Critically Acclaimed Documentaries And Biopics To Watch On Black History Month

By Oscar J February 5, 2024

Black History Month is an opportune time to reflect on the rich tapestry of stories that have shaped African American culture and history. From tales of resilience to stories of triumph, the world of cinema has provided a platform to honor these narratives, bringing them to audiences worldwide.

Image courtesy of Universal

Let’s delve into a selection of critically acclaimed documentaries and biopics that capture the essence of Black history.

Paris Is Burning (1990) takes us into the heart of the ballroom drag community of 1980s New York City. Led by Black and Latino LGBT individuals, this vibrant culture has left an indelible mark on mainstream America, influencing shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pose.

Respect (2021) pays homage to the iconic Aretha Franklin, delving into her early gospel roots in Detroit and tracing her journey to becoming the “Queen of Soul.” Jennifer Hudson’s stellar portrayal earned her accolades, capturing the essence of Franklin’s groundbreaking career.

John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020) offers a poignant tribute to the life and legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis. From his pivotal role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to his tenure as a congressman, Lewis’s unwavering commitment to justice is powerfully chronicled.

Spike Lee’s (1992) masterpiece Malcolm X provides a compelling portrayal of the influential civil rights leader, tracing his evolution from his upbringing in rural Michigan to his advocacy for Black empowerment on a global scale.

Ali (2001) showcases the incomparable Muhammad Ali not only as a boxing legend but also as a fearless advocate for civil rights and social justice. Will Smith’s portrayal captures the charisma and complexity of this larger-than-life figure.

Ray (2004) offers an intimate look at the life of musical trailblazer Ray Charles, from his early struggles with blindness to his rise to stardom. Jamie Foxx’s transformative performance earned him an Academy Award, highlighting the profound impact of Charles’s legacy.

12 Years a Slave (2013) brings Solomon Northup’s harrowing memoir to life, shedding light on the brutality of slavery and the resilience of the human spirit. Bursting to the top of award show lists that year, this one is worth the hype.

Fruitvale Station (2013) confronts the tragic reality of police violence, focusing on the senseless killing of Oscar Grant and its profound impact on his loved ones.

Straight Outta Compton (2015) immerses viewers in the world of N.W.A., offering a raw and unflinching portrayal of the group’s rise to prominence amid social and political upheaval.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Hidden Figures (2017) celebrates the unsung heroes of the space race, highlighting the invaluable contributions of Black women like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.

As we immerse ourselves in these stories, let us honor the resilience, strength, and enduring legacy of the African American experience. Through the lens of cinema, we can continue to uplift and preserve our history for generations to come.