In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 8 – Hidden Figures (1961)
Based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, “Hidden Figures” tells the story of the real-life black female mathematicians Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), who made a historical impact at NASA during the Space Race, and beyond.
While the 20th Century Fox project, directed/co-produced/co-written by Theodore Melfi, received a limited release on December 25, 2016, it went on to massive success upon its wide release on January 6, 2017, earning $236 million worldwide on its $25 million budget, and becoming the most profitable film nominated that year for the Best Picture Academy Award. Watch the Trailer
Shedding light on a special group that had yet to receive their proper due even by the time of the film’s release, “Hidden Figures” tells the story of three black women who work as “human computers” at NASA during the space race in the 1960s. Facing down racism and sexism with their superior intellects and ambitions, all three of them prevail against the attitudes and injustices of the day.
Henson plays lead mathematician Katherine, whose high-level ability with geometric calculations lands her a promotion to a new unit that’s working to calculate the orbit of an upcoming space mission with astronaut John Glenn. Meanwhile, supervisor Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer) is calculating her own path to advancement by learning the ways of computer programming and helping her fellow mathematicians to do the same. At the same time, Mary Jackson (Monae) fights to make her dream of becoming an engineer a reality, taking on the politics of her era by petitioning to attend a segregated school.
Throughout the storytelling, matters of history are given a credible Hollywood sheen that doesn’t skimp on moments of needed levity (made even better by the actresses’ amazing performances), and some condensing of the truth in the way of composite characters and generalized moments (all, though, back up the real life instances). The film’s a poignant and entertaining tale that rightfully celebrates some truly incredible, special women.
Rated 93% by both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, given a rare “A+” rating by audiences polled by CinemaScore, and earning back its budget nearly ten-fold, “Hidden Figures” was a huge motion picture success, and holds up just as powerfully on repeat viewings.
Besides its Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, the film won NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Motion Picture, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for Taraji P. Henson and Outstanding Song for “I See Victory” by Kim Burrell and Pharrell Williams.
Where to Watch
Drama / 2016 / PG
Three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.