Although the Lumière Brothers released the first motion picture in 1895, it took at least 30 years for the first Black person, Stepin Fetchit, to earn screen credit. Later, Hattie McDaniel would become the first African American person to win an Academy Award, and 24 years after that, Sidney Poitier would win his, becoming the first African American man to win.
It has been amazing to see the progression of Black creatives in cinema since. The last three decades specifically has seen amazing growth in the medium. Judas and the Black Messiah, which tells the tale of the man who helped set up the murder of Chairman Fred Hampton, made history as the first film with an all-Black production team to be nominated for an Oscar. It didn’t win, but Daniel Kaluuya took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It’s one of many recent succes stories, including the Oscar win for Moonlight, or the legendary Spike Lee finally winning a non-honorary Oscar. In 2021, in the midst of low theater turnouts and mid movie selections, Jeymes Samuel crafted The Harder They Fall, an awesome Western based on real Black cowboys and figures in the West, with Shawn Carter as an executive producer.
In the past few years, we’ve seen Black creators push the boundaries of Black cinema into superhero and horror genres while also expanding on romantic comedies. From the work of Samuel L. Jackson to Denzel Washington to Viola Davis, to newer talents like Zola star Taylour Paige and Creed’s Tessa Thompson, we’ve seen Black film evolve from a niche genre to a necessary component of Hollywood. To celebrate that, here are the best Black movies of the last 30 years.