Top 5 movies to watch with black leads

This month, celebrate actors and actresses of color by checking out these blockbusters (and lesser-known flicks)


Wes Candela

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons. Copyright: © 2008-2017 Wes Candela Photography LLC. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Maria Hickman, Arts & Culture Editor

The month of February is most well-known for Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl, but these are only one day a year. The whole month of February stands for something even greater: Black History Month. Although we arguably should be celebrating black history year-round, we celebrate it more heavily in February. One great way to do so is by watching movies with black leads. To help you get started, here are my top five recommended movies to watch with black leads.

The first movie on this list is “Malcolm X.” The movie tells the story of civil rights activist Malcolm X and stars Denzel Washington in the lead role. If that does not automatically make you want to watch the movie, then the captivating way they tell his story should. After watching, you truly get a sense of who Malcolm X was as a person and the importance of the work he did.

If that’s not quite your speed and you prefer something more upbeat, then this next choice is for you. The next movie on this list is “The Wiz.” This is a classic telling of “The Wizard of Oz,” but with an all-black cast and takes place in a more urban environment. It stars actress Diana Ross as Dorothy Gale and late singer Micheal Jackson as the Scarecrow. These two in the cast alone should convince you to watch it, but if you need more convincing, the musical numbers are fabulous and will be stuck in your head well after you finish watching. 

So, you liked the first two movies, but now you want love and laughter: a romcom. Well, then look no further than the 80’s hit “Coming to America.” Eddie Murphy stars as the lead, playing several different characters, but mainly Prince Akeem. Prince Akeem is a prince from another country who comes to America looking for love under a false identity. Murphy makes this movie extremely entertaining and funny to watch; you will be hooked from start to finish. Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall are actually releasing a sequel to the infamous comedy later this year. 

For the people out there who like to scream, the movie “Us” will give you chills. “Us,” the second major thriller by director Jordan Peele, is about mother and wife Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, as she visits a vacation spot with her family. When Wilson was younger, she experienced a traumatizing incident, and feels like something horrifying is on the brink of happening again. She is right–several bad things do happen. This movie has so many twists and turns, it will keep you second guessing everything and on the edge of your seat.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Academy Award winning movie “Black Panther, “which is perfect for anyone who likes a good action movie. The movie follows T’Challa, who is the Black Panther, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, and his struggle to be a good king while also fighting different evils. The movie also stars actor Michael B. Jordan as the main villain, Erik Killmonger. This movie is action packed and will keep you engaged until the end.

All of these movies are must watches, but there are also tons of lesser known movies that are just as good. The sci-fi movie “See You Yesterday” tells the story of a girl and her best friend as they go back in time to try and save her brother who was shot by police. This movie speaks directly to events of police brutality against black people and the pain that is felt when a black person dies at the hands of police. There is also the movie “Nappily Ever After” about a black woman and her struggle to find herself, in which her hair plays a role in helping her discover who she is. Black women have always struggled with their hair and making it appear ‘white’ just to fit into society and this movie shows what it is like to go through that.

No matter what month it is, it’s always important to support black actors any chance we get. In an industry that still can be very discriminating towards black people, watching and supporting movies with black leads is a great way to help end it.