February is Black History Month, and with so many great films to choose from, narrowing down a recommended watchlist to just 12 was a challenge. Here’s a list spanning multiple genres but they all have one thing in common – they are all terrific films. Here, in no particular order, is the 2019 Reelness Black History Month Watchlist. Enjoy!

The Color Purple

The Reelness’ favorite movie of all time, adapted from Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, stars Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery in this tale of female empowerment in the American Deep South of the early 1930s. Keep those hankies handy – you will need them more than once.

Our review of The Color Purple

Black Panther

This is an important film in black cinema, not only because it is the FIRST comic book superhero film to feature a predominantly African-American cast, but because it also is the first comic book superhero film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Chadwick Boseman, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira (Michonne from The Walking Dead) lead a powerhouse cast that includes a laundry list of charismatic big name stars, eye-popping visual effects and beautiful costumes and a rousing score.

Our review of Black Panther

Queen of Katwe

This is the inspiring, feel good, true story of one of Uganda’s first female titled chess champions, Phiona Mutesi. But this Disney film is more than just a predictable story about a surprising prodigy from the impoverished outskirts of Kampala. It’s a story about the importance of strong character and hard work, buoyed by heartfelt performances by Madina Nalwanga and Lupita Nyong’o, who turn what could have been just a sweet cliché into something truly special.

Our review of Queen of Katwe


This important historical drama is based on events leading up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision ending state bans on interracial marriage. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star as the couple arrested in 1958 in the bedroom of their Virginia home, just weeks after they were married in nearby Washington, DC, where interracial marriage was legal. Director Jeff Nichols effectively captures the historical accuracy and appalling political mood of the era.

Our review of Loving.

Love & Basketball

Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps star in this refreshingly sophisticated romantic sports drama as Monica and Quincy, two childhood friends who, over the course of 13 years, must juggle their feelings for one another with their individual dreams of becoming professional basketball players. While Quincy has natural talent, and his pro basketball playing father’s connections, the more emotional Monica has to work hard to establish herself, all while battling gender stereotypes.


This 2018 Spike Lee film is loosely based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir about being the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s, where he ended up working with a white colleague to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, and oddly enough, even met its national leader, David Duke, as Duke was trying to whitewash his image for an attempted (and failed) career in mainstream politics. Lee’s spotlight of racial injustice and his message, about the importance of working both outside and within the system to bring about change, remains hopeful.

Our review of BlacKkKlansman

Girls Trip

When the college “Flossy Posse” foursome reunites years later for a wild Essence Fest weekend in New Orleans, crazy fun follows in this female empowerment flick starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and in a star marking role, Tiffany Haddish, as the uproariously funny, potty-mouthed party girl, Dina.  You’ll never look at grapefruits the same way again.

Our review of Girls Trip


This Netflix original period drama, adapted from the 2008 Hillary Jordan novel, is about two poor sharecropper families in the Mississippi Delta – one white, one black – and their struggle to survive appalling racial injustice, financial hardship and PTSD after a family member returns home to each family following World War II.

Our review of Mudbound

The Help

This civil rights era period piece set in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi is the story about an enterprising young writer (Emma Stone) who convinces the town’s black maids to spill the beans on what life really is like working for the town’s white women. A cleverly written story and an exceptionally strong supporting cast (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Dallas Bryce Howard, Allison Janney) highlights an important era in American civil rights history, serving up the perfect balance of drama, comedy, and Minny’s famous chocolate pie.

Our review of The Help.

The Princess and the Frog

Here’s one for the kids – the first Disney film to feature an African-American main character, Tiana, a young waitress in 1920s New Orleans who dreams of one day owning her own restaurant. After kissing a prince who has been turned into a frog by an evil voodoo sorcerer, Tiana also becomes a frog and must find a way to turn back into a human before it’s too late. It features beautiful hand drawn animation, a well crafted story and a very fun soundtrack.


This 2016 Best Picture Oscar winner starring Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae is the heartbreaking, haunting story of a young Miami boy struggling with constant disappointment as he deals with a crack-addicted mother and teen bullies, while coming to terms with his sexual identity.

Our review of Moonlight

Hidden Figures

This is the inspirational, previously untold story about three brilliant black women behind NASA’s historic 1962 mission to get astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning moment that propelled the United States to the forefront in the space race and restored pride to the nation. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, as the women who broke their respective glass ceilings in math, computing and engineering, deliver compelling performances peppered with wit and humor, while showing what these pioneering women endured to overcome the shameful racial segregation of that era.

Our review of Hidden Figures


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