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What I consider “Good” and “Essential” Black Films

In my post about the film Precious, I said that contemporary black cinema was/is lacking. Of course the causes for this are many. For one, in the United States commerce comes before art so a lot of films targeting black audiences are often comedies rather than serious dramas. Not to mention less polished screenplays (this is my opinion!) Also we cannot ignore the long history of racism that pervades the Arts in the US. If black Americans were featured in comparable situations to white actors then the idea that we’re equal or even human wouldn’t be so hard to believe. The other thing is that black moviegoers, even middle- and upper- income black moviegoers, tend not to support what you would consider “artsy” films for a number of social and cultural reasons. They’d be right next to you at a Tyler Perry opening. And, I’m not criticizing this. There simply aren’t enough options for black audiences or those who enjoy black cinema. There’s should be a critical study of this.

 One of my readers left a comment asking “well, what would you consider a “good” black film according to your criteria?” I’m very grateful for this question as I don’t get to think in terms very often.

 So for whatever’s it’s worth, here are some films I believe to be not only good but fresh, important, essential for those who care about film and how black stories are adapted for the silver screen. (Big ups to all my friends who sent me names of movies, participating in this conversation)

 As an aside, I’ve joined forces with an amazing team, consisting of a magazine editor, a filmmaker to create an online magazine, dedicated to promoting and critically discussing independent black films. (This will be a future post.)

These are all films I’ve either seen or want to see and got a recommendation for. Feel free to take me to task on any of these films or ones that were omitted.

Daughters of the Dust

The Color Purple

A Lesson Before Dying

When the Levees Broke

Trouble the Water

I am Ali


School Daze

Miracle at St. Ann


Love Jones



Cooley High

Cornbread, Earl, and Me

Something the Lord Made



Mama Flora’s Family

The Great Debators

Miss Jane Pittman

Women of Brewster Place

Black Girl

Eve’s Bayou

Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Wedding

Malcolm X

Lackawanna Blues


Follow Me Home

Dead Presidents

She Hate Me

Love Jones

I’m Gonna Get You Sucka

Coming to America


Harlem Nights

Be Kind Rewind

The Wiz

Feast of All Saints

Boyz n the Hood

The Josephine Baker Story

She’s Gotta Have It

Do the Right Thing


 In appreciation suggestions made by Kupdena Auset, Michael Wilson, Tzynia L. Pinchback, Angela Koi, Angela Watkins, Asha Bandele, and Juan Gaddis via Facebook.

About Abdul Ali

I'm a fellow at American University studying creative nonfiction and poetry. I write across a few genres but it's all brought together by larger questions about culture.


2 thoughts on “What I consider “Good” and “Essential” Black Films

  1. Awesome post and thanks for the clarification of good movies. I thought you were only talking about movies, written and produced by Black people, but I see that you are also talking about movies that showcase Black people in the lead roles.

    Posted by Charles J | December 8, 2009, 11:26 PM
  2. If only I had a penny for every time I came here.. Superb post!

    Posted by Kathy Ahmed | May 28, 2010, 2:47 PM

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