10 Great Movies about Black Lives directed by African-Americans

10 Great Movies about Black Lives directed by African-Americans

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Losing Ground (1982) d. Kathleen Collins, who taught at CCNY.

A comedy-drama about a Black American female philosophy professor and her insensitive, philandering, and flamboyant artist husband who are having a marital crisis. When the wife goes off on an almost unbelievable journey to find “ecstasy”, her husband is forced to see her in a different light.


Do the Right Thing (1989) d. Spike Lee

Salvatore “Sal” Fragione is the Italian owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. A neighborhood local, Buggin’ Out, becomes upset when he sees that the pizzeria’s Wall of Fame exhibits only Italian actors. Buggin’ Out believes a pizzeria in a black neighborhood should showcase black actors, but Sal disagrees. The wall becomes a symbol of racism and hate to Buggin’ Out and to other people in the neighborhood, and tensions rise.


Daughters of the Dust (1991) d. Julie Dash, who graduated from CCNY

Languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where African folk-ways were maintained well into the 20th Century and was one of the last bastion of these mores in America.


The Glass Shield (1994) d. Charles Burnett

J.J. is a rookie in the Sheriff’s Department and the first black officer at that station. Racial tensions run high in the department as some of J.J.’s fellow officers resent his presence. His only real friend is the other new trooper, the first female officer to work there, who also suffers similar discrimination in the otherwise all-white male work environment. When J.J. becomes increasingly aware of police corruption during the murder trial of Teddy Woods, whom he helped to arrest, he faces difficult decisions and puts himself into grave personal danger in the service of justice.


Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) d. Carl Franklin, based on the novel by CCNY alum Walter Mosley

In late 1940s Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins is an unemployed black World War II veteran with few job prospects. At a bar, Easy meets DeWitt Albright, a mysterious white man looking for someone to investigate the disappearance of a missing white woman named Daphne Monet, who he suspects is hiding out in one of the city’s black jazz clubs. Strapped for money and facing house payments, Easy takes the job, but soon finds himself in over his head.


Boycott (2001) d. Clarke Johnson

This multiple award winning made-for-TV movie dramatizes the historic boycott of public buses in the 1950s, led by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Pariah (2011) d. Dee Rees

A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression.


Fruitvale Station (2013) d. Ryan Coogler

Oakland, California. Young Afro-American Oscar Grant crosses paths with family members, friends, enemies and strangers before facing his fate on the platform at Fruitvale Station, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009.


Selma (2014) d. Ava DuVernay

“Selma,” as in Alabama, the place where segregation in the South was at its worst, leading to a march that ended in violence, forcing a famous statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson that ultimately led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act.


If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) d. Barry Jenkins

After her fiancé is falsely imprisoned, a pregnant African-American woman sets out to clear his name and prove his innocence. Set in Harlem and adapted from James Baldwin’s novel.


Compiled by
Jerry W Carlson, PhD
Chair of MCA


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