Films that have Historical Background
or Sociological Information & Insights

Date Released

Name of Movie

Short Description

1915 Birth of a Nation
A silent movie, very popular at the time, now seen to be a sign of the racist times, shows the story of two families during and after the Civil War and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
1961 Raisin in the Sun Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee star in the film adaptation of Lorrain Hansberry’s award-winning play about a 1950’s African-American family in Chicago.
1967 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Sidney Poitier as the fiancé of a white woman, whose liberal parents are faced with their own hidden racism.
1972 Lady Sings the Blues Diana Ross stars as Billie Holiday.
1979 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings The early life of poet Maya Angelou, who goes from victim of racism and sexual abuse to independence and dignity.
1983 Boesman and Lena Shows the effect of Apartheid on two Black people.
1984 A Soldier’s Story Based on Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a Black officer investigating the murder of a Black Sargeant in Louisiana near the end of World War II.
1987 Eyes on the Prize 14-hour documentary about American Civil Rights Movement.
1988 Mississippi Burning FBI investigation of the Ku Klux Klan in the murder of three civil rights workers in 1966.
1989 Glory Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman star in the story about an African-American regiment in the Civil War.
1990 The Long Walk Home Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek as women involved in the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
1992 Sarafina! Whoopi Goldberg stars in a musical about the South African Soweto riots.
1992 Malcolm X Spike Lee directs Denzel Washington as Malcolm X.
1993 What’s Love Got to Do With It? Angela Bassett stars as Tina Turner in the story of her life, which was filled with poverty, spousal abuse and, ultimately, strength and success.
1995 Panther Story of the Black Panthers. Stars Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz.
1996 Get On the Bus Spike Lee directed this movie about men going to the Million Man March in 1995.
1996 Once Upon a Time…When We Were Colored Based on Clifton Taulbert’s memoir about growing up in the 1950s in Mississippi.
1997 4 Little Girls Documentary about 1967 church bombing that led to deaths of four girls. Directed by Spike Lee.
1997 Eve’s Bayou (more adult) About the youngest daughter in an African-American family in Lousiana.
1998 Ruby Bridges About first Black students to integrate New Orleans schools in 1960.
1998 Beloved Based on Toni Morrison’s award-winning book. Oprah Winfrey plays a former slave in Cincinnati after the Civil War.
1999 Selma Lord Selma Told through the eyes of an 11-year-old African American girl, this is the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Selma fight for voting rights.
1999 Introducing Dorothy Dandridge Halle Berry stars as Dorothy Dandridge.
2000 Bamboozled (slightly mature) Spike Lee’s satirical look at a modern day minstrel show stars Damon Wynans and Jada Pinkett Smith.
2001 Boycott Jeffrey Wright stars at Dr. Martin Luther King in the story of the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
2002 The Rosa Parks Story Angela Bassett stars as Rosa Parks.
2002 A Huey P. Newton Story Spike Lee directs the life of the famous activist.
2003 Resurrection: Tupac Shakur Documentary about the life and music of Tupac Shakur that leaves a message of hopefulness.
2003 Sisters in Cinema Documentary about African-American women film-makers.
2006 Dream Girls Based on the Broadway hit, this is the fictional story of a Supremes-like group and a Barry Gordy firure, who help bring African-American singers into mainstream culture.
2007 The Great Debaters About the all-black Wiley college debate team. Directed by Denzel Washington; produced by Oprah Winfrey.
2009 Good Hair A documentary by Chris Rock about African-American women and their hair.
2009 February One The Story of the Greensboro Four. Four African-American college students in Greensboro, NC began a sit-in at the whites-only Woolworth lunch counter, unknowingly starting a national movement. Within a few days, students were sitting-in in 54 cities in the South.
2010 For Colored Girls (more adult themes) Based on Notzake Shange’s award-winning stage play abou the lives of nine African-American women and the struggles in their lives.
2011 Freedom Riders American Experience Documentary about the 1961 Freedom Riders who were trying to integrate Greyhound Bus Terminals in the South.
2013 The Butler The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family.
2013 42 42 – The Story of Jackie Robinson – an American biographical sports film about the racial integration of American professional baseball by player Jackie Robinson, who wore jersey number 42 through his Major League career.
2013 12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.
2017 Hidden Figures Hidden Figures tells the story of Katherine Jonson Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind the launch into orbit of astronaut John Glenn, a stunning achievement that turned around the Space Race.
2018 Black Panther  Black Panther – American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It’s the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast, and celebrates black culture on several fronts.