10 Must-Watch Films by African American Filmmakers

Much like authors, filmmakers are necessary in creating and archiving the culture of a community. Films and books are necessary in remembering history, as well as in educating people outside of the community. Here are 10 films on black history and the black experience as told by the people who lived it.


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  1. Get Out (2017)
    This smart horror-comedy film was the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, one-half of the comedic duo Key and Peele. The film explores the experience of being black in modern America, as well as themes of colonialism and racism. The film won Peele an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.


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  1. Moonlight (2016)
    Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, this film was based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film goes through three stages in the life of the main character and explores sexuality, identity, and physical and emotional abuse.


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  1. Straight Outta Compton (2015)
    The film tells the story of the rise and fall of the hip-hop group NWA in the 1980s. Its director, F. Gary Gray, brings his expertise from creating award-winning music videos to this film. The film was produced by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who were members of NWA, and looks at the role of hip-hop in pop culture.


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  1. Selma (2014)
    Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma is a film based on the 1965 marches for voting rights which took place from Selma to Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and received four Golden Globe nominations.

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  1. Fruitvale Station (2013) This film is a biological drama which chronicles the final 22 hours of Oscar Grant, a victim of police brutality in 2009. The incident sparked protests and riots throughout San Francisco. The two police officers were later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Its director, Ryan Coogler, is known for films such as Creed and Black Panther.


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  1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
    The film follows the life of a free black man in New York who was kidnapped and sold to slavery in the South. The film was both a commercial and a critical success, winning its director Steve McQueen multiple awards.


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  1. Precious (2009)
    Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, this film by Lee Daniels tells the story of the eponymous Precious, a black teenager who is sexually abused by her own father. The film won two categories out of six it was nominated in at the Academy Awards.


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  1. Do the Right Thing (1989)
    Spike Lee’s third film is a comedy-drama set in the hottest day in Brooklyn, New York, and explores how racism and discrimination works daily. The film explores this racial tension and culminates in tragedy and violence.


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  1. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
    John Singleton’s directorial debut about his own life made him the youngest person and first black director to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director. Featuring stars such as Ice Cube, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding Jr., and more, the movie deals with problems that arise in nonwhite communities that lead to poverty: violence, gentrification, police intimidation, and others.


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  1. Love and Basketball (2000)
    This romantic sports drama was the directorial debut of Gina Prince-Bythewood, and it became a cult classic. The film is the story of two athletes pursuing their basketball careers and eventually falling in love. Prince-Bythewood had been developing the film since 1998, and it eventually won her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay.


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