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