HBO Max got in the news recently by temporarily removing the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind off its platform in order to provide a new introduction giving some historical context to the making of the film and its portrayal of the antebellum South. The decision was met with some uproar, saying that history was being erased, specifically the performance of Hattie McDaniel, who was the first Black woman to win an Oscar for her performance. Of course, the idea of erasing this movie from existence is ludicrous. It is one of the most beloved films of all time and McDaniel’s achievement (despite being relegated to a segregated table at the Oscars) will never be forgotten. However, instead of complaining about a movie that they probably haven’t seen because it’s old AND four hours long, let’s focus instead on other works by Black creators that are better than a film that glamorizes slavery. Here are 19 movies people can watch that focus on Black Lives that aren’t Gone With the Wind.
1. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee’s third feature film is also his best. A vivid portrayal of a day in the life of a Brooklyn neighborhood brimming with racial and societal tension. It speaks just as much to the Black Lives Matter movement now as it did to the whole world thirty years ago.
2. Sidewalk Stories (1989)
Charles Lane wrote, directed, and starred to this near silent update of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. A young hustler finds himself taking care of a young girl after her father is murdered. A sweet film that manages to balance heartfelt moments with bitter portrayals of homelessness and an ending that punches you right in the gut.
3. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut hit the world like a freight train and its influence shows no signs of stopping. A dynamic social thriller about cultural appropriation in the worst possible way, Peele created an instant classic that will be talked about for years to come.
4. Body and Soul (1925)
When people think “phony preacher,” they may think of 1957’s Night of the Hunter, but classic stage actor Paul Robeson beat Robert Mitchum to the punch about 30 years beforehand. The silent classic is an engaging tale about morality and virtue, that features more representation for Black creators than Gone With the Wind ever could.
5. Hoop Dreams (1994)
A three hour epic you can really sink your teeth into. The tale of two young athletes trying to make it in the sport of basketball despite their social backgrounds. A gripping examination of what it takes to make it in the sport. Not only one of the best sports documentaries of all time, but one of the best documentaries of all time.
6. The Watermelon Woman (1997)
Hattie McDaniel’s character in Gone With the Wind is so problematic due to her perpetuating a stereotype. Cheryl Dunne explores a fictional woman who made a living playing such a character in The Watermelon Woman. An interesting lost queer classic from an underrated director.
7. Black Dynamite (2009)
The Blaxploitation movement was a major genre during the 1970’s and gave a lot of Black creators a chance to cut their teeth. But never has the genre been so ruthlessly satirized than in 2009’s Black Dynamite. It ranks among the best parody films of all time and is endlessly quotable.
8. Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Boots Riley’s debut is among the most daring films of the 21st century. Led by the dynamic Lakeith Stanfield as a hapless telemarketer trying to make it, Sorry to Bother You is a stunning indictment of big business and the exploitation of the working class. It also features one of the most insane second act twists of all time. Hold onto your hats.
9. Blindspotting (2018)
Hamilton breakout Daveed Diggs leads this incredible story of gentrification and police brutality in modern day Oakland. Diggs is a recently released convict out on parole, trying to keep his head down, but his white best friend threatens to upend that. Inventive from start to finish while also exploring the depths of racial relationships.
10. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
The last of an unofficial Oakland trilogy with Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting, Last Black Man in San Francisco is a lackadaisical, but nonetheless powerful look at life in Oakland. It’s much more philosophical than its peers, but it is nonetheless a fascinating film.
11. Mudbound (2017)
A wonderfully realized period piece about two families, one black, one white in 1940’s Mississippi. Led by a tremendous cast, Mudbound is a beautifully authentic film about racial equality and family ties. Its cinematography is stunning and made history as the first Black woman to be nominated for an Oscar.
12. Selma (2014)
Ava Duvernay’s underseen biopic on Martin Luther King Jr. is essential viewing. A perfectly executed story that does not shy away from the flaws of its subject nor the brutality of the titular event. That bridge crossing sequence is one of the best moments set to film in a long time.
13. Fruitvale Station (2013)
Ryan Coogler’s debut is a heartbreaking biopic of Oscar Grant III, a victim of police brutality. This day in the life story of Grant’s final day is so engaging you almost forget that the story is headed towards tragedy. It also features a star making turn from Michael B. Jordan.
14. Hollywood Shuffle (1982)
A perfect comedy by writer/director/star Robert Townsend about representation of Black creators in the entertainment industry. Filled with incredible jokes that hit just as hard today as they did back then. Its almost as if things haven’t changed in the slightest since 1982.
15. 13th (2016)
Ava Duvernay’s eye-opening documentary on the prison system is a wakeup call like no other. Showing the criminal justice system’s deep-rooted prejudices since the passing of the 13th amendment, Duvernay brings about a call to action like no other. It really makes you think about if things will ever truly be equal.
16. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
A revolutionary film of the time, Melvin Van Peebles wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this radical story of impoverished Black men fighting against an oppressive White system. This was a surprise hit on its release, and proved that films from Black artists could be highly profitable.
17. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Rivers Of Grue
John Singleton made history as being both the first African American nominated for a Best Director Oscar, but also the youngest for his harrowing presentation of youths growing up in Southern LA. Filled with great performances from Ice Cube and Laurence Fishburne among others, this is one of the essential films of the early 90’s.
18. Moonlight (2016)
A history making Best Picture winner still holds up after all the hype behind it. Barry Jenkins’s triptych of a queer Black youth grappling with his identity is a marvel of a motion picture. It is pure poetry committed to the screen.
19. OJ: Made in America (2016)
One of the most notorious cases is reexamined in a completely new way. Ezra Edleman’s epic 7-hour documentary starts all the way at the beginning of Simpson’s career, but also manages to pull out and expose the tumultuous history of racial divides in our society. Documentaries like this come once in a lifetime, don’t miss this one.