40 Years of Favorites: Blacks on the Silver Screen

I love movies. I don’t get to see them as much. Too expensive these days, even for just one person.

Originally, I was going to create a set of articles listing my favorite movies throughout the decades, but hearing about Tyler Perry’s final Madea film gave me a new idea. So I hit the reset button and decided to come up with a list of my favorite African-American movies.

For this list, I’m looking at films where either the main character or the ensemble cast are African-American. So…Lights, Camera, Action…

  1. Black Panther. Blade was the first Black stand-alone superhero movie to have a successful run. Black Panther surpassed it in more ways than one. While it had its share of mixed reviews, moviegoers couldn’t deny its cultural impact. It gave kids of color a superhero they could look up to.
  2. Training Day. Denzel Washington is one of the most versatile actors of our generation. His role as villain Alonzo Harris is one of his most defining roles. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor. Favorite line: “King Kong ain’t got @$@* on me!!” (His role as Malcolm X also earned him an award, but I never saw the film. I should rectify that immediately.)
  3. Remember the Titans. Another Denzel film. This one based on the true story of a Virginia high school’s integrated football team. While it didn’t garner Oscar buzz, Washington still delivered a solid performance. And the film touched on issues that have become universal in our world.
  4. Coming to America. Eddie Murphy at his finest. Playing multiple roles in one film started here, I believe. And then add Arsenio Hall, John Amos, and the great James Earl Jones. Coming to America is one of those films where you can catch it in the middle of its run and know exactly what’s going on. That’s how good it is.
  5. Boyz N The Hood. Growing up in the 90’s was hard for a lot of people in South Central Los Angeles. Very few captured that feeling like John Singleton. In the first of what would be dubbed “The South Central Trilogy,” Boyz N The Hood was, I think, the most powerful and poignant. It made stars out of Lawrence Fishburne and rapper Ice Cube. It didn’t shy away from the grittiness of harsh reality of race relations.
  6. Blade. Prior to the MCU. Prior to Spider-Man. There was Blade, Marvel’s first truly successful film. It spawned a trilogy and a TV series, even though it was short-lived. Plus, it didn’t shy away from the violence that permeated throughout the comics. And Wesley Snipes in the title role was a perfect choice. I can’t imagine anyone else in that role.
  7. Bad Boys. Think Lethal Weapon, Version 2.0. It’s got the comedy, action, and drama. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence make a great duo, complementing each other. I will say that I was disappointed in the sequel. But they are making Bad Boys 3. I’m hoping it will be better than the second.
  8. Lean On Me. Morgan Freeman is another favorite actor of mine. And his role as no-nonsense Principal Joe Clark is one of his best in my opinion. So much so that I wanted to act out a monologue in my Theatre class. I couldn’t choose one because they were so good. Powerful punches-to-the-gut.
  9. Madea Goes to Jail. The Madea films have always been an acquired taste. You either like them or you don’t. Still, most families have a “Madea” in their family tree. Choosing one was tough, but I’m going with Madea Goes to Jail. This might be a little higher on my list if I hadn’t saw the play first. Still, it hits the right notes. And the cameo appearance by Judge Greg Mathis is awesome.
  10. Friday. Granted, this film should be higher. The only reason it’s not is because I haven’t seen it from beginning to end. Still, like some of the other films on my list, it has left a lasting impression. The duo of Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. The storyline that takes place throughout an entire day. It’s a great film. And the trilogy is regarded as one of the best of the comedy genre.
  • There you have it. My favorite Black films. I’m sure there are others I missed. Feel free to let me know in the comments.
  • Until next time…
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