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10 Must-Watch Black History Movies on Netflix

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As well as being entertaining, movies can be educational, as they are often based on real-life events, dramatized to make them engaging and interesting. 

While movies will sometimes take liberties with the truth for the sake of entertainment, they can nevertheless provide a good historical foundation and inspire viewers to learn more about world events.

If you are interested in Black history, then take advantage of your Netflix subscription. The streaming service has put together a selection of films that speak towards #BlackLivesMatter. While there are a lot of great titles in there, we have come up with our list of the ten best to get you started.

Educational movie buffs should also check out our list of the best war movies on Netflix, and our list of the best movies based on true events.

13th (2016)

In this documentary film, Ava DuVerney delves into the institutionalized racism that sees black inmates dominating the American prison system.

She gives a brutally honest portrayal of what life is like on the inside for black prisoners, and shines a light on how the innately racist system self-replicates.

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

This latest Spike Lee movie tells the story of the Vietnam war from the perspective of five black American veterans, a side of the war that is rarely explored.

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The film is a clever and compelling exploration of the mindset of the black soldiers who fought in Vietnam at a time when African Americans were being oppressed back in the United States.

There is also plenty of action and a search for buried treasure.

Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, and Chadwick Boseman.

LA 92 (2017)

In 1992 four white police officers in LA were acquitted for beating black motorist Rodney King to death without provocation.

This powerful documentary looks at the aftermath of that verdict, and the protests, violence, and civil unrest that overtook Los Angeles as a result of the miscarriage of justice.

Marshall (2017)

Chadwick Boseman stars in this biopic about the first Africa American Supreme Court Justice.

It explores the unique challenges that faced him as a pioneer through the first case of his career the State of Connecticut vs Joseph Spell, in which a black driver was accused of raping his white employer.

Also stars Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, and Dan Stevens.

Moonlight (2016)

This Oscar-winning film tells the story of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. The young man also struggles with his sexuality, and a feeling of being alienated from his community.

The film is broken into three chapters: Little; Chiron; and Black. Each focuses on a different time in Chiron’s life and a different struggle threatening his happiness.

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and starring Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, and Naomie Harris.

Mudbound (2017)

Set in the aftermath of World War II, two veterans, a white man and a black man, return to their homes in Mississippi.

While they found comradeship during the war, at home they encounter challenges of race and class which put their lives on very different paths.

Self Made (2020)

This is a limited series starring Octavia Spencer as the real-life Madam C.J. Walker, an African American woman who rose from nothing to create a beauty empire. She was the first female self-made millionaire.

She must deal with the expected trials and tribulations of cut-throat business, but also the racial hostilities or turn-of-the-century America.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story (2017)

This limited documentary series tells the story of Kalief Browder, a Bronx high school student who was imprisoned for three years, two of them in solitary confinement on Riker’s Island, but was never convicted of a crime.

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The story begins when, at the age of just 16, he is accused of stealing a backpack. When his family is unable to pay the $3,000 bail, he gets eaten up by the prison system.

Trial 4 (2020)

This is another limited series, true-crime documentary. It tells the story of Sean K. Ellis, who was unjustly convicted as a teenager in the killing of Boston police officer John J. Milligan in 1993.

He spent the next 22 years trying to demonstrate his innocence and expose the problems in the system that saw him spend the best part of his life behind bars.

When They See Us (2019)

This limited series is based on the true story of five black teens from Harlem that were falsely convicted of assaulting a jogger in central park in 1989. Each served a considerable prison sentence before being exonerated in 2002.

The series dramatizes the real-life events, and shines a light on how this miscarriage of justice was possible within the US legal system.

If you want to delve deeper into the case, you can also check out When They See Us Now (2019), in which Oprah interviews the now free men about what happened and their lives today.

What To Watch Next?

If, after watching the above excellent but harrowing movies, you are still looking for some educational history, perhaps try something a little lighter.

Learn about the ancient Greeks and their gods with our list of the 20 movies based on Greek mythology and history.

Or get a glimpse at how the other half lives with these films about the British Royal Family and British history.

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