes unwittingly embroiled in the murder investigation... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 91.481%
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: A novice teacher faces a class of rowdy, undisciplined working-class punks in this classic film that reflected some of the... [More]
Directed By: James Clavell

#17
Adjusted Score: 109.063%
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: This highly political film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France took "Best Film" honors at the 1966 Venice... [More]
Directed By: Gillo Pontecorvo

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 98.046%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A landmark independent film, Nothing but a Man is the first dramatic story featuring a largely black cast created for... [More]
Directed By: Michael Roemer

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 93.046%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, a traveling laborer meets five nuns in the Arizona desert. The appearance of Homer Smith convinces the... [More]
Directed By: Ralph Nelson

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 95.212%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While this original movie version of Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning play may have dated somewhat, it was groundbreaking when first released... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Petrie Sr.

#12
Adjusted Score: 94.502%
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: Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) is literally what its title suggests: a retelling of the "Orpheus and Eurydice" legend enacted by... [More]
Directed By: Marcel Camus

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Featuring splendiferous on-location cinematography, this dramatic adaptation of Alec Waugh's novel tells the story of Caribbean lives torn assunder by... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rossen

#10

Carmen Jones (1954)
77%

#10
Adjusted Score: 78.802%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In 1943, Oscar Hammerstein Jr. took Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, rewrote the lyrics, changed the characters from 19th century Spaniards... [More]
Directed By: Otto Preminger

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 102.237%
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: Arthur Laurents' play Home of the Brave concerned a paralyzed Jewish war veteran who begins to walk again only when... [More]
Directed By: Mark Robson

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 66.211%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Its many production flaws aside, Miracle in Harlem is a pretty good example of the "all-black" films prevalent in the... [More]
Directed By: Jack Kemp

#7

Cabin in the Sky (1943)
81%

#7
Adjusted Score: 90.464%
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: Mortally shot at a crap game, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson gets a six-month Heavenly reprieve thanks to prayers from wife and... [More]
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli

#6

Stormy Weather (1943)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 103.128%
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: Built around the premise of a Big Stage Show, Stormy Weather affords rare "mainstream" leading roles to some of the... [More]

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 80.965%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, Old Testament stories are told from the point of view of a black Sunday School teacher; the... [More]

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 67.813%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Adapted by DuBose Heyward from a Eugene O'Neill play, Emperor Jones is one of Paul Robeson's earliest and most powerful... [More]
Directed By: Dudley Murphy

#3

Hallelujah (1929)
85%

#3
Adjusted Score: 86.192%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A seductive young woman in a religious community of black sharecroppers manipulates an innocent man into committing murder. Although reflecting... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#2

Within Our Gates (1920)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100.087%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This film is one of the earliest surviving examples of a film by an African American filmmaker. Sylvia Landry is... [More]
Directed By: Oscar Micheaux

#1
#1
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The very first film made by Oscar Micheaux, the most prolific black filmmaker of his time, The Homesteader was scripted... [More]
Directed By: Oscar Micheaux

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