11 Impactful Movies & TV Series That Tackle Race In America

11 Impactful Movies & TV Series That Tackle Race In America

Get your popcorn ready…we have homework to do.

Yesterday, countless teens — including young actors, influencers and artists — participated in #BlackOutTuesday in an effort to silence social media activity unrelated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and amplify Black voices and Black stories. But now that you’ve stood in solidarity and posted that black box to your IG feed, what’s next?

This fight is far from over. Keep donating, signing petitions, writing and calling your local legislators, and educating yourself! That means carrying on the conversation, asking questions, speaking up, and taking advantage of resources that can help give you a better understanding of the ongoing racial injustices in our country.

Knowing where to start can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve rounded up 11 impactful movies and TV series that tackle race in America: from the fictional re-tellings of unbelievable real-life stories, to the documentaries that will take you back in time to pivotal moments in history, and more.

1. “The Hate U Give” – Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

2. “When They See Us” – Based on a true story that gripped the country, this four-part mini series chronicles the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — who were convicted fo a rape they did not commit. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the episodes span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

3. “13th” – The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.

4. “Selma” – The story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic struggle to secure voting rights for all people – a dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with the epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

5. “Let It Fall” – This documentary looks at the years and events leading up to the April 1992 riots after the Rodney King verdict, and features exclusive interviews with eyewitnesses and people directly involved in the events from diverse neighborhoods across the city, including black, white, Hispanic, Korean, and Japanese Americans.

6. “Fruitvale Station” – The true story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on New Year’s Eve, 2008, and decides to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, being a better partner to his girlfriend, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4-year-old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, realizes that change will not come easy. As Oscar crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, we see that there is much more to him than meets the eye. But it is his final encounter of the day with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that will shake the Bay Area to its very core, causing the entire nation to witness the story and tragic death of Oscar Grant.

7. “12 Years A Slave” – In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free citizen, is kidnapped, stripped of his identity and sold into slavery. Now, he must find the strength to survive in this unflinching story of hope that earned a Golden Globe for Best Picture, Drama.

8. “I Am Not Your Negro” – Master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, Remember This House. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material. I Am Not Your Negro is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.

9. “Remember The Titans” – Based on real events, this remarkable story celebrates how a town torn apart by friction and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony. After leading his team to fifteen winning seasons, beloved football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by tough, opinionated Herman Boone (Washington). How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions is a remarkable portrait of courage and perseverance.

10. “Just Mercy” – After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley. One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian, who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them.

11. “Dear White People” – Following the stories of four black students at Winchester University, where a riot breaks out over a popular ‘African American’ themed party thrown by a white fraternity. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in ‘post-racial’ America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world.

Passionate about the #BlackLivesMatter movement but not sure where to start? Here are a few simple steps you can take to get involved and demand justice.

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