Ten Movies to Consider During MLK, Jr. Week
Box office smashes, documentaries and other civil rights related films
If you’re lucky enough to have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off from work, spend some time taking in a few movies that reflect the civil rights leader’s accomplishments and the victories of other important historical figures.
More than a few of the current GOP presidential hopefuls suggest America needs to be restored to its former greatness. Keep in mind, they are referring to periods of American history which the following movies and documentaries depict.
The films are listed below in no particular order:
Red Tails (2012)
It’s the year’s largest budget action film with a predominantly African American cast, according producer and famed director George Lucas. Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard get top billing in Red Tails, which depicts a crew of black pilots in the Tuskegee training program. The movie opens this Friday. But if you can’t wait, your local library may carry the 1995 made-for-TV movie, “The Tuskegee Airmen,” which also casts Gooding.
Malcolm X (1992)
The iconic biopic of the influential Black Nationalist leader, starring actor Denzel Washington. Malcolm X provides contrast to Dr. King’s non-violent and inclusive civil rights message.
A determined African American swimming coach starts a team for troubled teens in 1970’s Philadelphia. The film stars Terrence Howard, Bernie Mack and Kimberly Elise.
The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords (1999)
A documentary taking stock of the African American press and how it covered the black experience in America, starting with encouraging the Great Migration. In the past it has aired on PBS stations during Black History Month and can be found in public and university library collections. To visit the film's website, click here.
Actor Will Smith stars in this biographical depiction of boxing legend and activist Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay). The movie costars Jamie Foxx and Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett.
American Violet (2008)
Based on a true story, this film depicts an African American mother struggling to clear her name of a wrongful drug conviction. Actress Alfre Woodard costars.
Get On The Bus (1996)
Director Spike Lee presents a fictional take on the journey of several Black men to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. Hill Harper, Bernie Mac and Isaiah Washington costar.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
A collection of footage, shot by Sweedish journalists, documenting the Black Power Movement in the United States. Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and Questlove make appearances in the documentary. This film is available to rent on Netflix.
Eyes on the Prize (1987)
A more comprehensive look at the American Civil Rights Movement from 1952 to 1965. This PBS documentary is usually available public and university library collections.
4 Little Girls (1997)
A Spike Lee documentary highlighting the bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement. Four young girls died in the bombing. The Oscar nominated film features interviews from family members of the deceased. The full film can be view below.
Want to suggest films that are not included in this list? Please do that in the comment section.