The 25 Best African-American Films

by z_ingle | created - 24 Jun 2011 | updated - 4 weeks ago | Public

I am defining "African-American films" as films directed by African Americans. This leaves out black-cast musicals ("Carmen Jones," "Cabin in the Sky") and Craig Brewer.

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1. Do the Right Thing (1989)

R | 120 min | Comedy, Drama

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
91 Metascore

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson

Votes: 66,559 | Gross: $27.55M

2. Malcolm X (1992)

PG-13 | 202 min | Biography, Drama, History

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
72 Metascore

Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee

Votes: 69,759 | Gross: $48.17M

3. Boyz n the Hood (1991)

R | 112 min | Crime, Drama

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
76 Metascore

Follows the lives of three young males living in the Crenshaw ghetto of Los Angeles, dissecting questions of race, relationships, violence and future prospects.

Director: John Singleton | Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Hudhail Al-Amir, Lloyd Avery II

Votes: 103,456 | Gross: $57.50M

4. Moonlight (I) (2016)

R | 111 min | Drama

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
99 Metascore

A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young, African-American, gay man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

Director: Barry Jenkins | Stars: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan Sanderson, Alex R. Hibbert

Votes: 171,149 | Gross: $27.85M

5. O.J.: Made in America (2016)

TV-MA | 467 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

9.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9/10 X  

A chronicle of the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson, whose high-profile murder trial exposed the extent of American racial tensions, revealing a fractured and divided nation.

Director: Ezra Edelman | Stars: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mike Albanese, Muhammad Ali, Marcus Allen

Votes: 12,425

6. Chi-Raq (2015)

R | 127 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

5.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
77 Metascore

A modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett

Votes: 7,107 | Gross: $2.65M

7. Get Out (I) (2017)

R | 104 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
84 Metascore

It's time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.

Director: Jordan Peele | Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener

Votes: 208,732 | Gross: $175.48M

8. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

PG-13 | 93 min | Documentary

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
95 Metascore

Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House.

Director: Raoul Peck | Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando

Votes: 9,305 | Gross: $7.12M

From a Haitian filmmaker, but I'll go ahead and count it here.

9. The Birth of a Nation (2016)

R | 120 min | Biography, Drama, History

6.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
69 Metascore

Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising.

Director: Nate Parker | Stars: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley

Votes: 15,678 | Gross: $15.86M

10. Shaft (1971)

R | 100 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

6.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter.

Director: Gordon Parks | Stars: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John

Votes: 13,216

11. Body and Soul (1925)

Not Rated | 102 min | Drama

6.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A minister is malevolent and sinister behind his righteous facade. He consorts with, and later extorts from, the owner of a gambling house, and betrays an honest girl, eventually driving ... See full summary »

Director: Oscar Micheaux | Stars: Paul Robeson, Marshall Rogers, Lawrence Chenault, Chester A. Alexander

Votes: 528

12. Clockers (1995)

R | 128 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

6.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
71 Metascore

Young drug pushers in the projects of Brooklyn live hard dangerous lives, trapped between their drug bosses and the detectives out to stop them.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Delroy Lindo, Mekhi Phifer

Votes: 17,798 | Gross: $13.04M

13. Within Our Gates (1920)

Not Rated | 79 min | Drama, Romance

6.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths.

Director: Oscar Micheaux | Stars: Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin, Jack Chenault

Votes: 1,617

14. She's Gotta Have It (1986)

R | 84 min | Comedy, Romance

6.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
79 Metascore

Story of a woman and her three lovers.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee

Votes: 5,621 | Gross: $7.14M

15. Killer of Sheep (1978)

80 min | Drama

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
94 Metascore

Set in the Watts area of Los Angeles, a slaughterhouse worker must suspend his emotions to continue working at a job he finds repugnant, and then he finds he has little sensitivity for the family he works so hard to support.

Director: Charles Burnett | Stars: Henry G. Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy, Angela Burnett

Votes: 4,928 | Gross: $0.40M

16. Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

R | 78 min | Comedy

7.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  
74 Metascore

An actor limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity, dreams of making it big as a highly respected performer. As he makes his rounds, the film takes a satiric look at African American actors in Hollywood.

Director: Robert Townsend | Stars: Robert Townsend, Craigus R. Johnson, Helen Martin, Starletta DuPois

Votes: 3,057 | Gross: $5.23M

17. One False Move (1992)

R | 105 min | Crime, Drama

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
87 Metascore

A small town police chief awaits the arrival of a gang of killers.

Director: Carl Franklin | Stars: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Cynda Williams, Michael Beach

Votes: 8,167 | Gross: $1.54M

18. Daughters of the Dust (1991)

TV-PG | 112 min | Drama, History, Romance

6.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
81 Metascore

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 ... See full summary »

Director: Julie Dash | Stars: Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao, Trula Hoosier

Votes: 1,175 | Gross: $1.64M

19. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006– )

TV-MA | 255 min | Documentary

8.6
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An examination of the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Stars: Darleen Asevedo, Jay Asevedo, Shelton Shakespear Alexander, Lee Arnold

Votes: 3,783

20. Training Day (2001)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

7.7
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69 Metascore

On his first day on the job as a Los Angeles narcotics officer, a rookie cop goes beyond a full work day in training within the narcotics division of the LAPD with a rogue detective who isn't what he appears to be.

Director: Antoine Fuqua | Stars: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger

Votes: 331,875 | Gross: $76.63M

21. School Daze (1988)

R | 121 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

5.8
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49 Metascore

A not so popular young man wants to pledge to a popular fraternity at his historically black college.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Kyme

Votes: 5,094 | Gross: $14.55M

22. Get on the Bus (1996)

R | 120 min | Drama, History

6.8
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A disparate group of African-American men travel by bus to Washington, DC for the Million Man March.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Ossie Davis, Charles S. Dutton, Andre Braugher, Richard Belzer

Votes: 4,340 | Gross: $5.73M

23. Precious (II) (2009)

R | 110 min | Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
79 Metascore

In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.

Director: Lee Daniels | Stars: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey

Votes: 94,309 | Gross: $47.40M

24. Menace II Society (1993)

R | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
76 Metascore

A young street hustler attempts to escape the rigors and temptations of the ghetto in a quest for a better life.

Directors: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes | Stars: Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, June Kyoto Lu, Toshi Toda

Votes: 43,230 | Gross: $27.90M

25. 25th Hour (2002)

R | 135 min | Drama

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
67 Metascore

Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson

Votes: 157,017 | Gross: $13.06M