70 Classic Black Films Everyone Should See At Least Once

♬ “Do you know where you’re going to?”♬ Here are 70 of the most iconic black films, through the year 2000.

Carmen Jones (1954)

Carmen Jones (1954)

Written by: Harry Kleiner, based off of the stage play written by Oscar Hammerstein II


Directed by: Otto Preminger


What it’s about: It’s a version of the opera Carmen, set in World War II.


Why you need to see it: It stars Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte (Diahann Carroll is also in this!) and it was a major studio film that featured an all-black cast. Also, it’s one of the most amazing musicals ever. Ever.


20th Century Fox

Imitation of Life (1959)

Imitation of Life (1959)

Written by: Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst, adapted in 1934 and 1959 by Eleanore Griffin and Allan Scott


Directed by: Douglas Sirk


What it’s about: A black domestic’s lighter-skinned daughter rejects her mother and passes for white.


Why you need to see it: It’ll make you cry — hard — and it will be the source of great conversations because everyone else in the world has seen this film many, many times. So should you.


Universal Pictures

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

Written by: Lorraine Hansberry


Directed by: Daniel Petrie


What it’s about: A struggling black family awaits news on an insurance check that may very well change the course of their lives.


Why you need to see it: It’s written by Hansberry, who was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. And it stars Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, two of Hollywood’s greatest and most celebrated actors.


Columbia Pictures

Shaft (1971)

Shaft (1971)

Written by: Ernest Tidyman and John D.F. Black


Directed by: Gordon Parks


What it’s about: One of the most well-known films to come out of the blaxploitation era, this tells the story of John Shaft, a black detective who takes on the Italian mob.


Why you need to see it: It’s one of the first black action movies and it made a star of Richard Roundtree. The film also features one of the best film scores ever, by Isaac Hayes.



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