55+ Best Movies for Black History Month and Beyond

Celebrate Black stories and artists with these films.

Collage of Black History Month movies, including The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Selma
We Are Teachers; Amazon

Every February, the United States celebrates Black History Month as a time to recognize and honor the events, culture, and achievements of Black people in in America. These Black History Month movies help to do just that, showcasing diverse stories, actors, writers, directors, and more. Whether you’re looking for an educational classroom film or a family flick for movie night, you’ll find options here.

Due to the intense nature of many of these stories, some of these movies are rated R by the MPAA. Regardless of the rating, it’s always a good idea to preview films to ensure they’re appropriate for your intended audience.

Note that some of these movies are available on one or more streaming services, while you’ll need to rent or purchase others. We’ve included a link to one streaming option for each film, but you may want to check other services you subscribe to as well.

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Black History Month Movies Based on True Stories

While these stories may not be 100% true, they do open up subjects for further research and discovery. That’s why some of our favorite Black History Month movies are those based on real-life stories.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years of Slave movie poster

In 1841, Solomon Northrup, a free Black man, was kidnapped and sold into enslavement. After 12 years, he was finally free once more. He wrote a memoir that was made into this Oscar-winning film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. (R)

Watch it: 12 Years a Slave on Amazon


42 movie poster

Jackie Robinson became famous as the first Black athlete to play in Major League Baseball. His story is bound to thrill sports fans, but everyone will be inspired by this picture. (PG-13)

Watch it: 42 on Amazon


Amistad movie poster

In 1839, abducted Mende tribesmen aboard the slave ship La Amistad managed to rise up and overthrow their captors. The legal battle that followed went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. (R)

Watch it: Amistad on Amazon


Bessie movie poster

Queen Latifah stars as American blues singer Bessie Smith (“Empress of the Blues”), portraying her career and life experiences during the Jazz Age. (Not Rated)

Watch it: Bessie on Max

Get On Up

Get On Up movie poster

Follow the life of singer James Brown from childhood poverty in backwoods Georgia to stardom and beyond, with all its ups and downs. (PG-13)

Watch it: Get On Up on Netflix

Ghosts of Mississippi

Ghosts of Mississippi

Fans of courtroom dramas should check out this dramatization of the 1994 trial of Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist accused of the 1963 assassination of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. (PG-13)

Watch it: Ghosts of Mississippi on Amazon


Glory movie poster

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was one of the first Black regiments to fight for the Union during the Civil War. This film shares the story of their formation and exploits. Denzel Washington won an Academy Award for his performance in the film. (R)

Watch it: Glory on Amazon

The Great Debaters

The Great Debaters movie poster

In 1935, the all-Black Wiley College debate team from Texas hurdled over challenges (including Jim Crow laws) to defeat the reigning national debate champions, as dramatized in this film. (PG-13)

Watch it: The Great Debaters on Amazon


Harriet movie poster

Harriet Tubman is one of the most famous women in American history. Explore her life and heroic involvement in the Underground Railroad in this drama. (PG-13)

Watch it: Harriet on Netflix

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures movie poster

This smash hit documents the story of three incredible Black female mathematicians of NASA (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson) in the early years of the US space program. (PG)

Watch it: Hidden Figures on Amazon

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda movie poster

The Rwandan genocide took place in spring 1994, but most people know very little about it. Learn more with the tale of Paul Rusesabagina’s efforts to save the lives of his family and more than 1,000 other refugees by providing them with shelter in a besieged hotel. (PG-13)

Watch it: Hotel Rwanda on Amazon

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks movie poster

Based on the bestselling book, this film documents the life of a Black woman whose cancer cells have been used for decades (albeit without her agreement or knowledge) to make incredible scientific advancements. (Not Rated)

Watch it: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on Amazon

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge movie poster

In 1954, Dorothy Dandridge became the first Black woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, after years of struggling to break out of stereotypical African American roles. (R)

Watch it: Introducing Dorothy Dandridge on Max

Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah movie poster

The Black Panther Party was polarizing, even among people of color. Discover the story of Fred Howard, chairman of the Illinois chapter in the 1960s, who was ultimately betrayed by an undercover agent. (R)

Watch it: Judas and the Black Messiah on Amazon

Just Mercy

Just Mercy movie poster

Michael B. Jordan portrays Bryan Stevenson, a young defense attorney who made representing underprivileged Black prisoners his life’s work. (PG-13)

Watch it: Just Mercy on Amazon


Loving movie poster

In 1967, some state laws still prohibited the marriage of interracial couples. This movie celebrates the trial (and love story) of Loving v. Virginia, which ultimately overturned those laws and ensured racial marriage equality across the US. (PG-13)

Watch it: Loving on Amazon

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom movie poster

During the Jazz Age of the 1920s, Ma Rainey was a well-known blues singer. This film dramatizes one turbulent recording session where the group’s experiences explore issues including race, ambition, fame, and violence. (R)

Watch it: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix

Malcolm X

Malcolm X movie poster

Denzel Washington plays Malcolm X, one of the most polarizing activists of the American Civil Rights Movement, in this classic Spike Lee biopic. (PG-13)

Watch it: Malcolm X on Amazon

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom movie poster

Though Nelson Mandela was South African, his life inspired people around the world. Mandela, played here by Idris Elba, was the face of Apartheid and its eventual overthrow in the early 1990s. (PG-13)

Watch it: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on Amazon


Marshall movie poster

Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, comes to life in this movie showcasing one of the earliest cases of his career. (PG-13)

Watch it: Marshall on Netflix

Mississippi Burning

Mississippi Burning movie poster

When three civil rights workers disappear in Mississippi in 1964, local residents and police are anything but helpful to the FBI agents investigating the case. (R)

Watch it: Mississippi Burning on Amazon


Notorious movie poster

Journey through the major events in the life of Brooklyn-based hip-hop artist The Notorious B.I.G., whose career (and life) was cut short in a drive-by shooting in 1997. (R)

Watch it: Notorious on Amazon

One Night in Miami

One Night in Miami movie poster

In 1964, four men met up in Miami: Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. No one knows for sure what they did or discussed, but this film imagines the night and its consequences. (R)

Watch it: One Night in Miami on Amazon


Race movie poster

Jesse Owens not only won a record-breaking four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, he did it in Berlin, where Hitler’s racial propaganda faced him at every turn. (PG-13)

Watch it: Race on Netflix


Respect movie poster

Jennifer Hudson slays as Aretha Franklin, documenting the first three decades of Franklin’s life through music and drama. (PG-13)

Watch it: Respect on Amazon

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges movie poster

Imagine being a 6-year-old Black child marched into an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960, protected by U.S. marshals for her own safety. This is a terrific film to introduce younger viewers to the incredible struggles of the American Civil Rights Movement. (PG)

Watch it: Ruby Bridges on Disney Plus


Selma movie poster

The 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, energized the Civil Rights Movement and captured the attention of the nation. (PG-13)

Watch it: Selma on Amazon

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton movie poster

Follow the rise and fall of the hip-hop group N.W.A in this classic Black music history movie, set among the gang-riddled streets of Compton, California, in 1980s. (R)

Watch it: Straight Outta Compton on Hulu


Till movie poster

After Mamie Till’s 14-year-old son was was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi in 1955, she spent the rest of her life as an activist for civil rights. (PG-13)

Watch it: Till on Amazon

The Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen movie poster

Take to the skies with the first African American combat pilots in the United States Army Air Corps in this World War II drama. (PG-13)

Watch it: The Tuskegee Airmen on Max

Black History Month Movies for Kids and Families

With G or PG ratings, many of these movies are perfect for sharing with younger viewers. The PG-13 films are terrific for families to watch together, as a springboard for conversations around media representation, Black history, social issues, and more.

Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah and the Bee movie poster

Follow a young Black girl from south LA and her family on her journey to winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Who knew spelling could be so exciting? (PG)

Watch it: Akeelah and the Bee on Amazon


Belle movie poster

This romance is very loosely based on the life of an upper-class mixed-race woman named Dido Belle living in England in the 18th century. This was Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s breakout role, and the film raises interesting questions about what it may have been like to be a person of color living in Europe at the time. (PG)

Watch it: Belle on Amazon

Cinderella (1997)

Cinderella movie poster

This creative reimagining of the classic fairy tale includes a diverse cast led by Brandy, with Whitney Houston shining bright as the Fairy Godmother. (G)

Watch it: Cinderella on Disney Plus

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings movie poster

This fun favorite tells the story of one of the most unlikely teams in Olympic history: the first Jamaican bobsledders (four men who’d never even seen snow!). (PG)

Watch it: Cool Runnings on Disney Plus


Dreamgirls movie poster

Beyoncé leads an all-star cast in this beloved musical film, chronicling the rise and evolution of American R&B music starting in the 1960s. (PG-13)

Watch it: Dreamgirls on Amazon

The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog movie poster

Tiana made history as Disney’s first Black princess, and her fairy tale story honors the culture of New Orleans in the 1920s too. (G)

Watch it: The Princess and the Frog on Disney Plus

Remember the Titans

Remember the Titans movie poster

In the early 1970s, two football coaches (one Black, one white) work to integrate a high school team and gain the support of the community during one amazing undefeated season. (PG)

Watch it: Remember the Titans on Disney Plus


Soul movie poster

This recent release from Disney Pixar celebrates jazz music in all its glory, as a Black musician strives to reunite his body and soul in time to catch his big break. (PG)

Watch it: Soul on Disney Plus

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

Spider-Man is one of the most familiar superheroes, but his story takes on a new twist when a rebellious Black Hispanic teen is also bitten by a radioactive spider and gains similar powers. (PG)

Watch it: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse on Amazon

The Watsons Go to Birmingham

The Watsons Go to Birmingham movie poster

The classic book comes to life in this family movie. It follows a Michigan family who heads to Alabama in 1963 to visit their grandmother and finds themselves in the middle of a historic summer. (PG)

Watch it: The Watsons Go to Birmingham on Amazon

The Wiz

The Wiz movie poster

This cult-classic musical turned The Wizard of Oz on its head with diverse casting, catchy songs, and a grittier storyline. Tip: Plan a double feature and watch the two films back to back! (G)

Watch it: The Wiz on Amazon

Diverse characters, writers, directors, producers, and storylines all make these well-known movies a nice choice for Black History Month. (Some of these are rated R, so please preview films before sharing with teens.)

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun movie poster

This film adaptation of the lauded play follows the story of a 1950s Black family who tries to find a better life away from the inner city, as they navigate prejudice, racism, and their own interpersonal dynamics. (PG-13)

Watch it: A Raisin in the Sun on Amazon

Boyz n the Hood

Boyz n the Hood movie poster

Ten-year-old Tre Styles is a troublemaker, so his mother sends him to live with his father in South Central LA, where she hopes exposure to the dangers of gang life will change his ways. (R)

Watch it: Boyz n the Hood on Netflix

Black Panther

Black Panther movie poster

Along with its sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, this movie smashed box office records as viewers cheered on the diverse cast led by superhero T’Challa, King of Wakanda. (PG-13)

Watch it: Black Panther on Disney Plus

The Color Purple

The Color Purple movie poster

Before 2023’s musical film came this classic 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel, starring Whoopie Goldberg and featuring a young Oprah Winfrey. (PG-13)

Watch it: The Color Purple on Amazon


Crooklyn movie poster

Director Spike Lee based this story of a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s partly on his own life and that of his sister. (PG-13)

Watch it: Crooklyn on Amazon

Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing movie poster

Follow up Crooklyn with the Spike Lee joint Do The Right Thing, also set in Brooklyn, but this time in the 1980s, where simmering racial tension ultimately leads to violence and tragedy. (R)

Watch it: Do the Right Thing on Amazon


Drumline movie poster

The incredible drumline performances drive this movie along as it explores the story of Devon, a teen attending an HBCU on a music scholarship. (PG-13)

Watch it: Drumline on Amazon

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give movie poster

Based on the bestselling novel, this film shares the story of a high school student who witnesses a potentially racially motivated shooting and must stand up for what she believes in the aftermath. (PG-13)

Watch it: The Hate U Give on Amazon

Lean on Me

Lean on Me movie poster

“Crazy Joe” Clark takes over a New Jersey school district that’s hit rock bottom, using radical measures to transform its students and the community as well. (PG-13)

Watch it: Lean on Me on Amazon

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Lee Daniels' The Butler movie poster

Inspired by a real person, this is the fictional account of a Black butler who served eight different presidents as butler at the White House, and had a ringside seat for decades of history. (PG-13)

Watch it: Lee Daniels’ The Butler on Amazon


Pride movie poster

A dilapidated community pool in 1974 becomes the home of Philadelphia’s first all-Black swim team, who must fight prejudice as they hone their competitive skills. (PG)

Watch it: Pride on Amazon

Documentaries for Black History Month

If you’re looking for fact rather than fiction, take a look at these documentary films for Black History Month.

4 Little Girls

4 Little Girls movie poster

This Spike Lee documentary details the tragedy of four little Black girls who died in a church bombing in Birmingham in 1963, sparking a movement that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year. (Not Rated)

Watch it: 4 Little Girls on Max


13th movie poster

Take a hard, often-uncomfortable look at the U.S. prison system and its relation to racial injustice and inequities in this doc directed by Ava DuVernay. (Not Rated)

Watch it: 13th on Netflix

Good Hair

Good Hair movie poster

It’s made by Chris Rock, so you know you’ll laugh, but you’ll also learn a lot about Black culture through this exploration of the Black female hair industry. (PG-13)

Watch it: Good Hair on Amazon

Hoop Dreams

Hoop Dreams movie poster

Sports fans have been mesmerized by this documentary for 30 years now. It follows the story of two Black Chicago high school students as they pursue their dream of playing in the NBA.

Watch it: Hoop Dreams on Amazon

John Lewis: Good Trouble

John Lewis: Good Trouble movie poster

Before his decades-long service in Congress, John Lewis was arrested multiple times for stirring up what he referred to as “good trouble” during the Civil Rights Movement. Learn more about his life in this film. (PG)

Watch it: John Lewis: Good Trouble on Amazon

Summer of Soul

Summer of Soul movie poster

Questlove produced this concert film documenting the 1967-69 Harlem Cultural Festival, sometimes called “Black Woodstock.” (PG-13)

Watch it: Summer of Soul on Disney Plus

What are your favorite Black History Month movies to watch with kids and teens? Come share your picks in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, Black History Videos for Students at Every Grade Level.

From Harriet to Hidden Figures, Cool Runnings to Do the Right Thing, these Black History Month movies offer something for every viewer.