The Best Films by Black Women Directors

Everything, Everything (2017) Movie Black Women Directors

Black History Month brings with it the opportunity to explore and celebrate more Black stories and voices.

Black filmmakers have turned their struggles into incredible art that shares that struggle, joy, grief, hope, and happiness with the world. Some of the most incredible movies in that category come from Black women directors. Here, fine the finest films among them.

1. Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything (2017) Movie
Image Credit: Doane Gregory/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Directed by Stella Meghie, Everything, Everything tells the story of Maddie (Amandla Stenberg), who lives inside a hermetically sealed environment in her home because of an illness. Eighteen years old, bright, curious, and excited by the world, she longs to be a part of the greater world.

The boy next door, Olly (Nick Robinson), won't allow Maddie's condition to keep them apart, and the two form a relationship through texts and shared looks through their windows.

2. Queen & Slim

Daniel Kaluuya in Queen & Slim - Queen & Slim (2019)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The 2019 film, directed by Melina Matsoukas, turns the Bonnie and Clyde duo on its head. Jodie Turner-Smith plays Queen alongside Daniel Kaluuya‘s Slim as their first date goes horribly wrong. Pulled over for a traffic violation, the situation escalates, and in self-defense, Slim kills the officer who pulled them over.

As the media labels them “cop killers,” Queen and Slim decide to go on the run. When a video of the incident explodes across the internet, the couple becomes a public symbol for something greater.

3. Selma

David Oyelowo, André Holland, and Stephan James in Selma (2014)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Ava DuVernay directs the incredible story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers as they push on to march from Selma, Alabama, to the capital of Montgomery in protest over the treatment of Black people in the United States. The film explores the famous march and the incredible events surrounding it.

4. Harriet

Harriet (2019) Movie
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Kasi Lemmons directs, and Cynthia Erivo stars in Harriet, the fictionalized story of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad's most prolific and heroic abolitionist. After escaping to freedom, Tubman knew she could not forget those she left behind and spent decades of her life returning to free as many enslaved Black people as she could.

Lemmons' film pays homage to and sheds light on her experiences and the dangers she willingly faced to free those who could not free themselves.

5. Daughters of the Dust

Daughters of the Dust (1991) Movie
Image Credit: Kino International.

Directed by Julie Dash, Daughters of the Dust follows a family in South Carolina in a coastal Gullah community. The community adopted many of their African ancestor's Yoruba traditions to live as traditionally as possible. Still, some of the community's women wish to break with that tradition and explore life beyond the community.

6. Clemency

Clemency (2019) Movie
Image Credit: Sundance Institute/Neon.

Chinonye Chukwu directs the unbelievable Alfre Woodard in Clemency, a movie that follows Bernadine Williams (Woodard), a prison warden dealing with incredible problems. Drifting apart from her husband and burdened by carrying out executions on death row, she meets and strikes up a strange relationship with death row inmate Anthony Woods. The relationship forces her to question what she knows and understands about duty, death, and life.

7. Belle

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid in Belle (2013)
Image Credit: David Appleby/Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Directed by Amma Asante, Belle tells the dramatized true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The mixed-race child of a British Royal Navy officer, Belle finds herself sheltered from the world around her, often able to turn a blind eye to the racism of the world. Until, of course, it confronts her head-on with Gregson v. Gilbert, a case of enslavers murdering enslaved Black people for the insurance money and one that her great uncle and guardian tries in his court.

8. A Dry White Season

A Dry White Season (1989) Movie
Image Credit: MGM/UA.

Euzhan Palcy directs the powerfully moving A Dry White Season, which examines South African apartheid and its effects. Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland), a teacher, has chosen to separate himself from the painful problems of apartheid. He discovers that a corrupt police officer killed the son of a gardener (Winston Ntshona) at his school.

du Toit works to convince the human rights lawyer, Ian McKenzie (Marlon Brando), to try the case against the officer. The long shot case and the trial itself change du Toit, turning him into someone his family doesn't even recognize.

9. Love & Basketball

Love & Basketball Movie (2000)
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Gina Prince-Bythewood directs the iconic Love & Basketball, the story of Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), two best friends with aspirations for basketball greatness.

With a Clippers great for a father and natural leadership skills, Quincy's path feels set and simple. As a woman without the advantages of a pro-player father and an emotional approach to the court, Monica enters an uphill battle for greatness. Their desire for success threatens their relationship over the years as it pulls them in opposite directions.

10. The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees (2008) Movie
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Another Gina Price-Bythewood movie, The Secret Life of Bees, follows Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning), a fourteen-year-old with an abusive father and a dead mother. She runs away with her friend and caregiver, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), to a small town in South Carolina that holds the secrets of her mother's past.

Lily and Rosaleen meet the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo). The sisters take Lily in and teach her about the Black Madonna and beekeeping.

11. A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (2018) Movie
Image Credit: Atsushi Nishijima/Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Ava DuVernay directs a star-studded cast in Madeleine L'Engle's best-selling novel-turned-movie, A Wrinkle In Time. The story follows the young Meg Murry (Storm Reid) and her little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). The young children lost their scientist father five years ago after he discovered a new planet and created a tool that allowed him to travel there.

With their classmate Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller) and three astral travelers, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), the siblings journey to get their father back. 

12. One Night in Miami

One Night in Miami (2020)
Image Credit: Patti Perret/Amazon Studios.

Regina King's directorial debut, One Night in Miami, tells the fictionalized account of a meeting of some of the most influential Black greats on February 25, 1964, in a room at the Hampton House in Miami, Florida. Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) meet to celebrate Ali's title win against Sonny Liston.

The group of men gathered and discussed the heaviness and responsibility of being successful Black men at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

13. Till

Till (2022) Movie
Image Credit: Orion Pictures/United Artists Releasing.

Chinonye Chukwu directs the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old boy who was tragically and horrifically lynched by a mob in 1955 while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. Mamie worked tirelessly for justice for her son, and Till beautifully documents her struggles, her love, and the support of her community.

14. The Woman King

The Woman King, Viola Davis, John Boyega
Image Credit: Ilze Kitshoff /CTMG, Inc.

Gina Prince-Bythewood, ever one of the preeminent Black women directors, explores the incredible group of all-female African warriors who protected the African king Dahomey with incredible skills and unparalleled ferocity.

Led by General Nanisca (Viola Davis), the new generation of warriors trains tirelessly to prepare to serve and protect and fight against any foreign enemy and threat.

15. Candyman (2021)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in his painting attire in Candyman
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Nia DaCosta directs the legacy sequel to Candyman, the horror movie with an incredibly powerful meaning. The film explores intergenerational trauma in Black communities, but on its face it tells the terrifying story of a hook-handed killer. Cabrini-Green, housing projects in Chicago, were terrorized by the story of a hook-handed killer. When an artist begins to explore the stories of the Candyman, his life and sanity begin to unravel.

16. The Photograph

The Photograph
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Stella Meghie, Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield stand as an iconic couple, delivering on-screen chemistry as Mae Morton and Michael Block. When Mae's estranged, world-famous photographer mother dies, Mae faces hurt, grief, and anger, finding herself left with more questions than answers. When Mae finds a photograph stowed away in a safety deposit box, she begins a journey of discovery about her mother that leads her to an unlikely love with an up-and-coming journalist, Michael.

17. Eve's Bayou

Eve's Bayou (1997) Movie
Image Credit: Trimark Pictures, Inc.

Kasi Lemmons' directorial debut, Eve's Bayou, embraces the Southern Gothic traditions as it tells the story of the Batiste family. Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett) realizes the lie of her family's wealth and prestige. Her doctor father (Samuel L. Jackson) cheats on her mother (Lynn Whitfield), creating a rift in their family and causing emotional turmoil that reverberates throughout their community. 

18. Mudbound

Mudbound (2017) Movie
Image Credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix.

Directed by Dee Rees (another of the great Black women directors), Mudbound examines the lives of two different men who recently returned home from World War II to a farm in rural Mississippi. The men work the land as they deal with their inner turmoil and the outer pain and challenges of racism, classism, and the battle of returning home from war as their PTSD manifests.

19. Beyond the Lights

Beyond the Lights (2014)
Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/Blackbird Productions, LLC.

Gina Prince-Bythewood directs Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker in a beautiful, poignant love story. Successful singer Noni (Mbatha-Raw) finds her fame and the consequences of it challenging to deal with. Her mother (Minnie Driver), worried about her safety thanks to her stardom, assigns a former police officer, Kaz (Parker), as her bodyguard.

Noni's struggle eventually leads her to attempt suicide, but Kaz stops her attempt, and the two immediately notice a connection. Despite the love they have for one another, those who surround them fight to keep them apart, worried that the differences in their lives will derail Noni's future success. 

20. Origin

Origin (2023) Movie
Image Credit: Neon.

Ava DuVernay directs Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Jon Bernthal in the poignant, powerful biographical film about author Isabel Wilkerson (Ellis-Taylor) and her career as she struggles through incredible personal tragedy to write Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Throughout the film, Isabel struggles with the unbelievable losses that rock her as she examines the way racism and the caste systems of the world have defined the societies of so many nations.

Author: Savannah Smoot

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