10 Great Movies with a Black Lead

In honor of Black History Month, I compiled a list of 10 great movies (in no particular order) showcasing a black lead:

“Precious” (2009)

Gabourey Sidibe (you may know her as one of the witches from the third season of “American Horror Story”) plays Precious, a 16-year-old girl living in Harlem with her abusive mother. Precious faces tremendous struggles, such as being raped by her father and birthing two of his children. With the help of her teacher and a social worker (Mariah Carey), Precious learns to read and write, strive for her GED, and create a new life for herself and her children. It is certainly a tearjerker, but it is an amazing movie with an even better cast. 

“Girls Trip” (2017)

Featuring big names like Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip” follows four middle-aged friends who travel to New Orleans for the Essence Festival. Their trip is wild, unpredictable, and hilarious. It is a great movie to watch with a group of friends, especially if you are in the mood for a good laugh.

“Hidden Figures” (2016)

Based on true events, “Hidden Figures” features the story of the black female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the Space Race. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe play the three mathematicians. Although they are all excellent at their jobs, they face segregation and other racist setbacks throughout their work, such as having to walk a half-mile to another building to use the black bathroom and having their names removed from reports. It is especially timely to watch now — one of the real-life women that the movie was based on, Katherine Johnson, passed away this week at 101.

“Dear White People” (2014)

The movie follows escalating racial tensions at a fictitious Ivy League school from the perspective of black students. It was such a hit that it inspired a Netflix series in 2017 under the same name. 

“Roots” (1977)

While it is technically a limited series, it is too good not to include. “Roots” follows several generations of one family, beginning with Kunta Kinte as he is abducted from his home in Africa, sold as a slave in America, and forced to abandon his culture and answer to a new name. “Roots” holds the record for the second-most watched series finale in U.S. history, so believe me when I say you do not want to pass up on watching this. 

“Black Panther” (2018)

“Black Panther” is the first Marvel movie with a predominantly black cast. It follows T’Challa as he returns to his native country of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. Faced with a great and powerful enemy, T’Challa must rally his allies and use his power as a Black Panther to save his people.

“Get Out” (2017)

“Get Out” is director Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, although you would never guess based on how great this movie is. The movie follows Chris Washington as he anxiously prepares to meet the family of his white girlfriend. Her parents make a few racist comments here and there, but Chris soon realizes their words are the least of his worries. 

“Us” (2019)

“Us” is another of Jordan Peele’s masterpieces. It features Lupita Nyong’o as a mother vacationing with her husband and two kids. Nyong’o’s character had a traumatic experience as a child at the same location her family is now vacationing in, although you will not learn until the end of the movie exactly what happened to her. 

“Moonlight” (2016)

“Moonlight” follows Chiron in three stages of his life. The film explores his struggles with his sexuality and identity, as well as the physical and emotional abuse he endures while growing up. It is the first film with an all-black cast, and it is now commonly cited as one of the best films of the 21st century.

“The Color Purple” (1985) 

Based on Alice Walker’s novel of the same name, “The Color Purple” follows Celie throughout much of her life. Celie constantly writes letters to God to cope with traumatic experiences in her life, such as being raped by her father, being separated from her sister at a young age, and being forcefully married to an abusive man. It is a beautiful yet heartbreaking tale of discovering one’s sexuality and identity, as well as overcoming tragedy.