25 Best African American Movies on Netflix Right Now

January 1, 2019
19 min read

Making an African-American film isn’t an easy job. The cruciality and the sensitivity of the subject have to be taken into consideration, given the fact that racism was widely prevalent in the United States and parts of the west as late as the ’60’s. While the erstwhile racism was attributed to direct references to one’s skin colour or origin and there were separate public utilities for the white and people of color, things sound a lot different now and racism, even if prevalent nowadays is mostly subtle in nature. Because the United States has forever been the flag bearer as well as the opponent of racism from the colonial era to the recent times respectively, and because things have taken a better turn with laws trying to curb racism and promote equality, the filmmakers have milked a lot from this cow and made quite a lot of feature films depicting the plight of African-Americans to their bloody history.

Netflix, in general, has a wide range of films, but it can be pretty difficult to find a movie that fits your mood. From documentaries to romantic comedies, these African-American features are not only interesting but captivating. While Netflix may not have the greatest collection of African American movies (many biggies are unfortunately missing), it is relevant not only on Black History Month but every month of the year. Here is the list of really good Afro-American movies on Netflix. If you are not subscribed to Netflix, you can watch some of these black movies on Amazon Prime or Hulu. Please note that these movies have not been ranked or ordered in any manner.

25. Boy Bye (2016)

Veronica Love is a happy-go-lucky single girl who needs no handholding. She is the typical know-it-all and have-it-all, with a successful real estate business, and with no shortage of boy toys to play with. While she doesn’t believe in true love or relationships, she still loves her friends Beverly and Charity and often hangs around with them. Enter Lance and Love’s world is elated like never before. An acquaintance growing into a friendship to a relationship, Love’s world is on slippery grounds owing to the big secrets Lance holds and her skepticism on whether she would be able to forgive him. Essentially, ‘Boy Bye’ is a chick flick with Afro-American star cast.

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24. Lila & Eve (2015)

Featuring Viola Davis as Lila and JLo as Eve, ‘Lila & Eve’ is the narrative of Lila, a single mom whose son has been murdered in a drive-by gunfire. Because of the lack of support from the cops or the administration, she’s forced to join a support group which comprises of mothers of other murdered children. She meets Eve, another single mother whose daughter was brutally murdered. Distraught, Eve and Lila decide to take the matter into their own hands and hunt down the killers of their children, one at a time. Lila, who becomes wary of her actions the way they have been killing people, is taken by surprise, given Eve’s attitude, who has become more used to the whole revenge killing spree. The conclusion is a classic good guy versus bad guy scenario and it doesn’t take a genius to figure what happens next. ‘Lila & Eve’ though is a one-of-its-kind female vigilante thriller, it still has a lot of shortcomings. The exceptions are the performances, especially that of Viola Davis.

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23. The Preacher’s Son (2017)

It becomes a difficult situation for Dante Wilson, who is the son of a local bishop and a very domineering mother who wants him to walk his father’s footsteps when he falls for a ghetto-dwelling girl Tonisha. ‘The Preacher’s Son’ is the narrative of the troubles of a religious household when they come across a slum-dwelling one, given the fact that Tonisha’s mother is a drug addict and they are in a state of penury. Wilson’s ultimate shock comes to him when Tonisha approaches their family for a marriage proposal, something he was never ready for. Although not one of the hard-hitting, compelling storylines that the movie has, yet, ‘The Preacher’s Son’ scores high on emotions and religious sentiments and whether should a devout son choose one amongst his parents’ sentiments or his girlfriend’s needs. The dilemma is contagious, I’d say.

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22. Honeytrap (2014)

A coming-of-age tragedy surrounding a girl Layla, who has been the subject of oppression and victimization, ‘Honeytrap’ is a very unique take on the life of a girl from a first person’s point of view, wherein she is not being projected as a wrongful person, but just another human being who makes decisions based on impulses. Layla is a teenager who has moved from Trinidad to England to live with her mother, who doesn’t want her to be there. Incidentally, Layla had been the subject of ridicule in Trinidad, given her unrelenting grandparents. In London, as she starts living with her selfish mother and a very odd neighbourhood, she befriends girls and boys from her school who steal stuff instead of buying it – thus making Layla do so. As bad influence befalls Layla, she distances herself from the bad guys in her life except for one true friend who she thinks has always stood by her side – Shawn. The lack of elderly support for Layla and the bad influence that falls upon her is a very relatable story of each and every teenager who has been distanced from his/her parents.

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21. Amateur (2018)

The title is perhaps derived from Amateur basketball if you know what I mean. ‘Amateur (2018)’ is a story surrounding 14-year-old Terron, an aspiring basketball player who, while in 8th grade, gets offers to join an elite prep school meant for training amateur basketball players. As he joins Liberty Prep, he is taken aback by the level of commercialization the sport has gone into, with private corporations sponsoring sports material and what not. While he learns the tricks of the trade, he is faced with an ethical dilemma when his father joins the team as an assistant coach – should he play along, with his flashy lifestyle, given he’s an aspiring player or should he get his father involved in a similar lifestyle as his own. The questionable moral principals of corporates versus the curiosity of a teenager have been aptly depicted in this Afro-American sports drama.

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20. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017)

This is an independent African American film starring Rachel Crow and Ashleigh Murray in the main roles. It revolves around two teenage girls that start robbing trains to be able to support their family. With their mother in jail, they have to find ways to survive. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is an entertaining film about family, bullying, and self-esteem. The story engages you quickly and makes you root for the main characters. It is well worth a watch.

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19. Roxanne Roxanne (2017)

The biographical film of the 80’s hip-hop singer Roxanne Shante, ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ rather begins at a time when she was not aspiring to be a hip-hop artist. Shante is an independent woman who tries to make a living amidst an oppressive patriarchial mindset of a society but all in vain. After seeing no respite for her financial woes and given her financial liabilities towards her family – more importantly, her mother and her little sister Peggy, Shante turns to rap and gains quickly as an emerging artist. Although the moments of her accomplishments – namely the performances, the music labels and the commercials, are shortlived in the movie and the focus is mostly on her emergence from the clutches of her stereotypical inhibitions, ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ still packs a punch given its shoestring budget and lack of any bigger, popular names in the star cast. An inspired tale of a rapper who got lost in translation.

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18. Fifty (2015)

If you never watched a movie from Nigeria, this might be a good choice. “Fifty” follows four Nigerian women at the top of their careers. Tola, Elizabeth, Maria, and Kate juggle between family and work in one of the largest and most vibrant cities of Africa. It could be said that it falls into the soap opera category. However, this is an interesting look at a side of Nigeria that is often not portrayed.

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17. Hunter Gatherer (2016)

‘Hunter Gatherer’ follows an optimistic man who returns to his home after being in prison for three years. However, his return is not what he expects. He soon learns his girlfriend and his family forgot he exists. This movie is completely worth your time. Besides having great performances, it is extremely well written and has complex but real characters that will not leave you indifferent. Director Joshua Locy Zigs created an engrossing character-driven film about people and their daily struggles.

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16. Dayveon (2017)

After his older brother’s death, 13-year-old Dayveon enters a local gang of his Arkansas town. From there, he discovers that companionship, solidarity but also violence heavily influence the world. “Dayveon” features outstanding performances from an amateur cast, who fill the movie with authenticity and professionalism. Aman Abbasi, its writer and director, created an atmospheric drama with his amazing storytelling and cinematographic skills.

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15. First Match (2018)

‘First Match’ is the tale of Monique, who has had a rough childhood and her foster care is about to end. She is fed up with her foster care mother who despised her during her entire childhood but she wants to patch up with her estranged biological father Darrel. Incidentally, Darrel was a wrestling champion during his formative years and to get closer to him, Monique decides to join the high school’s wrestling team. While Darrel doesn’t show any interest initially, he, later on, gives in as a spectator while having difficulty in understanding the level of emotions that Monique has for him. Throughout the film, we witness a struggling Monique who has a desperate goal to attain perfectionism amidst some visually compelling cinematography. ‘First Match’ is a rare gem which clearly depicts the difficulty of choice and the loneliness of making the right one.

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14. Southside with You (2016)

“Southside With You” revolves around the love story between former president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the former First Lady, Michelle Obama. We follow them in the summer of 1989 on their first date, in Chicago. Besides having a beautiful love story, this film also tackles important and interesting topics like racism and the problems America had in the eighties. Although it lacks action, over-the-top drama and violence, it still manages to be compelling thanks to an excellent screenplay. It stars Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers as Michelle and Barack Obama.

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13. The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

Written and directed by Jim Strouse, “The Incredible Jessica James” follows an aspiring playwright living in New York City, right after experiencing a break-up. One of the best things about this film is the perfect balance between drama and genuine comedy. The comedic side of “The Incredible Jessica Jones” makes the performances of Jessica Williams and Chris O’Dowd shine. On the other hand, the drama keeps it engaging and interesting. It is an original take on the romantic comedy genre.

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12. Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)

Ron and Debbie are a middle-aged couple who lead an idyllic life in suburban Texas. They meet up with a homeless Afro-American man named Denver, who initially calls himself Suicide. As opposed to their first encounter, when Suicide seems to have a thick skin and is all rude and violent, Ron and Debbie constantly keep their humility towards Denver and as he opens up, disturbing details emerge about his past life and how he came to be known as a despicable homeless man. Once a slave, picking cotton bales for his masters to being the accused of petty crimes, the tale of Denver is heart-wrenching at best. The way the trio bonds before the conclusion of the movie is reminiscent of the fact that despite the difficulties, hardships and ridicule one faces in life, the person can be won over by overwhelming love and compassion.

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11. Brotherly Love (2015)

Sergio Taylor is a high school basketball star dealing with the early pressures of fame. Set in Philadelphia, “Brotherly Love” not only follows Sergio trying to make tough decisions about his life and future but also his family and their struggles. This drama is a very authentic film that tries to capture the reality of the streets. On the other hand, its storyline is impressive since it has mystery, drama and plot twists. It stars Keke Palmer, Cory Hardrict, Quincy Brown, Eric Hill Jr., Romeo Miller and Macy Gray. Queen Latifah was the producer.

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10. Imperial Dreams (2014)

John Boyega appears in a leading role as Bambi in this Afro-American drama. The film begins with a 21-year-old Bambi who is being released from a prison. Bambi, who has nothing but love for his family, especially for his son, and who has vowed never to go back to the criminal underworld that put him in the prison in the first place, is again at crossroads, for no one employs a felon. With a kid Dayton who has no one to look up to, for Bambi’s girlfriend is also in jail doing her time, he decides to write a novel about his life and the kind of people he met – good or bad – that led him into difficult situations and in prison – of all places. With a relentless Bambi pursuing the righteousness amongst bad influence and drug abuse, ‘Imperial Dreams’ reminds us of the dark times when all one would want was a beacon of hope.

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9. Ayanda and the Mechanic (2015)

“Ayanda and the Mechanic” is a coming of age story filled with drama and romance. We follow young adult Ayanda who lives in a vibrant community of migrants from Africa. She is trying to find her place in a world that is always changing. As she does that, she encounters love and friendship. ‘Ayanda and the Mechanic’ is like a breath of fresh air and critics have termed Amanda’s tale as a victory over stereotypical notions.

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8. The Man in 3B (2015)

Daryl, an immigrant to Jamaica is immediately taken into liking by the neighbours of the apartment and he suddenly has become an apple of everyone’s eye. Daryl is the man every woman wants and having that said, Connie, an unhappily married woman approaches Daryl for some tips on “how to lose weight”. As a gentleman, Daryl obliges and as Daryl and Connie come closer, albeit, for some other reason, Connie starts getting sceptical about saving her marriage. Krystal, who is Darryl’s first love but is no longer with Darryl, is trying to make amends with her current boyfriend. Everything runs smoothly until a murder happens in the apartment and everyone becomes the prime accused and the victim is none other than Darryl. ‘The Man in 3B’ has surprising twists and turns which makes it a splendid affair, worth a one-time watch.

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7. Mudbound (2017)

Nominated for four Academy Awards, “Mudbound” revolves around two families: the Jacksons and the Mc Allans, who are forced to share some land. As they struggle with poverty and adversity, prejudice and racism begin to shake their lives. With an incredible and talented cast, “Mudbound” is an engrossing drama about relevant issues like racism, violence, and female solidarity. Director Dee Rees did an amazing job, she created an astonishingly powerful and beautiful film that will stay with you for a long time.

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6. Queen of Katwe (2016)

A biopic set around the life and times of a Ugandan chess queen, ‘Queen of Katwe’ begins with a 10-year-old-girl Phiona Mutesi, who along with her family lives in Katwe, a ghetto area of the Ugandan capital Kampala. Nakku, her mother, has to take care of the family, including Phiona and her siblings. When there’s a missionary in town, Phiona’s world changes as she enrols herself for a chess training camp. To everyone’s surprise, Phiona aces the game and soon becomes an international player, representing the country at a Grandmaster level. Although she never gets to be known as a Grandmaster, having won multiple national and international chess Olympiads and tournaments brings the well-deserved and much awaited financial success and goodwill to her family. ‘Queen of Katwe’ is not only a winner in terms of its rags to riches story, but it also is a tale of love, compassion and family.

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5. Lincoln (2012)

Set in 1865, the United States is staring at the conclusion of a Civil War that is in its fourth year now. The U.S. President Abraham Lincoln has gained immense popularity as the leader of the state and he is also in a dilemma given the massive casualties on both the sides. With the expected passage of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution – which would permanently abolish slavery from the US, Lincoln expects the war to come to a conclusion as well. The timing of the passage of the amendment is the key, and while his fellow Republicans would have no qualms with it, it is the Democrats he needs to deal with. All this amidst the time when Lincoln had a troubled relationship with his son Todd and a not-so-amicable one with his wife Mary. ‘Lincoln’ is often regarded as one of the best works of Steven Spielberg and features actor extraordinaire Daniel Day-Lewis in a titular role.

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4. Catching Feelings (2017)

Set in Johannesburg, ‘Catching Feelings’ is essentially a dark comedy which begins with Max, a former writer who is in his mid-30s now, who wrote a bestseller in his 20’s, thus earning him the necessary name and fame to get into a university job teaching creative writing. He lives in a Johannesburg’s suburb with his wife Sam. Enter Heiner, a rather successful and accomplished writer who is pursuing a residency programme at the university. Given Heiner’s flamboyant ways and his penchant for girls, drug-abuse and late-night parties, he suffers a mild heart attack, forcing Max to bring him home. The only challenge now for Max – to keep Heiner away from his wife Sam. ‘Catching Feelings’ has an aura of its own and has definitely caught the pulse of the audience with a compelling way of storytelling. Watched it yet?

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3. Beasts of No Nation (2015)

A harrowing experience to begin with, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ hits the audiences where it hurts. The movie begins with a boy named Agu, a young soldier sporting guns, fighting in a civil war in an African nation. Agu, like everyone else in his group of boy-soldiers, fears his commander (called as Commandant, played by Idris Elba) and is put up with ambushes, hauling ammo and training in small-arm combats. In his first road ambush mission, Agu is asked to kill a man with a machete, to which he complies reluctantly, after being joined by other kids of his age. As the war intensifies and the Commandant’s regiment is on the losing side after UN forces take over, Agu and his other friends are taken to a beach-side house where they spend time playing soccer and bonding with each other – as pre-teen kids do. ‘Beasts of No Nation’ is unrelenting, painful, yet true to its heart and highlights the sorrows of war in an honest and straightforward manner.

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2. 13th (2016)

“13th” takes an in-depth look at the prison system in the USA and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality. The documentary touches on slavery, the civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Richard M. Nixon, Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs and much more. This documentary is an excellent summary of American History. Although it interviews a lot of experts and gives you a massive amount of facts and statistics, it never feels like a lecture. Besides being highly informative, it is entertaining and an inspiring narrative. Despite your political view or nationality, this documentary should be watched by everyone.

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1. The Green Mile (1999)

Speaking of miracles, ‘The Green Mile’ is centred around an Afro-American man John, who is on a death row for raping and murdering two white girls in 1935. John is summoned to the penitentiary to be executed sooner or later. As Paul Edgecomb, the supervising cop of the penitentiary who supervises officers Brutus, Dean, Harry and Percy is sceptical of hanging a man, John begins demonstrating superhuman abilities and power of healing. Notably, he heals Paul’s bladder infection and heals another patient who had a brain tumour. Paul then persuades John to escape the prison, to which John disagrees and is executed the same night. 65 years later, a 108-year-old Paul is watching Top Hat, a 1935 film which reminded him of John. Apparently, John’s healing streak has also drastically improved Paul’s lifespan and to this day, Paul curses himself to execute John in cold blood. Critics called ‘The Green Mile’ a powerful and absorbing experience, and tear-jerking at the same time. The movie was nominated for Academy Awards in four categories.

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