Most Important Race Message Movies

Inspired by Time's Top 25 Movies on Race

(a more complete version of my "Best race movies of all-time" list inspired by Times's top 25 movies on race)
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1.
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. (195 mins.)
Director: D.W. Griffith
 
2.
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Slavery tears apart a black family in the South before the start of the Civil War. (144 mins.)
 
3.
Hearts in Dixie (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Nappus, an elderly farmer, resents the fact that his daughter Chloe is married to a lazy layabout named Gummy...
Director: Paul Sloane
 
4.
Hallelujah (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
In a juke joint, sharecropper Zeke falls for a beautiful dancer, Chick, but she's only setting him up for a rigged craps game... (109 mins.)
Director: King Vidor
 
5.
Judge Priest (1934)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Judge Priest, a proud Confederate veteran, uses common sense and considerable humanity to dispense justice in a small town in the Post-Bellum Kentucky. (80 mins.)
Director: John Ford
 
6.
Imitation of Life (1934)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A struggling widow and her daughter take in a black housekeeper and her fair-skinned daughter; the two women start a successful business, but face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way. (111 mins.)
Director: John M. Stahl
 
7.
Zenobia (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
A modest country doctor in the antebellum South has to contend with his daughter's upcoming marriage and an affectionate medicine show elephant. (73 mins.)
Director: Gordon Douglas
 
8.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A manipulative woman and a roguish man conduct a turbulent romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods. (238 mins.)
Director: Victor Fleming
 
9.
Cabin in the Sky (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A compulsive gambler dies during a shooting, but he'll receive a second chance to reform himself and to make up with his worried wife. (98 mins.)
 
10.
Song of the South (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
The kindly story-teller Uncle Remus tells a young boy stories about trickster Br'er Rabbit, who outwits Br'er Fox and slow-witted Br'er Bear. (94 mins.)
 
11.
Intruder in the Dust (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In 1940s Mississippi two teenage boys and an elderly woman combine forces to prevent a miscarriage of justice and clear a black man of a murder charge. (87 mins.)
Director: Clarence Brown
 
12.
Pinky (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A light-skinned African American woman falls in love with a white doctor, though he is unaware of her true race. (102 mins.)
Director: Elia Kazan
 
13.
Home of the Brave (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
During WW2, a reconnaissance platoon is sent to map out a Japanese-held island but racial tensions arise between the white soldiers and the only black member of the group. (88 mins.)
Director: Mark Robson
 
14.
Lost Boundaries (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
This story is a true account of the lives of Scott and Marsha Carter. Having graduated from medical school... (99 mins.)
 
15.
No Way Out (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A black doctor is assigned to treat two racist White, robbery suspects who are brothers, and when one dies, it causes tension that could start a race riot. (106 mins.)
 
16.
The Member of the Wedding (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A young tomboy named Frankie is forced to face her own immaturity as a result her older brother's wedding. (93 mins.)
Director: Fred Zinnemann
 
17.
Carmen Jones (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Contemporary version of the Bizet opera, with new lyrics and an African-American cast. (105 mins.)
Director: Otto Preminger
 
18.
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A new English teacher at a violent, unruly inner-city school is determined to do his job, despite resistance from both students and faculty. (101 mins.)
Director: Richard Brooks
 
19.
Something of Value (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Even though Peter and Kimani grow up together, Kimani soon finds that different races are treated differently... (113 mins.)
Director: Richard Brooks
 
20.
Island in the Sun (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Set on a fictitious island in the Carribean during colonial British rule, it focuses on the life of... (119 mins.)
Director: Robert Rossen
 
21.
The Defiant Ones (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Two escaped convicts chained together, white and black, must learn to get along in order to elude capture. (96 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kramer
 
22.
Porgy and Bess (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
In this legendary Gershwin opera set among the black residents of a fishing village in 1912 South Carolina... (138 mins.)
Director: Otto Preminger
 
23.
Imitation of Life (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
An aspiring actress befriends a black widow, but trouble arises when the latter is rejected by her daughter, who tries to pass for white. (125 mins.)
Director: Douglas Sirk
 
24.
Pressure Point (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A black prison psychiatrist is assigned the distasteful task of helping a paranoid American Nazi charged with sedition. (91 mins.)
 
25.
My Baby Is Black! (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.0/10 X  
(75 mins.)
 
26.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice. (129 mins.)
Director: Robert Mulligan
 
27.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A traveling handyman becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert. (94 mins.)
Director: Ralph Nelson
 
28.
Free, White and 21 (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.3/10 X  
The central conflict in this film is whether African-American businessman Ernie Jones (played by O'Neal)... (104 mins.)
Director: Larry Buchanan
 
29.
Black Like Me (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Based on the true story of a white reporter who, at the height of the civil-rights movement, temporarily darkened his skin so that he could experience the realities of a black man's life in the segregated South. (105 mins.)
Director: Carl Lerner
 
30.
A Patch of Blue (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A blind, uneducated white girl is befriended by a black man, who becomes determined to help her escape her impoverished and abusive home life. (105 mins.)
Director: Guy Green
 
31.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An African American police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town. (109 mins.)
Director: Norman Jewison
 
32.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A couple's attitudes are challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African American fiancé. (108 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kramer
 
33.
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  
After saving a Black Panther from some racist cops, a black male prostitute goes on the run from "the man" with the help of the ghetto community and some disillusioned Hells Angels. (97 mins.)
 
34.
Cooley High (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
In 1964, a group of high school friends who live on the Near North Side of Chicago enjoy life to the fullest... (107 mins.)
Director: Michael Schultz
 
35.
The Color Purple (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A black Southern woman struggles to find her identity after suffering abuse from her father and others over four decades. (154 mins.)
 
36.
Mississippi Burning (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists. (128 mins.)
Director: Alan Parker
 
37.
Coming to America (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
An extremely pampered African prince travels to Queens, New York City, and goes undercover to find a wife whom he can respect for her intelligence and will. (116 mins.)
Director: John Landis
 
38.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
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. (120 mins.)
Director: Spike Lee
 
39.
Malcolm X (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
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. (202 mins.)
Director: Spike Lee
 
40.
The Bodyguard (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A former Secret Service agent takes on the job of bodyguard to a pop singer, whose lifestyle is most unlike a President's. (129 mins.)
Director: Mick Jackson
 
41.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption. (154 mins.)
 
42.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.3/10 X  
Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. (142 mins.)
Director: Frank Darabont
 
43.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
An ex-Marine turned teacher struggles to connect with her students in an inner city school. (99 mins.)
Director: John N. Smith
 
44.
A Time to Kill (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
In Canton, Mississippi, a fearless young lawyer and his assistant defend a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, inciting a revolt by local racist groups. (149 mins.)
Director: Joel Schumacher
 
45.
American History X (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did. (119 mins.)
Director: Tony Kaye
 
46.
Finding Forrester (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A young writing prodigy finds a mentor in a reclusive author. (136 mins.)
Director: Gus Van Sant
 
47.
Remember the Titans (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit. (113 mins.)
Director: Boaz Yakin
 
48.
Training Day (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
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. (122 mins.)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
 
49.
Monster's Ball (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
After a family tragedy, a racist prison guard reexamines his attitudes while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner he executed. (111 mins.)
Director: Marc Forster
 
50.
Freedom Writers (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. (123 mins.)