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We have compiled a list of ten black [and some not so black] films that shifted not only the world of cinema but culture as a whole.

Do The Right Thing, 1989

Probably the most popular Spike Lee movie to-date, Do The Right Thing was both commercially and critically acclaimed, landing Lee with an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and many other awards. Even the U.S. Library of Congress noted the film as “culturally significant” due to its depiction of race relations.

Do The Right Thing

The Imitation of Life, 1959

Not a black film per say, the Imitation of Life is however a classic that is widely regarded for its depiction of race and class. Plus, it would be hard sought finding someone who did not cry their eyes out during the last scene of the film between Mahalia Jackson singing at the funeral and Sarah Jane throwing her self over her mother’s casket while begging for forgiveness. :::grabs tissue:::

The Imitation of Life

Boyz in the Hood, 1991

Written and directed by John Singleton, Boyz in the Hood not only put the then up-and-coming director on the map but it added a new cultural perspective on topics that were not typically accepted by mainstream audiences. Also, Singleton was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1992, one for Best Director and the other for Best Writing.

12 Years a Slave, 2013

Often touted as the best film of 2013, 12 Years a Slave made a monumental impact after its release. Not including its monetary success, the film led Steve McQueen to becoming the first black director to have a film win an Academy Award for Best Picture.   The film also nabbed two more Oscars and countless other awards and accolades.



A Raisin in the Sun, 1961

Adapted from the critically acclaimed play of the same name, A Raisin in the Sun starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Claudia McNeil is an iconic tale of a family’s journey to a better life.

A Raisin in the Sun

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967

Featuring a black lead, Sidney Poitier, its box office success, even in the southern portion of the United States was a surprising feat.


Malcolm X, 1992

Spike Lee is back on the list with Malcolm X, the film was critically acclaimed including by famed critic Roger Ebert who said the film was one of the best movies of the 1990’s and believed it was one of the “great screen biographies.” Denzel Washington who portrayed the civil rights icon was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.


Claudine, 1974

Back in the 1970’s blaxploitation films were very popular, that’s why Claudine is often praised for being one of the few mainstream black films released during that era not apart of the blaxploitation genre.


Glory, 1989

Glory was not directed or written by an African-American, it however featured two black leads (one of which ended up with an Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, Denzel Washington) and detailed the story of the first Union Army during the Civil war that was compiled of African-American soldiers.


The Wiz, 1978

The Wiz was not a success neither at the box office or with the critics, however, it became a household classic for many in the African-American community. Not to mention it starred three icons: Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and Diana Ross.


Shifting Society: 10 Films That Shifted Society  was originally published on

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