The Black Lives Matter movement has been around for years. It isn’t new, and it isn’t meant to be fashionable. It’s a movement for equality which has been largely ignored until recently. There are numerous books and movies which have been highlighting the importance of this movement.
If you’re looking for inspiration, understanding, or representation then these are the movies that do a great job discussing and/or portraying the topics the Black Lives Matter movement is all about.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s movie Get Out is a horror film depicting how even people who believe they aren’t racist can make black people and other people of color uncomfortable or their lives difficult if they aren’t examining their behaviors or how they benefit from a system which has long been based on systemic inequality.
The plot of the movie is about a young African American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend. However, simmering uneasiness about their reception eventually reaches a boiling point. The movie stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams as the couple.
Peele said when talking about the movie with The New Yorker, “The real thing at hand here is slavery. Not to bring down the room, guys.” The movie highlights a number of inequalities including how missing person cases about white women tend to be cared about far more than those of black men.
The Hate U Give (2018)
This movie is based on a young adult novel of the same name, written by Angie Thomas. The story follows sixteen-year-old Starr Thomas, a black girl who attends a mostly all white school. While at a party a gun goes off, so Starr leaves with her friend. Her friend Khalil is pulled over for failing to signal and the traffic stop quickly devolves – Khalil is shot and killed.
His killing becomes a national story and Starr becomes a loud voice for activists. The events in this movie, though fictional, mirrors the real world accurately and emotionally. Police brutality is portrayed as a harsh reality constantly threatening to encroach upon the lead characters – even a family outing to dinner is not safe territory. Starr’s rising profile as an activist doesn’t do her or her family any favors in dealing with aggressive police, either.
The film bolsters a terrific cast, with Russell Honrsby, Issa Rae, Regina Hall, and Anthony Mackie in major supporting roles, and even outspoken rapper and poet Common has a part.
Music, especially revolutionary music, plays a key role as well: the film/book’s title is taken from rapper 2Pac’s famous slogan, which was tattooed on his abdomen: T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. (The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody). Khalil is an avid old school hip-hop listener, and so loved 2Pac. Pac’s rebellious spirit and fight for social justice and systemic change is prevalent throughout the film, even if indirectly.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
This movie is a biopic drama written and directed by Ryan Coogler. You likely recognize Coogler’s name by now, but in 2013 this was his feature-length directorial debut. The movie is based on the true events which led to the death of Oscar Grant.
Oscar Grant III was a twenty-two-year-old living in the Bay Area. It tells the story of his last day in 2008 before he was shot and killed by cops in the early morning of New Year’s Day in 2009. and all the people whose path he crossed – from friends & family to enemies & strangers. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan of Black Panther and Creed fame. It also features Octavia Spencer who is best known for her roles in Hidden Figures and The Help.
The movie even opens with real footage of Grant and his friends being detained by police. The death of Oscar Grant caused several protests and riots – the event was even recorded by eyewitnesses. The officers involved were fired and the man who shot Grant was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Queen & Slim (2019)
This modern-day Bonnie and Clyde tale features Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith as a young couple out on a Tinder date, when they are at random stopped by an aggressive police officer and the encounter escalates quickly. Only, there’s a twist: instead of Kaluuya’s Slim being tragically gunned down, he accidentally kills the officer in self-defense.
Left with no choice but to go on the lam, the couple gradually fall in love and grow closer, as their legend as freedom-fighting “cop killers” steadily rises and the stakes get even higher, they inadvertently become the catalyst for a social uprising.
The film has a very neo-noir style not unlike the work of Nicholas Winding-Refn in films like “Drive.” With a moody and ethereal soundtrack and seedy locations soaked in neon lighting, it feels as though the gritty world of the film is transformed into some bizarre fantasy – a hard-boiled fairy tale.
The premise of the film is blatantly informed by the prevalence of officer-involved shootings of young black men in the real world, and takes the route of speculative fiction: what if these roles were reversed? What would happen to the couple? What kind of a movement would this event galvanize?
The film provides some fascinating food for thought while giving us an empathetic and romantic view of the outlaw couple, much like 1967’s “Bonnie & Clyde” before it.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
This movie written and directed by Barry Jenkins stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, and Regina King. King even won an Oscar for her performance in this film. The story follows a young woman who embraces her pregnancy while she and her family do their best to prove her lover is innocent of a crime he didn’t commit. Hopefully before she has their baby.
This film is based on the novel Beale Street by James Baldwin. The movie displays what the effects of institutional racism can lead while simultaneously displaying the heartache and hope of the situation. The cards are intentionally stacked against Alonzo (Stephan James), and is eventually forced to take a plea deal in order to get things over with.