Black cinema has a long and worthwhile history, which is why it’s nice to see such a variety of black movies from different eras and genres as easily available as they are on the Tubi service.
Here’s a rundown of the best Black movies on Tubi right now.
A Century of Black Cinema (2003)
While it may not sound like the most fun thing to do, it’s always important to do your homework on any subject, and for a primer on a history on Black movies, A Century of Black Cinema is a good place to start. The film highlights key moments and figures from Black cinema history, including its social and political relevance through the years.
Afro Samurai: Resurrection (2009)
The world of anime got a whole new type of hero when Afro Samurai was introduced, a powerful warrior that was voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. Afro Samurai: Resurrection was a TV movie based off the popular series that saw Afro Samurai pick up his sword once again after a deadly foe desecrates his father’s grave.
Joining Jackson in the voice cast was Lucy Liu, Mark Hamill, RZA, Ariel Winter, Grey Griffin and more.
Afro Samurai: Resurrection earned two Emmy nominations, one for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More) and winning for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation.
Tony Todd’s Candyman entered the horror pantheon when it was released back in 1992, and before the film's spiritual sequel comes out later this year, watch the original for free (with ads) on Tubi.
In addition to Todd, Candyman starred Virginia Madsen as a graduate student who is researching the myth surrounding the titular monster and accidentally brings him to reality. Xander Berkeley and Kasi Lemmons co-starred.
Eddie Murphy introduced a whole new range of people to Rudy Ray Moore and his most famous character, Dolemite, in the Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name, but what could be better than watching the original for yourself?
Dolemite is a classic film from the Blaxploitation era, a movie that the New York Times called “The Citizen Kane of kung fu pimpin movies.” Moore stars as Dolemite, a pimp who after being released from prison goes after the criminals and corrupt police officers that framed him.
Good Hair (2009)
Chris Rock sheds a light on the history and culture surrounding Black hair in the 2009 documentary, Good Hair. Some of the things that the doc touches upon is the overall perception of Black hair, the chemicals and methods people use to style their hair and more. It certainly fits right in with more recent films that touched upon the same subject, Bad Hair and the Oscar-winning short Hair Love.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
James Baldwin is one of the great American writers of the 20th century, and I Am Not Your Negro gives viewers plenty examples as to why that is and just how powerful his voice was during the Civil Rights era.
I Am Not Your Negro features archived footage and a narration of Samuel L. Jackson to help tell the story of race in America, as well as featuring excerpts from Baldwin’s unfinished novel, Remember This House.
The Long Walk Home (1990)
There have been numerous movies that depict crucial instances of the Civil Rights moments, including The Long Walk Home, which deals with the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., that was organized with the help of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Whoopi Goldberg stars as a housekeeper for Sissy Spacek’s housewife. As the bus boycott stirs up passions in Montgomery, the two women must decide how they will react to the vitriol and the effort for progress.
The Loving Story (2011)
Richard and Mildred Loving only wanted to enjoy their lives as husband and wife and raise a family. But because they were a biracial couple when that was illegal in Virginia, they took their case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Their story was fictionalized by Jeff Nichols, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in 2016, but as a documentary The Loving Story shares points of the story from many of the people who lived it.
Night Catches Us (2010)
Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington have become household names thanks to their roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (most recently Falcon and the Winter Soldier) for the former and Scandal for the latter. But as they were still building toward their future successes, the pair starred together in the indie drama Night Catches Us.
Tanya Hamilton, who has directed episodes of hit TV series like Black Lightning, The Chi, Snowfall and Godfather of Harlem, helmed Night Catches Us, which sees a former Black Panther (Mackie) return to 1976 Philadelphia and confront lingering issues among his former friends and the city at large.
Red Hook Summer (2012)
Spike Lee is one of the most influential Black filmmakers in the history of cinema, showcasing his voice and filmmaking talents in films like Da 5 Bloods, BlackKklansman and his masterful Do the Right Thing. Red Hook Summer is one of his lesser known films, but it’s always a treat to watch a new Spike Lee joint.
Red Hook Summer tells the story of a middle-class boy from Atlanta who spends the summer with his religious grandfather in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Shaft is the baddest man around, with a killer theme song to boot (credit to Isaac Hayes, whose “Theme from Shaft” won Oscars’ Best Original Song in 1972). Shaft is one of the most iconic characters and films overall that came from the height of the Blaxploitation genre.
The original Shaft followed the private detective as he attempted to find the kidnapped daughter of a dangerous crime lord. Richard Roundtree brought Shaft to life, with him being supported by Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John and Gwenn Mitchell. Gordon Parks directed.
Hollywood would try to bring Shaft mainstream with Samuel L. Jackson and more recently Jessie T. Usher, but you can’t top the original.
Sounder is based on the novel by William H. Armstrong that tells the story of a family of Black sharecroppers living in the Depression-era South. The eldest son must come of age after his father is thrown in jail on the charge of stealing food and the family dog, Sounder, runs away.
Sounder starred Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield as the parents, both of whom would receive Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively. Kevin Hooks starred as the son.
Sounder was a landmark film for both the story it told and the reception that it had among audiences, as it was one of the top grossing movies of 1972.
We Could Be King (2014)
When massive budget shortages forced the city of Philadelphia to close some of its high schools, Germantown High School and Martin Luther King High School, rivals for more than 40 years, were forced to merge.
We Could Be King is a documentary about the Martin Luther King High School football team and the 27-year-old new head coach that must deal with the tensions among his own team before he can try and build them into a winning program.
Sports typically make for some good theater, and that is definitely the case with We Could Be King.
Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.
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