15 Movies That Celebrate and Center Black Characters, Experiences and Creators

Photo Courtesy: New Line Cinema/IMDb

In the midst of winter each year, February is a beacon of celebration — celebrations of love, of course, but also the recognition and celebration of an essential and important element of American history: Black history. Representation matters, and celebrating Black History Month each February is a valuable time to open the doors to conversations and learning opportunities about Black folks' achievements, the rich depth of Black culture and the ways in which those accomplishments remain indelibly woven into the fabric of the American story.

While it's critical not to relegate discussions about Black history to February alone, the monthlong holiday is a significant opportunity to recalibrate and refocus on the cultural and creative contributions Black folks have made throughout American history and to spark discussions about inclusion, diversity and our shared role in pursuing racial justice. It's also a time to enjoy artistic works by Black creators — works that illuminate collective pain but also those that highlight the beauty of what it means to be Black.

Reading works on anti-racist book lists and watching When They See Us are important tools in learning more about Black folks' experiences. But it's also essential to celebrate and shine a spotlight on Black narratives — and not just when they’re about trauma. In a video for BBC Ideas, author Irenosen Okojie reiterates that it's critical to celebrate Black film, art and literature because these works shape our perception of Black communities and people.

"What’s happened for a lot of the time and for a long time is Black trauma has been something that’s been at the forefront," Okojie said. "What that does in the long term, I think, is that it creates a warped sense of what Black culture is, so we don’t see enough of Black achievement and Black celebration." As Black History Month approaches, it's time of particular importance to make space for Black joy and for the full richness of Black experiences — and you can get started on that with these incredible movies.