Racial representation in the movie industry – both in front of and behind the camera – has long been an issue. The share of Black filmmakers shooting major studio films has increased dramatically in recent years, according to a study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The share of black directors nominated for prestigious awards has also increased.
Still, Black American filmmakers have made hundreds of critically acclaimed and culturally impactful films dating back to the early 20th century, when Oscar Micheaux became the first African American to make a film with “The Homesteader” (1919).
To compile a list of the best movies by Black filmmakers, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Scores are as of January 2022.
The movies on the list vary significantly, ranging from older and underseen independent fare, such as “Killer of Sheep,” to modern blockbusters that drew fans worldwide such as “Black Panther,” and Oscar-winning films based on true events, such as “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Each film offers a convincing argument for Hollywood to offer more support for Black filmmakers. Some of the films listed here also rank among the best ever made – these are the 55 best movies of all time.
Click here for the best movies by Black filmmakers
To determine the best movies by Black Americans, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of January 2022. All ratings were weighted equally. Only movies directed by Black American directors were considered. Documentary films were excluded from consideration.