Film has the unique power to change hearts and minds, through placing the viewer in situations that challenge assumptions and biases. When making this list, I thought of films that had a profound effect on me. Humanistic stories that strip away our armor and shine a spotlight on our similarities rather than our differences allow the viewer to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes - if only for a couple hours. Sometimes that’s enough to make a difference.
Writer/director John Singleton’s first film gives viewers a chance to experience what it’s like to be a young man in South Central LA circa 1990. The authentic depiction humanized what headlines could not: Black kids have hopes and dreams that are oftentimes dashed by senseless violence. It shines a spotlight on the power of a strong parental voice to help steer them in the right direction.
Directed by Stanley Kramer, this interracial drama pits the charming Sidney Poitier against a formidable Spencer Tracy in his final role. Way before its time, it’s a smart, moving exploration of race where two families must confront their own prejudice.
Stanley Kramer directed this beautifully shot black-and-white film about two escaped prisoners played by Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis who are shackled together and forced to work cooperatively in order to survive, an apt metaphor for today.
Sanaa Hamri’s directorial debut explores an interracial relationship where Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker’s characters find ways to navigate traditional black family expectations as they fall in love.
Written and directed by Justin Simien, Dear White People explores Black students navigating a mostly white campus. Striking for its diversity amongst Black characters, Justin’s pithy dialogue smartly captures what it feels like being a black face in a white space.
Another genius masterpiece from the great filmmaker Spike Lee. An iconic film, Do The Right Thing tackles issues of race, identity, community, relationships, police brutality, and tragedy. Perhaps one of Lee’s very best, this film encompasses the Black experience in more ways than one -- from trying to find unity with each other, to uniting to stand up and fight against brutality and racial prejudice.