Review: 10 meaningful films by Black creators

These films created by Black directors, producers, and actors have made a profound impact on audiences of all races


Kennedy Tetour

Though Black History Month may be over, art created by black creators should be celebrated all year long. Reviewer Emma Westermeier recommends these films for the power and impact of their stories.

Emma Westermeier, Staff Writer

Though Black History Month may now be over, it is important that the stories and history of African-Americans not be forgotten. In many ways, the entertainment industry remains one of the most influential ways to spread that history. However, be wary of what you are watching.

Although films like “The Help,” “Greenbook,” “The Blind Side,” and “Hidden Figures,” are not necessarily bad movies, they should also be recognized as stories that rely on a white savior narrative. This is defined as a plot that depends on a white character helping a non-white character in a self-serving manner. While it is not necessarily wrong to watch such movies, it is also important to dive deeper into African-American culture and history with the first hand accounts and work presented by black creators. With that in mind, here are 10 great films by Black creators. 


10. “Fruitvale Station”

Based on a true story, this film covers the last days in Oscar Grant’s life as he goes to see fireworks in San Francisco on New Years day. Crossing paths with police on his way back, his story is one that ends fatally. 

Although a tragic tale, this film also explores themes of family as Grant tries to support his girlfriend and young daughter. Ryan Coogler ultimately offers bigger questions of racism versus responsibility with his intense depiction of Grant’s circumstances.  


9. “Black Panther”

Set to take his role as king, T’Challa returns to Wakanda. But, an enemy is on the rise by the name of Killmonger and he is out to threaten the throne. Assuming his position as the superhero Black Panther, T’Challa rallies his allies in order to prevent Wakanda from going into war. 

While being another exciting addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this movie also has left a significant cultural footprint. Serving as a showcase of African values and traditions, “Black Panther” proudly celebrates the roots of black customs and heritage. 


8. “The Hate U Give”

This movie based off of Angie Thomas’s book follows the story of Starr Carter. Starr attends a mostly white, wealthy preparatory school during the day while living in a mostly black, poor neighborhood. When she experiences her childhood friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, her different lives in each of these settings come into conflict with each other. 

Pressured by her experience and the contrasting relationships with the preparatory school, Starr ultimately chooses to voice her opinion in opposition to some of her friends.


7. “Moonlight”

This film takes place in Miami, following the story of Chiron. It is split up into three parts that cover the events of his adolescence and adulthood. Throughout these three sections, Chiron struggles with his home life, relationships, and his sexual identity.

This unique coming of age film explores themes of neglect and the relation between a black male identity and discovering sexual identity. Full of stunning visuals and symbols, “Moonlight” is a raw representation of Chiron’s struggle with masculinity and his contrasting hidden feelings. 


6. “Selma”

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Despite this, the fight for equal rights for African Americans was still an ongoing issue in America. Taking place in 1965, this film covers Dr. Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. 

As captured by director DuVernay, the march ends in violence as law enforcement pursues the participants. Now known as Bloody Sunday, the day showcases the legacy of King and his followers.


5. “Malcolm X”

This film explores the story of black activist Malcolm X. It follows him through his time as a gangster through his imprisonment in the 950s up until his time as a leader in the Nation of Islam. 

Although controversial as a leader, this film biography remains an important display of the life and legacy of Malcolm X. Focusing on bigger themes of religion and racism in America, this story also involves the significance of black history and pride. 


4. “Get Out”

Director Jordan Peele’s promising film debut tells the story of Chris and his girlfriend Rose as they go to stay the weekend at her parent’s house. While her parents seem to be adjusting to their interracial relationship, Chris starts to notice some disturbing events and behaviors displayed by the family.

Touching on underlying themes of slavery, Peele’s horror film is one full of symbols to look out for. Bringing ideas of the Old South into the present, his story seeks to display how past ideas and values can be connected to the present.


3. “BlacKkkKansman”

Spike Lee’s 23rd feature film tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective on the Colorado springs police force. His goal is to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan, and he does so by simply calling them. Pretending to be a white man on the phone, he recruits detective Flip Zimmerman to go in-person. Together, they work to expose the hate group.  

While Lee’s film explores serious themes of racism, he also intertwines elements of comedy as well as conflicting relationships between the police and black people. Entertaining as well as honest, “BlacKkKlansman” boldly displays the stupidity and conceit of racism. 


2. “Do the Right Thing”

Taking place on the hottest day of the year, this 1986 film is set in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. It follows Mookie as he works his pizza delivery job for Italian owner Sal. During the day, a boycott is put on Sal’s restaurant by local character Buggin’ Out. As tensions rise, the day ends in violence. 

By far one of the most iconic pieces of Spike Lee’s work, this film in the end begs the question of who actually did the right thing. Lee touches on racial stereotyping, the relationship between love and hate, and violent confrontations that result. Like many of his other films, “Do the Right Thing” is also full of complex dialogue and comedic undertones that effectively work for an engaging viewing experience. 


1. “12 Years a Slave”

Solomon Northup, a black man from New York, is sold into slavery and brought to the South. Following him through his 12 years as a slave, this film displays the horrors inflicted upon him as well as other African Americans. 

Based off of the memoir by Northup himself, the details of his mistreatment and abuse in this film are important to understanding the impact of chattel slavery. With outstanding performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave” does not shy away from displaying the harsh realities of enslavement and forced labor in the South.