21 Movies to Stream on Netflix for Black History Month
‘Tis (always) the season to amplify Black voices and brush up on our history. Though we’ve already gotten a head start with our favorite Black authors, we’re keeping the momentum going with Netflix’s best movies for Black History Month.
The streaming service offers a myriad of great options, including riveting dramas like Passing, documentaries like Homecoming and classics like Spike Lee’s She's Gotta Have It. But if you’d rather avoid spending an extra hour scrolling through dozens of titles, keep reading for 21 of the best movies that celebrate Black culture.
20 Must-Watch Shows to Stream During Black History Month, According to an Entertainment Editor
1. The Butler (2013)
Cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, John Cusack
This is the story of a White House butler, who served underneath eight U.S. presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan. The movie focuses on his decades-long career inside the most important building in the country as the nation—and he—faces monumental changes like the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War. (Bonus points: It has an all-star cast, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Cuba Gooding Jr.)
2. American Son (2019)
Cast: Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan, Eugene Lee
When their teenage son goes missing, an estranged interracial couple is forced to reunite at a Florida police station in an attempt to bring him home safely. Unfortunately, systemic racial injustice and prejudice continually get in the way.
3. 13th (2016)
Cast: Angela Davis, Cory Booker, Michelle Alexander, Gina Clayton
The documentary’s title refers to the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery in 1865. In the movie, filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores issues of race, justice and mass incarceration by calling upon scholars, activists and politicians to analyze how our prison system disproportionately affects people of color. Oh, and did we mention 13th was nominated for an Academy Award?
4. Loving (2016)
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga
The year is 1958. A young interracial couple decides to get married, resulting in an infamous case that rocked the Supreme Court. Not only is it based on a true story, but it also offers a glimpse into the true years-long fight for interracial marriage rights.
5. See You Yesterday (2019)
Cast: Eden Duncan-Smith, Danté Crichlow, Marsha Stephanie Blake
Two Brooklyn teenagers, C.J. Walker and Sebastian Thomas, build a time machine in an attempt to alter the events of the past and save Walker’s brother, Calvin, from being shot and killed by an NYPD officer. The family-driven storyline is ideal for young viewers who are interested in learning more about police brutality in the Black community.
6. Barry (2016)
Cast: Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jason Mitchell, Ashley Judd
The movie follows America's first Black president, Barack Obama (also known as Barry), as a 20-year-old during his time at Columbia University. While there, he struggles to balance his studies with his personal life and connect with his classmates.
7. She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Cast: Tracy Camilla Johns, Spike Lee, Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell
In this daring Spike Lee movie, Nola Darling, an ambitious Brooklyn artist, juggles relationships with three men as she follows her dreams. The classic was groundbreaking (and controversial) for its honest exploration of Black female sexuality.
8. Becoming (2020)
Cast: Michelle Obama
Inspired by the former First Lady’s memoir of the same name, Becoming chronicles Michelle Obama’s 34-city book tour, including footage of her travels and insight into her previous role as First Lady. Although it doesn’t include any bombshell reveals or intimate details about her life, Becoming offers plenty of heartfelt and inspiring moments.
9. Homecoming (2019)
Cast: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams
It’s never a bad time to relive Beychella—better known as one of the biggest milestones in pop culture history. Written, produced and directed by Beyoncé herself, the concert film offers a more intimate look at the first Black woman to headline the Coachella Music Festival. Aside from footage of her performances, the film includes an in-depth look at her creative process.
10. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)
Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo
Davis and Boseman deliver unforgettable performances in this biographical drama, which depicts Ma Rainey (Davis), the famous Blues singer, in one of her most intense recording sessions. It all unfolds in Chicago during the ’20s—a time when racial tensions were at an all-time high.
11. The Harder They Fall (2021)
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King
When a notorious outlaw, Nat Love, learns that his greatest enemy, Rufus Buck, is out of prison, he immediately concocts a plan to seek revenge, with the help of his gang. (FYI, the main characters were inspired by real-life Black cowboys and outlaws from the 19th-century.)
12. Get On Up (2014)
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis
Boseman steals the show as James Brown, AKA the Godfather of Soul in this biographical drama, which chronicles the singer’s incredible journey from poverty to fame. The movie touches on his involvement in politics and the civil rights movement, as well as his tumultuous romantic relationships.
13. Mudbound (2017)
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige
Set during the aftermath of World War II, the Oscar-nominated film focuses on two veterans as they return home to Mississippi. Aside from struggling to adjust to the Jim Crow South, they must also deal with their severe war trauma. We'll admit, it's a difficult watch, since it tackles the very painful effects of racism in the American South.
14. Kevin Hart's Guide to Black History (2019)
Cast: Kevin Hart, Steve Agee, Derek Basco
Comedian Kevin Hart educates us on a few of Black history's unsung heroes in this wholesome variety special, which features archival footage and a few fun re-enactments. Expect appearances by Tiffany Haddish, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Jay Johnston and more.
15. Hard Lessons (1986)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Lynn Whitfield
This gripping biographical film revolves around George McKenna, who takes on a new job as principal of a notorious Los Angeles high school. Despite the lack of dedication and effort from his staff, George finds an ally in Bobbie Maxwell—the only teacher who seems to care about improving the school. But can they successfully turn things around?
16. Two Distant Strangers (2021)
Cast: Joey Badass, Andrew Howard
If you want to understand the struggle of living as a Black person in America, then you need to watch Two Distant Strangers. Inspired by George Floyd's murder, the Academy Award winner tells the story of a Black graphic designer who finds himself trapped in time loop that always ends with his death, thanks to his repeated encounters with a white NYPD officer.
17. Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali (2021)
Cast: Malcom X, Muhammad Ali
It's widely known that Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) had a tight-knit friendship with civil rights leader Malcolm X, but why did their relationship go south? This documentary explores their brotherhood with rare footage and interviews with their friends.
18. Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Johnny Trí Nguyễn
Spike Lee strikes gold with this war drama, which focuses on four Black Vietnam War veterans who embark on a mission to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and recover the gold they all hid while serving in the country.
19. Monster (2018)
Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jennifer Hudson
Inspired by Walter Dean Myers' equally compelling book, Monster details the story of Steve Harmon, a 17-year-old honor student who's falsely charged with murder. It sheds light on the nation’s flawed justice system, while also tackling themes like peer pressure, masculinity and Black identity.
20. Amend: The Fight For America (2021)
Cast: Will Smith, Laverne Cox
What does the 14th amendment really mean? What is “justice and equality for all”? This documentary seeks to answer those questions honestly, featuring historical footage and thought-provoking commentary that’ll get you thinking about the nation’s progress. (Yes, we know it's not technically a movie, but we’ll let this one slide.)
21. Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event (2022)
Cast: Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis
Veteran actress Viola Davis sits down with the iconic Oprah for an intimate discussion about her memoir, her childhood and her incredible career journey. Get ready to know the Oscar winner on a much deeper level.
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