In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to share some of the films we watched (or rewatched) recently that feature Black directors, stars, and stories. These movies include some powerful moments – some made us stop and think, some made us laugh, and some definitely brought the tears. As a podcast about horror and rom-coms, there are movies in both genres on this list (and some rom, hold the com). So buckle up for a weekend movie marathon and join us on this journey…
Horror Noire (2019)
This documentary directed by Xavier Burgin is discussed a lot, and for good reason – it is so well done and one of the best documentaries we’ve watched recently. It traces the history of Black horror from the early days of filmmaking to the present moment. It includes both interviews and engaging conversations between filmmakers and actors like William Crain, Keith David, Loretta Devine, Tony Todd, Tina Mabry and Jordan Peele (among so many others) sharing their experiences with the horror genre and its history.
Tales from the Hood (1995)
Clarence Williams III is one of the best things to happen to planet Earth, so TALES FROM THE HOOD is getting a much-needed call-out. Williams plays a terrifying mortician who attempts to tell some teenagers scary stories to keep them from doing drugs. Directed by Rusty Cundieff, it’s a horror, comedy and drama rolled into one – and it’s 100% worth the watch. Spike Lee also produced this film, giving it extra points in our book.
Get Out (2017)
Writer and director Jordan Peele’s thought-provoking horror film was the talk of the town after its release in 2017. Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young Black man who meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time and discovers a dark and horrifying secret. The film engages with themes of systemic racism, white saviorism, and complacency. And you’ll be thinking about it for long after the credits roll. It should go without saying that US is also a must-watch if you’re diving into a Peele marathon.
If you watch HORROR NOIRE, you’ll get historical background on this blaxploitation horror film that has become a cult classic. In fact, director William Crain and star William Marshall are both featured in the documentary. In the film, an 18th-century African prince unsuccessfully asks Dracula’s help in ending slavery and is instead turned into a vampire who later reawakens in 1972 Los Angeles. BLACULA was one of the top-grossing films the year of its release, and it’s a must-see for horror fans.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
If you haven’t seen NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, stop what you’re doing right now and watch it. This low-budget film follows a group of Pennsylvanians trapped in a farmhouse trying to survive against a group of brain-hungry zombies. Duane Jones plays the main character Ben – one of the first times a Black actor was cast as the lead in a horror film. While the character’s race wasn’t specified in the script, director George Romero says of the casting that Jones was clearly the best actor to audition.
Rom (a little less com)
Queen & Slim (2019)
Never will you cry so hard at a movie (or maybe that was just me the first time I saw it in a crowded movie theater – remember when we could go to those?) Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith give performances of a lifetime in this romance about a date that takes an unexpected turn after a police officer pulls over the couple. This is Melina Matsoukas’ feature directorial debut and the screenplay was written by Lena Waithe, who is pure genius.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Warning: get your tissues ready. Barry Jenkins’ film is based on the 1974 James Baldwin novel about a Harlem woman who seeks to clear the name of her partner who’s been wrongfully charged for a crime he did not commit. KiKi Layne and Stephan James give powerful performances in this story of love, struggle, innocence and systemic racism in America. Regina King (rambles about how much I love her) won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in this film.
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
We love this phenomenal depiction of female friendship and women discovering their worth and empowering themselves and each other along the way. I will watch any movie with Whitney Houston, and I would follow Angela Bassett into the sun, so this is a clear addition to the list. It’s also directed by actor Forest Whitaker (fun fact: he also directed the 2004 rom-com “First Daughter” starring Katie Holmes!) Spoiler: Bassett does light a car on fire in this film, and it’s glorious. Do not f#$! with these women.
Love & Basketball (2000)
I was really into both love and basketball as a kid, so there was a period of time when I watched this movie once a day for many weeks. The film stars Sanaa Latham and Omar Epps, following their characters’ tumultuous relationship from childhood into adulthood, and we just love the ending so damn much. It was written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (her directorial debut!).
She’s Gotta Have it (1986)
Who doesn’t like options? This 1986 rom-com follows the story of one woman navigating life with three different lovers. Not only was this movie written, directed, and edited by Spike Lee, but he also acts in the film, and it’s noted as launching his career. This movie certainly plays with gender roles and flips them on their head a bit. This movie was also adapted into a Netflix series by Lee in 2017.
Keep the movie marathon going and check out these other great lists of films by Black creators.