10 Must-Watch Black History Movies and Documentaries on Netflix
The streaming giant just added the section as its own genre.
With the #BLM movement sweeping the country, people are *finally* starting to educate themselves on the discrimination and racism that exists against black lives. In an effort to raise awareness, Netflix is promoting a new “Black Lives Matter” collection to U.S. subscribers, featuring over 45 titles about racial injustice and the experience of black Americans. The streaming service added the new genre tab on Wednesday, responding to viewers’ interest in titles related to systemic racism.
“When we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we also mean ‘Black storytelling matters,’” read a Netflix tweet Wednesday morning. “With an understanding that our commitment to true, systemic change will take time—we’re starting by highlighting powerful and complex narratives about the black experience.”
In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the full lineup. 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. Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee’s most recent (and very timely) release 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.
3. LA 92
If you want to see a telling repeat of historical protest, watch LA 92. The documentary showcases the aftermath following the verdict in the Rodney King trial in 1992, when the acquittal of four police officers for beating a black motorist saw several days of protests, violence, and civil unrest in Los Angeles.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film is rightfully acclaimed: it tells the story of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami, and his tumultuous journey into manhood as he struggles with his sexuality and alienation. The film is divided into three chapters—“Little,” “Chiron,” and “Black”—the three names used to refer to the evolving protagonist.
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.
8. 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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9. 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.
10. 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.