11 Must-Watch Black History Movies and Documentaries on Netflix
Netflix's "Black Lives Matter" genre collection features over 50 titles about racial injustice and the experience of Black Americans—and make for some perfect viewing to celebrate Black History Month, Juneteenth, or to help further your antiracist education.
If you've finished reading the best books on race and want some direction on which movie titles to watch, we recommend starting with these Netflix documentaries, films, and TV series in the collection.
1. High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America
This documentary series explores the history of African American cuisine, from its roots in Africa to a modern-day Juneteenth feast—and its profound impact on what we eat.
Explore the life of the former first lady as she takes to the road to promote her autobiography in this moving documentary.
3. Two Distant Strangers
This Oscar-winning short film feels more timely than ever. It follows a Black man facing a horrific Groundhog Day scenario—where he's looping back through a deadly run-in with a cop on an innocent walk home.
4. Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee's movie tells a side of the Vietnam story that's rarely brought to light. The drama cleverly interweaves hard-hitting emotions with social commentary as it explores the mindset of Black soldiers who fought for their country at a time when African Americans were being oppressed at home.
Ava DuVernay holds nothing back in this eye-opening documentary—her brutally honest portrayal of the disproportionate placement of African Americans in prison speaks volumes on the institutionalized racism that looms over America.
6. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
This Netflix original documentary chronicles the life (and suspicious death) of iconic LGBTQ rights activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was a pioneer of the gay liberation movement and held a leading role in the 1969 Stonewall Riots.
7. When They See Us
Based on a true story, this story takes place in 1989 when a jogger was assaulted and raped in New York's Central Park. Five teens from Harlem are falsely accused of the crime, and although they declared their innocence, the quintet spends a quarter of a century fighting the convictions against them—starting from when the teens were first questioned about the incident in the spring of 1989, all the way to their ultimate exoneration in 2002 and settlement with New York City in 2014.
While the setting of this historical drama takes place in a rural Mississippi farm in post-World War II America, sadly it contains themes of race and class that are still very much prevalent in today's society. It centers around two World War II veterans—one white, one Black—who return to their farmland homes in the Mississippi Delta where stateside racism and white supremacists challenge their respective lifestyles.
9. Dear White People
While the movie is categorized as a comedy-drama, the film focuses on some very serious issues, primarily the escalating racial tensions at a predominantly white Ivy League college from the perspective of several Black students.
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10. Self Made
Based on a true story, this Netflix series revolves around the inspirational life of Madam C.J. Walker, an African American washerwoman who rose from poverty to build a beauty empire and become the first female self-made millionaire.
11. They've Gotta Have Us
The three-part documentary series explores the complicated conversation surrounding Black British creatives finding success in Hollywood. It features over three generations of in-depth interviews with a slew of Hollywood's most iconic voices, including Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, John Singleton, Robert Townsend, David Oyelowo, John Boyega, Kasi Lemmons, Barry Jenkins, and more.