Movies That Changed The Game

Movies that Shaped Black History

Do The Right Thing (1989) - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that violence to any end was never the answer. Malcolm X believed that violence, for the right reasons, was intelligence in the form of self-defense. Do the Right Thing showed how both ideas, to either positive or negative effects, can coexist.
Boyz N’ The Hood (1991)- Out of many that should be remembered, stories that emphasize the importance of role models should definitely be noted. Boyz N The Hood may have featured the dangers of “The Hood”, but those details make the message that much stronger. Guidance is one of the keys to success, and though the main characters witnessed many unfortunate events, the last two standing survived because of that guidance.
Native Son (1951)- Emphasizing the power of race, Native Son was one of Richard Wright’s most controversial stories. It followed the working life of “Bigger Thomas’ a Chicago inhabitant earning wage as a chauffeur to a white family. The daughter of the family ended up dead when she and the Bigger Thomas went out for a joyride one night. This movie sparked so much controversy that it had to be produced outside of the U.S.  Even when it was it was brought overseas, the movie was still flagged. The movie was influential for its powerful plot, but also for its producers and their strength and persistence in publishing the film.
In The Heat Of The Night (1967)- The importance of sidelining differences plays a big part in this film as two “different” investigative officers work together to solve the case of a devastating murder. Set in the south, the story begins as a white versus black tale, but matures into a story about teamwork. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won five. This movie featured the synergy of two men from different parts of society regardless of what that society thought at the time.
The Spook Who Sat By The Door (1973)- “Getting an inch then taking a mile” is an understatement for this movie. The Spook Who Sat By The Door takes the meaning of its title from the concept of Tokenism, corporations’ practice of hiring minorities as decoration just to seem culturally diverse. The story centers on a black man from Chicago who is hired as the CIA’s “token” and is trained in the ways of espionage. Upon mastering his skills, the trainee resigns and dedicates his time to teaching young black men in his local Chicago area to be “Freedom Fighters”. Together, he and his disciples act as guerillas, taking down “the man” one hit at a time.
The Exile (1931)- Making cinematic history, The Exile was the first African American Talkie film (movie with sound). Along with its dramatic love plot, the racial issues included add a climatic, melodramatic tone to the film. The story focuses on the love triangle between Chicago dweller Edith Duval, her former love interest, Baptiste, and his new love interest Agnes Stewart. An important film because it expresses that racial difference during this time did not just hinder the professional advancement of black people, but it got in the way of their personal lives as well.
The Color Purple (1985)- Stressing not only racial issues, but sexist ones as well, The Color Purple deals with the women of society and the strength that they are all capable of unlocking. It won a Grammy Award and was nominated for an Academy Award eleven times. I recommend this movie because Black History does not simply denote men’s struggle for equality, but women’s struggle as well, and I believe The Color Purple expresses this idea fluently.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)- Naivety is, for the most part, looked down upon by society. Ironically enough, To Kill a Mockingbird was narrated by a child. I believe that this child’s “naïve” insights provide the most profound points to the story. Sometimes, childlike perspectives are necessary to finding the justice in situations. I recommend this movie because it disregards all of the petty details with which adults sometimes obscure the truth, and focuses on the basics: Equality is something for which nature calls.
The Girl From Chicago (1932)- The Girl From Chicago is one of the earliest movies to feature an all African American cast. The story follows the life of a Federal agent working in Mississippi. He falls in love with a local woman and ends up saving her from a gangster. They both eventually move to Harlem together. I recommend this movie because it is credited for having an all black cast during a time when the only all black “anythings” were schools and bathrooms.

Honorable Mention

Lilies Of The Field (1963)- Lilies of the Field centers on an unemployed handyman named Homer Smith (Sydney Poitier). He gets stranded at a farm in the middle of the desert and meets a group of Catholic nuns from Eastern Europe that believe he was sent to them to build a new chapel. Poitier won the 1963 Academy Award for Best Actor because of his performance. He also won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actor at the 13th Berlin International Film Awards. I recommend this movie because its lead, Poitier, was the first black man to win a competitive Oscar in the USA.