10 Empowering Movies That Beautifully Capture Black Beauty & Art

Photo: DFree, Jamie Lamor Thompson, & Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
Mahershala Ali, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya
Entertainment And News

For me, finding a movie that not only highlights Black voices, but also depicts Black people as a form of art, is something I truly appreciate.

Time after time, we’ve seen Hollywood brush Black art under the rug, not allowing us to shine on-screen just as much as we shine off-screen.

It’s more than just casting Black actors but allowing Black directors, Black cinematographers, Black producers, and Black writers to shine as well.

Because the only people who can tell Black stories are Black people.

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So, here is a list of 10 empowering Black Movies that are the epitome of Black art:

1. Queen & Slim

Written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas, comes a masterpiece of Blackness that intertwiines a controversial, and central conflict in the Black community: encounters with the police. Though, this one ends with the two Black leads (Daniel Kaluuya, and Jodie Turner-Smith) shooting the white police officer.

Despite the grim circumstances, Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas manage to not only feature Black skin, but allow dark-skin representation to take up the screen, showing the different kinds of Black people that exist, and that we can laugh right in the same beat as we can cry.

2. Moonlight

Winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture, Moonlight is a story like no other. Directed by Barry Jenkins, this film follows Chiron throughout the three phases of his life as a Black child, then teenager, and finally, as an adult. Not only is the cinematography beautifully shot but the film touches on topics many others often shy away from: Mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, drugs in the Black community, death, and sexuality.

Moonlight is a movie about Black love and intimacy between two Black men, which is rarely shown on-screen. This film allows Black bodies to be shown through the lens of the camera in all of their beauty and richness.

3. Black Panther

The Marvel movie that took the world by storm and garnered over a billion dollars from the box office. There has never been a Black superhero movie quite like it, and definitely not a Black superhero movie rooted in afrocentrism.

Black Panther follows T’Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, as he gears up to take his place as king of Wakanda after the passing of his father. Directed by Ryan Coogler, whose talents have been seen in other films lik, Fruitvale Station, and Creed, T’Challa struggles with balancing the world of Wakanda, while also battling with helping the outside world and their own issues. Not only does Black Panther highlight the different cultures of Africa, but it also shows the heroism that can be written into Black scripts.

4. If Beale Street Could Talk

Based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is Barry Jenkins' other film masterpiece. It seems as if Moonlight wasn’t Jenkins only ability to allow Black bodies their opportunity to shine on-screen. The film follows two lifelong friends, Tish and Fonny, who are now in a romantic relationship with a baby on the way when suddenly, Fonny is accused of sexual assault, a crime he couldn’t have committed.

A powerful film with an overall message that's still prominent in today’s social climate, If Beale Street Could Talk is a wonderful adaptation to an equally wonderful novel.

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5. BlacKkKlansman 

This list couldn’t be complete without a Spike Lee Joint, and the winner of the 2019 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Based on a true story of a Black police officer who goes undercover as a Klansman, the film features many familiar faces like, John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Laura Harrier and is considered a satire on American culture.

Spike Lee mixes humor with reality, showing the grim fate of many Black Americans and the way America has always and will always treat communities of color. 

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6. Dope

An authentic ode to the ‘90s culture, Dope easily became one of the most influential Black millennial coming-of-age stories that we didn’t even know we needed. The film follows Malcolm, a nerd who is trying to gain the attention of his crush. Unfortunately for him, his encounter with a drug dealer lands Malcolm with a bag of molly in his backpack.

This comedy/drama takes us on a journey with Malcolm as he tries to figure out a way to get rid of the drugs he’s been left with, trying to get into his dream school, Harvard, while also trying to keep himself out of trouble from rival gangs. It’s refreshing to see the interaction of Black people on-screen and the undertone of Black identity shown.

7. Girl’s Trip

A movie where the entire lead cast is strictly Black women, this outrageous comedy follows four friends, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Regina Hall, as they embark on a trip to New Orleans. But it isn't just a laugh-out-loud movie: it's also a sentimental look at Black friendship.

8. The Photograph

Lakeith Stanfield and Isaa Rae take the screen for a pure and honest romance movie. The Photograph is beautifully shot, with an amazing jazz soundtrack that honors the history of jazz in relation to Black culture. It’s always nice to watch movies about Black love that aren’t rooted in pain and showcase dark-skin representation.

9. Sylvie’s Love

Another movie that showcases Black love in a way that doesn’t end in tragedy, Sylvie’s Love proves that Black people can exist on-screen, loving each other, without any pain or suffering. A timeless film that's sure to become a classic, just in the way that this movie has managed to capture Black beauty in all of its glory.

10. Sorry To Bother You

Another Lakeith Stanfield movie but this time he plays the character of Cassius Green who discovers the key to landing a great job and an equally never-ending supply of money. Bordering on almost science-fiction, Sorry To Bother You manages to go places that almost no other films can go. 

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.