From Ava DuVernay, “13th” is a documentary depicting the history of racial inequality in America with a focus on prisons and the ways in which the 13th Amendment has contributed to the disproportionate incarceration of Black people in America.
“American Son” (Netflix)
A Broadway play-turned-Netflix feature written by Christopher Demos-Brown, “American Son” takes a look at racial injustice within the police system and the very real ways it affects one interracial family. Directed by Kenny Leon and starring Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale.
“When They See Us” (Netflix)
Created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay, “When They See Us” centers on the false accusations of five Black and Latino males, known as the “Central Park Five,” and the fraudulent charges and prison time they faced in relation to the rape and assault of a woman in late 1980s New York.
A return to form for the legendary auteur Spike Lee. Starring John David Washington and Adam Driver, the film follows the true story of an African American police officer (Washington) who infiltrated the KKK with the help of his Jewish colleague (Driver). A mix of comedy, drama, and social justice imagery, the 2018 film won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
“Blindspotting” (HBO Max)
The brainchild of Broadway’s “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs and long-time friend, poet, and actor Rafael Casal, this powerful film examines the complex relationship between best friends from the same neighborhood, one Black and one white. The narrative focuses on ideas of privilege, whiteness, incarceration, and racial profiling, and features an incredible spoken-word monologue from Diggs.
Kathryn Bigelow’s 2017 feature “Detroit” turns back the clock on the 1967 Detroit riots, one of the largest riots in United States history. The powerful story features heartwrenching performances from John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, and more. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, the events from more than 50 years prior remain resonant.
“Fruitvale Station” (Rent or Buy on Amazon)
Ryan Coogler writes and directs this biographical drama that follows Oscar Grant III, a Black man, on the last day of his life before he is killed by public transportation security in the Bay Area. The critically acclaimed film features a career-making performance from Michael B. Jordan.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” (Hulu)
A gorgeous look at the romance between a young Black couple that is tested when the man is wrongfully arrested. Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) adapts James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” for the big screen. The film features stunning performances from KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, and Teyonah Parris.
“Loving” (Rent or Buy on Amazon)
Based on the true story of the Virginia arrest of an interracial married couple in the United States that lead to Supreme Court’s historic decision in 1967. It’s a heartbreaking but beautiful look at the prejudice they suffered and overcame powered by stellar performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, who received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Mildred Loving.
Directed by Dee Rees, this 2017 Netflix entry centering on two men—one Black and one white—from the same small town in Mississippi returning from World War II, and the stark differences in what coming home after years overseas means. It stars Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Jonathan Banks, and Garrett Hedlund.
“Queen & Slim”
As much an of-the-moment Black Lives Matter feature as you’re likely to get, this gorgeous and devastating feature from screenwriter Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith as a Bonnie and Clyde on the run after they shoot a racist, brutalizing cop in self-defense.
“Seven Seconds” (Netflix)
A Netflix original series starring Oscar and Emmy Award winner Regina King, “Seven Seconds” follows the story of a white police officer who kills a Black child in a hit-and-run accident and the racial tensions that follow.
“Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement” (YouTube)
“Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement” is a documentary that premiered on BET in 2016. Led by Jesse Williams, the piece explores how the Black Lives Matter movement came to be.
“The Hate U Give” (Hulu)
This 2018 feature directed by George Tillman Jr. stars Amandla Stenberg as a young woman who witnesses the fatal shooting of her best friend at the hands of a police officer and follows the action she takes thereafter.