10 Best Black Movies of 2021

10 Best Black Movies of 2021

With streaming taking over and movie theaters just starting to fully recover, 2021 provided an interesting mix of movies for our best of the year list.

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Photo: sirtravelalot (Shutterstock)

From stunning biopics to action-packed westerns to jump scares, there was something for everyone in 2021. With the world still in lockdown for the first half of the year, streaming was still king, which means audiences got more variety and choice than ever before. With streaming services more likely to grant opportunities to Black films, it wasn’t easy to come up with our best of the year. We were tempted to make it the all Idris Elba edition this time, but just narrowly resisted the urge. With that in mind, please enjoy the best movies of 2021.

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Candyman

Candyman

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Screenshot: Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures

Remakes are hard. Remaking a beloved cult classic is even harder. What Candyman does to set itself apart from its predecessors is make the story of the Candyman much more about race than the original ever dared to. It uses its horror constraints to not so subtly offer commentary on police violence and profiling, gentrification and exploitation. Yes, it’s still scary and gory, but it’s also timely, which makes it more than just another scary movie. And shoutout to the effects team who have ruined bees forever.

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Respect

Respect

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Screenshot: Imdb

Honoring someone like Aretha Franklin was going to be a tall order for whoever tackled the role. Thankfully, everyone including Aretha agreed Jennifer Hudson had to play her. Focusing on the singer’s early career and personal struggles, Respect allows Hudson to show a side of the legend most audiences had never seen before. We’ve heard Aretha’s vulnerability in her music, but seeing it play out on the big screen made her a real person we could understand and identify with. In delivering such a memorable performance Hudson made Aretha Franklin human, while keeping her legendary.

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Passing

Passing

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Screenshot: Netflix

What could have easily fallen into melodrama, unexpectedly becomes a psychological exploration. Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson made Passing a fascinating story of two women struggling with their choices, some of which are theirs, and some of which are society’s. The actresses’ adept handling of their characters carried the movie in a way we’re not sure other performers could. While Passing is an interesting story, it’s Negga and Thompson that make it captivating and memorable.

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The Harder They Fall

The Harder They Fall

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Screenshot: Netflix

Hollywood has had a love/hate relationship with westerns for decades. Though they were once a big screen staple, we don’t get them very often nowadays. And we never get Black westerns, so imagine our excitement at The Harder They Fall. This is just an old-fashioned immensely entertaining outlaw shoot ‘em up. The star-studded cast delivered a fun story with characters we could root for and awesome action. Best of all, we got a hint at possible future outings. We’re definitely in on more of Nat Love and his gang.

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King Richard

King Richard

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Screenshot: Warner Bros/Anne Marie Fox

We’ve always known Richard Williams was a complicated man. However, the one thing that never wavered was his belief in his daughters’ talent. In King Richard, Will Smith portrays all the layers of this husband, father and tennis coach. The film also offers insight into how Venus and Serena became the ground-breaking legends we know them as today. Like his real life counterpart, Smith overpowers the movie, but it’s Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Oracene, Venus and Serena who are the heart and soul of the

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Concrete Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy

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Screenshot: Netflix

What we love about Idris Elba is that there is no genre he can’t be great in. We know he’s an amazing actor, but we also know not everyone has his versatility. Concrete Cowboy allowed him to once again showcase a new side to his skills as Harp, a father trying to keep his estranged son from making the same mistakes he made. As usual, his presence fills every scene, however it never dominates the performance of co-star Caleb McLaughlin. The two take an ordinary coming of age story, and make it the captivating story of a neighborhood protecting its dignity.

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Malcolm & Marie

Malcolm & Marie

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Screenshot: Netflix

Sometimes the right movie comes along at the right time to make a perfect impact. That’s what Malcolm & Marie did when it was released during lockdown. Bearing witness to Malcolm & Marie’s emotionally raw argument was a catharsis for audiences. Starring Zendaya and John David Washington, and taking place in the characters’ apartment over the course of one night, the authenticity of Malcolm & Marie struck an emotional chord that may not have resonated the same during a different time. If there’s any justice in the world, Zendaya will become a serious award contender for an open, honest portrayal of a woman who wants her relationship to work, but realizes that’s probably not going to happen.

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TINA

TINA

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Screenshot: HBOMax

As good as What’s Love Got to Do With It is, it’s always better when someone gets to tell their own story. In TINA, Tina Turner tells the story of her life in her own words. It’s so unflinching and triumphant, it’s impossible to look away from. When someone’s been in the public eye as long as Tina Turner it’s easy to think we know everything, but documentaries like this always give us something new and we can’t help but love the singer even more after watching.

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Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah

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Screenshot: Warner Bros./Glen Wilson

What’s left for us to say about the direction or performances in Judas and the Black Messiah? Not much, but we’re going to try anyway. It’s a Black story being told by Black people, which means everything is more nuanced, and less black and white. Every actor delivers real human characters, not caricatures based on skewed history. This authenticity is what sets the film apart from others in the genre and will ultimately make it a classic re-watch for years.

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Summer of Soul

Summer of Soul

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Screenshot: Hulu

We talk a lot about how so much of our history is lost for reasons ranging from racism to old technology. With Summer of Soul, Questlove brings that history back by delivering this game-changing documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The show featured performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension and The Staple Singers. Questlove has a sincere love and respect for these musicians, something that is evident in the showcase he gives them here. The gift he has given viewers and these performers in restoring this footage will have a lasting impact as it inspires other filmmakers and documentarians to highlight new, unknown stories.

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