Hollywood has nailed the art of portraying Black trauma on the big screen, but it’s not an achievement that I’m eager to celebrate. Yes, there’s a time to educate ourselves about racial injustice and yes, it’s extremely important to shed light on problematic romances that reflect real-life experiences. But if I'm being completely honest, getting inundated with so many painful stories can get exhausting.
So in honor of Black History Month, I’ve made it my mission to indulge in more Black stories that bring me joy, from romances like Brown Sugar to laugh-out-loud classics like Friday. And guys, it's one of the best decisions I've made. See 10 amazing Black movies that actually don't center on trauma.
1. ‘Beauty Shop’ (2005)
This movie happens to be one of my comedy staples, because no matter how often I watch it, I laugh non-stop every single time. Created as a spin-off of the Barbershop films, Beauty Shop follows Gina (Queen Latifah) a talented hairstylist who decides to open her own salon. Unfortunately, multiple issues threaten the success of her new business—little does she know it's her former boss trying to sabotage her.
2. ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella’ (1997)
I could go on for days about the legacy of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, but at its core, it's a beautiful reminder that Black people can get their fairy-tale happy endings too. In the film, Brandy portrays the popular princess, who falls for the charming Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalbán) after meeting him at the ball. However, their romance comes to a halt when her evil stepmother (Bernadette Peters) intervenes. With the help of her fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston), Cinderella must find a way to pave her own path.
3. ‘Akeelah and the Bee’ (2006)
Meet Akeelah Anderson, an 11-year-old girl from South Los Angeles with a knack for spelling. With the help and encouragement of an English teacher, Akeela enters the National Spelling Bee in hopes that she’ll win first place. Keke Palmer, Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne all give stellar performances in this inspiring film.
4. ‘The Photograph’ (2020)
Insecure's Issa Rae teams up with Lakeith Stanfield for a feel-good romance that will definitely leave you smiling. In the movie, a journalist named Michael Block (Stanfield) takes an interest in the life of a late photographer named Christina Eames (Chanté Adams). But as he investigates her life, he crosses paths with her daughter, Mae (Rae), and the two fall in love. It's simple, it's sweet and it's the ideal flick to help you to unwind.
5. ‘Sylvie's Love’ (2020)
Much like The Photograph, Sylvie's Love is the kind of Black love story that gives you all the feels, minus the trauma. Set in 1962, the film follows Sylvie Parker (Tessa Thompson), an aspiring filmmaker who meets and falls in love with a saxophonist, Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha). However, due to bad timing and constant career changes, the two find it challenging to maintain a lasting relationship. From the smooth jazz tunes to the gorgeous cinematography, this movie won't disappoint.
6. ‘Sister Act’ (1992)
Whoopi Goldberg is simply delightful in what I'd call one of her best movies. Sister Act follows Deloris Van Cartier (Goldberg), a young singer who's forced to relocate to California and pose as a nun after witnessing a dangerous crime. Once she gets settled in at Saint Katherine's Convent, Deloris is assigned to lead the convent's choir, which she turns into a hugely successful act. Sure, the plot sounds a bit silly, but Goldberg will definitely pull you in with her humor and positive energy. (FYI, the film's follow-up, Sister Act 2, is equally brilliant.)
7. ‘Coming to America’ (1988)
Whether you're watching it for the first time or for the millionth time, Coming to America will always be a laugh riot. The movie centers on Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), an African prince who's determined to avoid an arranged marriage and find his own bride. Together with his BFF, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem heads to New York in hopes of finding true love.
8. ‘Brown Sugar’ (2002)
Childhood besties Andre Ellis (Taye Diggs) and Sidney Shaw (Sanaa Lathan) have a shared passion for hip hop. And as adults, they both have established careers in the industry. However, their friendship takes an interesting turn when they realize they have feelings for each other—and you can't help but root for them. The film has a star-studded cast, including Mos Def, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe and Queen Latifah.
9. ‘Black Panther’ (2018)
The Academy Award-winning superhero film is actually the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time, and considering its cultural impact, it's easy to see why. The film centers on King T'Challa, who inherits the throne in the African nation of Wakanda after the passing of his father. But when an enemy comes and threatens to take his place, conflict arises, and the nation's safety is put at risk. It's impossible to watch this without wanting to chant "Wakanda Forever!" Plus, the entire cast, including the late Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o and Letitia Wright, give stellar performances.
10. ‘The Wiz’ (1978)
Join Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross as they ease on down the yellow brick broad (and sing some catchy tunes while they're at it). In this musical, Ross takes on the lead role of Dorothy, a Harlem teacher who's magically transported to the Land of Oz. After accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy and her new friends set out to meet a mysterious wizard who can help her return home.
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