8 films that highlight Black excellence


Carolyn Cheng

These eight films highlight Black excellence.

Richard Carpenter, Staff Writer

Polly (1989): Polly, set in 1950s Alabama, tells the story of Polly Whittier (Keshia Knight Pulliam). After the passing of her parents, Polly steps into a much different world than she left in Detroit. Viewers are shown a glimpse into segregation and black community politics through the eyes of an outspoken child, whose small acts of kindness ripple through the small town like a pebble to water. This film will have you dancing, smiling and crying tears of joy all at once, making you wish it was longer than just 95 minutes. Grab some feel-good snacks and a warm blanket to cozy up to this heartwarming story. Polly is available to stream on Amazon Prime or YouTube.

Waiting to Exhale (1995): Waiting to Exhale highlights the strength and grace that black women represent. Starring Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett, Waiting to Exhale shows viewers how four beautifully strong black women navigate their unique personal relationships, all while attempting to maintain their collective friendship around unforeseen paths and learn their own truths along the way. Grab a warm blanket and tissues, and FaceTime your three closest friends to settle into this powerful film. Waiting to Exhale is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Antebellum (2020): Antebellum defies the typical film genres. Starring Janelle Monáe, Antebellum follows the story of Veronica Henley, a modern woman who lives in a reality identical to our own. Veronica is taken from a world where she is an influential Black female writer, and is thrown into a world that couldn’t be any further from the one she’s accustomed to. Watching this film will leave you in shock, as you haven’t seen nor could you predict the twisted turns depicted in Antebellum. Settle into your seat and strap in. Secure your head against the seat back and prepare for a powerfully woke ride. Antebellum is now available on Amazon Prime.

Bamboozled (2001): Bamboozled follows the story of Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) as he navigates through dealing with his boss Thomas Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport) and working in the entertainment industry as a black man. Written and directed by legend Spike Lee, this satirical comedy plays on the thin and sometimes fragile lines that attach us to one of the mediums we love so dearly: daytime television. Bamboozled digs into the question of how far is too far, and what one might give for fame. Find a comfortable seat and don’t hesitate to pause this film to digest its content. Bamboozled is available to stream on Amazon Prime. 

Harlem Nights (1989): Starring Eddie Murphy as Quick and Richard Pryor as Sugar Ray, Harlem Nights follows the story of Vernest “Quick” Brown and his life as a mobster. Written, directed and produced by Eddie Murphy, this film brings a whole new face to mobster films with three generations of comedy that brings an even richer meaning to its story, without sacrificing any of its quality when compared to other films within its genre. Each character holds their own while also representing separate personality traits that blend together seamlessly. Make sure to get a good stretch in before you settle into this timeless gut-buster, which is now available to stream on Pluto TV.

Phat Girlz (2006): A perfect representation of the early 2000s, Phat Girlz tells the story of best friends Jazmin and Stacey, two plus-sized women struggling to fit into a society where thin is in. This film is both hilarious and well ahead of its time in the realm of body image. The main female character is a confident and beautiful black woman who has the foresight to know inclusion is the future of fashion, but is met with resistance that she handles in her own unique way. Grab your comfy pants and your go-to snacks and feel confident in every bite you take as Phat Girlz reminds us that there isn’t one way to be beautiful. This film is available to stream on Amazon Prime. 

Soul Food (1997): Soul Food tells the story of a small Chicago family through 11-year-old Ahmad’s point-of-view. This classic film gives a view into the black experience that allows for us to hold a mirror up to our own family dynamic. The family in this story shows us just how fragile the families we sometimes take for granted can be, but also how strong a family really is when it comes together. Cuddle up on the couch for this wonderful look into an intimate family dynamic, which is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. 

The Hate U Give (2018): The Hate U Give is a very real, moving film. Based on the novel by author Angie Thomas, this film brings our very real reality to the comfort of our own homes in a way that makes us all take a step back and ask ourselves questions that we often avoid. Based off of the Tupac lyrics, The Hate U Give follows the story of Starr, whose friend becomes a victim of police brutality, and how she copes with the situation. Viewers are forced to look within ourselves and acknowledge traits that we all have but don’t acknowledge: code switching. (Code switching is a way to customize a style of speech to the audience or group being addressed, just as Starr does when she talks proper English to her friends at school, but speaks street at home.) Clean the haze from your eyes and take a look into a world that hasn’t been shown on the silver screen until now by watching The Hate U Give, which is now available to stream on Hulu.

This article was updated on Feb. 15 with a slightly revised summary of Antebellum that better reflected the premise of the film.