Defender Top 5 International Black Movies

Okay. As you’ve probably gathered by now, I love me some movies. And as a member of the Black delegation, I’m not alone. We, Blackfolk, have always gone to the movies in droves. And with more and more movies made by us, for us, that historic trend doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

But some Black movies that many of us miss, are those made outside the U.S. Yet, some of the best movies showcasing us on the big screen have been made, as the old folk would say, “overseas.”

Here’s my top five Black movies born on the international stage. Check’em out when you get a chance. You’ll thank me.

#5: Attack the Block (2011) is a surprising sci-fi thriller set in modern-day London. It’s a low-budget movie whose star (John Boyega) has gone on the play major roles in some of the biggest budget movies of all time. But just because this movie is low-budget doesn’t mean it’s low quality. It’s worth your time to follow Boyega’s career and crew as they seek to navigate the mean streets of their hood, ducking and dodging the twin dangers of human-eating aliens and life-stealing and very human beings.

#4: Sankofa (1993) is one of the few movies bold enough to show on the big screen Black people inflicting violence upon whites. Whether in real life cell phone videos of the latest police beating of a Black person or in decades of movies, we’ve seen our share of Black people being killed by others. But before Sankofa, which attempted to provide viewers with a more accurate portrayal of U.S. enslavement, you’d be hard-pressed to see a movie or TV show that showed Black people fighting against their exploitation and oppression by any means necessary. Shout out to Haile Gerima, the Ethiopian filmmaker who directed this movie.

#3: Exterminate All the Brutes (2021) is a four-part HBO documentary made by Raoul Peck, the same brother who made the critically-acclaimed documentary about James Baldwin entitled I Am Not Your Negro (2016). Though so much of this hard-to-watch, yet must-see documentary focuses on America, it takes a global view of man’s inhumanity to man fueled by white supremacy. Peck, himself, is truly a global citizen (born in Haiti, lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and New York, and went to school in the U.S. and France. 

#2: City of God (2002) is a coming-of-age story set in 1960s, 70s and 80s Brazil. But not the glamorous, touristy parts of Brazil, rather the Blackest, most impoverished section of Rio de Janeiro. The movie is gripping, haunting and absolutely beautiful. And in the challenges, injustices and strengths we see in the movie (police brutality, self-hate, unconditional love, resistance, etc.), are things that have been part of the Black experience right here in America.

#1: Black Orpheus (1959) will hit you over the head with the absolute beauty of Black people. If you didn’t know “Black is Beautiful” before watching Black Orpheus, there will be no doubt after checking it out. Be forewarned, thought, when made, this film was a modern retelling of an ancient Greek tragedy. So, don’t be looking for the typical Disney-style happy ending. But the love story that runs through this movie, and the cast of characters viewers are blessed to see interacting and doing their thing, will remind you, in case you forgot, the blessing it is to be kissed by the sun.

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...