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15 Culturally Relevant Movies To Watch During Black History Month

And bonus points: They have nothing to do with racism.

Culture & Entertainment

I think it's pretty fair to say that we are living in times, likely for the first time in history, where the culture is controlling the narrative of how TF we expect to be represented...that is, if you don't want smoke, of course. After all, we drive pop culture, we make everything relevant, and basically the world would be lost if we ever decided to put up gatekeepers around our blackness (let's work on this btw). Music, television, and most of all, movies, are creative expression for us. And fortunately somewhere along the lines, they're even intersecting (see: Beyonce).

But here's the thing: for so long, our creative expression wasn't FUBU. It was all a facade, all based on Hollywood derivatives where, although these were very important stories to be told, like...we've told that story. We've been there, done that.

Oooo. A slave. A maid. A gangbanger. Shocker.

But listen, we. want. more. We want the fairy tales. We want to know what kind of family man Fred Hampton was. We want our kids to see themselves in superheroes, or to see that there is an absolute sheer brilliance in understanding how to professionally play a sport. We want to be the victor in a scenario that we control, and damnit, we are tired of seeing the black dude be the one who dies first! So, let's skip our historic trauma for this one. Here's 15 culturally relevant movies to watch during Black History Month (that have nothing to do with racism):

Disclaimer: unfortunately, the honest truth is that Black history is rooted in racism, no matter how much we don't want it to be. So, although these movies may have moments in them where racial themes are touched upon, these movies are not about race.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is the refreshing movie about a black Christmas, and a black family. It's a Christmas journey, complete with singing, dancing, positive themes, and even Afrobeats. It offers such fantasy in the most amazing way. I was so overwhelmed by what this movie meant for the culture, that by the end, the emotions were flowing. Excited to see this one on Broadway in the future.

Where to watch: Netflix

Cooley High

Cooley High is a staple. It's about being young in Chicago in the 70's, and the adversity they face. You find yourself super attached to the characters, hoping they don't fall victim to our challenges.

As the queen Lauryn Hill once beautifully said, "Cause we fortified, I could never hide, seen Cooley High,
Cried when Cochise..." #teamnospoilers

If you haven't seen this one yet, go, go, go.

Where to watch: YouTube

Why Do Fools Fall In Love

Why Do Fools Fall In Love is one of the first movies that tells the complicated life story of young legend, Frankie Lymon. Played to the MAX by the amazing Larenz Tate, it's set in the 1950's, a time when the ongoing race war was at its usual level of intensity. But this movie is nothing about racism. With a brilliant cast that consists of Lela Rachon, Vivica A. Fox, and Halle Berry, this dramedy is worth every minute.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Sylvie's Love

Sylvie's Love tells the story of love and soulmates in an era where Hollywood tends to focus on the usual. It's one of the first of its kind introduced to this generation. It's our version of The Notebook, our period piece on love. And the acting is beautifully done by Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Aja Naomi King.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls tells the story of Deena (Beyonce), Effie (Jennifer Hudson) and Lorell (Anika Noni Rose), who were recruited by Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) to be background singers for a famous entertainer (Eddie Murphy). As the group becomes popular, one star is pushed to the front, forcing another one out. The cast is brilliant, the acting is brilliant. The story is (allegedly) about a very popular group in Motown, *cough* The Supremes *cough* and their record label exec *cough* Berry Gordy *cough*, but whether based on a true story or not, the history of this movie, play, and more, was brought to life on the big screen as a must-see.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

DOPE

Dope is about a good kid (Shameik Moore) with aspirations of Harvard, that gets caught up in an eventful day, as it showcases how easily one little decision can make you a criminal, despite your extremely high expectations for yourself. The music is dope (pun intended), the wardrobe and acting are bomb. Just an all-around good movie. Give it a watch.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

House Party

Not much more can be said about this cult classic, we already know that it's a cultural must-see. But House Party, originally released in 1990, still rings true to this day *hits Kid 'n Play dance*

Throw this one on. For the culture.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

She's Gotta Have It (1986)

Nola Darling! She's Gotta Have It is a black-and-white comedy-drama film written, produced, edited and directed by Spike Lee. It's the original that the recent Netflix reboot is based on. The lead, Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns) can't decide what kind of man (or woman) she wants to date, so she decides to date three at the same time. She's sexually liberated, she knows herself...or does she?

Where to watch: Netflix

Crooklyn

And speaking of Spike Lee, another classic is none other than Crooklyn! An amazing movie that doesn't have a major storyline, or a lot of car-flipping action. It's just a Brooklyn family in the '70's, making it the best way they know how. There's so many gems throughout, and the soundtrack is what you need in your life.

Where to watch: Hulu

Cinderella (1997)

Brandy Norwood and Whitney Houston as the first black Disney characters.

That's it. That's the sentence.

Where to watch: Coming the Disney+ (finally) on February 12!

Dolemite Is My Name

OK, hear me out: Rudy Ray Moore is responsible for every single one of your favorite comedians' careers. He is a pioneer in this, which is why his 2019 biopic starring Eddie Murphy is so important to the culture. Dolemite is a reboot (somewhat) but it tells the journey of the brash, vulgar stand-up humorist--from his humble start, all the way to directing, producing, and promoting his own movies. This one got some buzz in Hollywood's award circuit, even earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

Where to watch: Netflix

20 Feet from Stardom

So this movie may be unexpected, but here's why it's here: so many women in the industry, have a story to tell. This one specifically hands the mic to black women to detail their journeys of singing behind some of the biggest names in music. A few of the ladies profiled in 20 Feet from Stardom eventually emerged as artists, but their process was anything but easy. Triumph is a major theme for this Oscar-winning docu-movie. Oh, and a few of the stories will push your wig back.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Coming To America

I don't think I need to explain the cultural relevance of this one. I'll just go watch instead.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods is a movie, m'kay!? It's about five Vietnam War vets who come back together in Vietnam for the first time since, to take care of the unfinished business of seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. It stars Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and of course, Chadwick Boseman. It's refreshing, it's quirky--it's every emotion--but ultimately, it's a story never told before. And that's why it's relevant.

Where to watch: Netflix

And of course...Black Panther

And speaking of Chadwick, the ultimate culturally relevant movie is definitely this one. The impact of Black Panther is immeasurable, and the visuals matches the impacts fly. It's identifying with T'Challa AND Killmonger, and, to be frank, white people not really understanding why. Forever thankful for Ryan Coogler's vision.

Where to watch: Disney+

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