As of this year, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, where all Americans and the world can celebrate the end of slavery in the US on June 19, 1865.
As such, it is an important day to pay tribute to the Black experience in our country. Below, we recommend 10 great films worthy of viewing on Juneteenth 2021.
Writer-producer-director Ava DuVernay ("Selma") released her acclaimed Netflix documentary “13th” just a few months before the 2016 election. Through timely interviews with thoroughly informed interviewees, DuVernay explores the historical facts of America’s development after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865 – the amendment that abolished slavery in the United States.
Acclaimed filmmaker Kasi Lemmons directs the first commercial motion picture ever (!) focused on slave-turned-abolitionist/activist Harriet Tubman, starring Cynthia Erivo in an Academy Award-nominated turn for Best Actress. Released Nov. 1, 2019, the film co-stars Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr. and singer/actress phenom Janelle Monae.
Based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, “Hidden Figures” tells the story of real-life black female mathematicians Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). The trio made a historical impact at NASA during the Space Race and beyond.
4 Little Girls
Spike Lee’s devastating documentary, released in 1997, tells the tragic story of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, carried out by four Klu Klux Klan-affiliated murderers. The bombing claimed the lives of four African-American girls (all between the ages of 11 - 14): Addie May Collins, Denise McNair, Carol Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.
Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic about the legendary activist/leader Malcolm X was a long time in the making. It is based on Alex Haley and Malcolm X’s 1965 book “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Screenplays had been attempted for decades before Lee came to the project in the ‘80s. The final script here is from Lee himself, with additional contributions from Arnold Perl.
Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” which tells the story of a multi-racial Bedford-Stuyvesant community on the hottest day of the summer, was hailed on its release by many critics (the influential Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, hosts of “At the Movies,” among them), as the best film of 1989. It's a funny and dramatic story about race relations that's still a potent reminder for more needed progress on Juneteenth 2021.
Before they teamed up for the historic black superhero hit “Black Panther” and the acclaimed boxing sequel “Creed,” filmmaker Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan made a definitive, lasting cinematic impact with the 2013 real-life drama “Fruitvale Station.”
The movie is a recounting of the last day of Oscar Grant, a young man from the San Francisco Bay area whose life was tragically, unjustly cut short in the early hours of January 1, 2009, after a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer used excessive force and shot and killed him.
Writer-director Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished, semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” into the powerful, emotional motion picture experience, “Moonlight.” It's a great film for viewing not only for Juneteenth, but also for our ongoing celebration of Pride Month.
Winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Picture, it’s the story of a young African-American named Chiron, raised in a tough Miami neighborhood, at three different points in his life, as he struggles at home, in the community and with his peers to reconcile his true sexual identity with the toxic masculine culture and attitudes that surround him.
After years of making audiences squeal with laughter as one-half of the comedy duo “Key & Peele,” genre provocateur Jordan Peele assumes the mantle of horror auteur as the writer-director of “Get Out,” his terrifying satire which keeps audiences squealing in a whole different manner.
The Great Debaters
Actor/filmmaker Denzel Washington’s second directorial feature, released on Christmas Day 2007, is based on an article about the 1930s Wiley College debate team. The African American group, based in Marshall, Texas, defeated the reigning white college debate teams of the era, despite not being able to be truly recognized as full members of the debate society until after World War II. Ultimately, this is a real-life, inspirational tale that's perfect for Juneteenth viewing.
About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.