When it comes to Black history movies, there are so many to choose from that it can be overwhelming. What do you watch? Here, we’ve curated a list of five of the very best Black history movies on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and other streaming platforms.
These films will take you on a journey through the production of Black history movies, from the earliest ones in the 1930s to the ‘50s and through to today. You’ll get a glimpse at many aspects of Black history, from the days of slavery to the Civil War, life in the 1930s, to Black achievements from pre-WWII and the mid-20th century.
Check out these five Black history movies!
#1 – Imitation of Life (1934)
This film, Imitation of Life, was produced in 1934, in the early years, just after sound became a part of cinema. Featuring some of Hollywood’s most glamorous and talented stars, including Claudette Colbert, Louise Beavers, Fredi Washington, and Warren William, this movie covers the tense period of American history when segregation was commonplace and expected but when certain individuals put human equality above racism.
The story traces the lives of two friends as they raise their daughters and run a pancake restaurant on the boardwalk. Drama, romance, mistakes, and regrets fill this 1934 film with interest. It was a groundbreaking film for its time because of its subject matter, and it takes its place among the best Black history movies. Imitation of Life can be streamed on Apple TV, YouTube, and Vudu.
#2 – The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
Moving ahead in film history to 1950, we have The Jackie Robinson Story. This movie is the biographical story of Jackie Robinson, the first Black person to play in Major League Baseball and whose signing with the Dodgers ended racial segregation in MLB. The movie stars Jackie Robinson as himself, with Ruby Dee, Louise Beavers, and Minor Watson.
This 1950 film can be streamed on Vudu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.
#3 – Glory (1989)
A movie that sits on the spectrum of somewhat classic and somewhat new is the Academy Award winner Glory from 1989. This film was the first ever to portray Black soldiers in the American Civil War and is both historically accurate and a powerful representation of the war and how Black soldiers were treated and overcame all obstacles to fight for freedom.
It stars Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Broderick and can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Vudu.
#4 – 12 Years a Slave (2013)
A very popular and Academy Award-winning Black history movie from 2013 is 12 Years a Slave. This picture is based on the 1853 slave memoir by Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in Louisiana for 12 years before being released.
The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Benedict Cumberbatch. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Vudu.
#5 – Race (2016)
The fifth film on our Black history movies list is Race. This 2016 movie is a low-budget film that focuses on the incredible story of Jesse Owens, the record-breaking Black athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, which were observed by both Goebbels and Hitler, who refused to congratulate Owens.
The movie stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, and Jeremy Irons. Race can be streamed on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Vudu.
Looking for More Black Content?
If you’ve loved this list of Black history movies but you’re looking for more movies for Black history month, check out our list of the five best Black history month movies[a]!
For even more Black content, explore our curated catalog of Black movies and TV shows on BlackOakTV!
[a]Hyperlink to the article about the five best Black history month movies (draft in progress).