What is defined as a Black movie really depends on who you ask. Some view any movie with a predominantly Black cast as a Black movie even if its director is not a sister or brother (i.e. ,”The Color Purple”). Others discount such movies altogether.
Some movies with Black directors, writers and actors are ignored by some Black movie-goers as not Black enough, for whatever reason.
But what about those movies that Blackfolk love so much that they’ve earned invites to the cookout, i.e. movies with few, if any of us on screen or off screen, yet films that we all love (i.e., “Scarface,” “The Godfather,” etc.)?
Then, there are movies that aren’t Black by any stretch of the imagination, yet they have themes or storylines or just certain feels that make them resonate with us. Here’s my list of those “Black” movies.
#5: “The Usual Suspects,” 1995 – The title alone screams Black people. But it’s the level of brilliance and cool that make this Black-Black.
#4: “High Noon,” 1952 – Gary Cooper was a Hollywood superstar, and as white as a white man could be. But his leading role as Marshall Will Kane will have you swearing up and down, he’s a brother from the south side of Chicago, Cincinnati’s East End, Dallas’ Oak Cliff or Houston’s Third Ward. First of all, the film was extremely controversial because of its subtle and not-so-subtle political themes calling out the “communist” witch hunt that was going on at the time in Hollywood and elsewhere (i.e. McCarthyism). But it’s the way Cooper’s character is left hanging out to dry to serve as a sacrifice for a town (nation) that doesn’t appreciate him, and that uses him when needed, but turns their backs on him when push comes to shove. Then, when Cooper’s character Marshall Kane puts his life on the line to successfully save the day, he’s treated and “celebrated” like one of those magical Negroes who exist only to help whtefolk live their best lives, or those Black athletes that racists love when they’re leading a team to victory, but don’t give a d*mn about after the game. And its only when Cooper/Kane symbolically “wins the game” for his city that the fickle townsfolk embrace him. Without giving away the ending, I think Blackfolk could learn a thing or two from the Marshall’s final, no Fs to give, act. Jus’ sayin’.
#3: “The Blues Brothers,” 1980 – Aretha Franklin. Ray Charles. James Brown. Chaka Khan. Cab Calloway. John Lee Hooker. B.B. King. Music by Sam & Dave, artists from one of the Blackest record labels in history, Stax Records. For some, “The Blues Brothers” caught hell because Jake and Elwood Blues were characters born on “Saturday Night Live” and played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Folk thought they two white boys either trying to profit off Black musical genius (the oldest American ploy in the book) or making fun of Black music and musicians. In actuality, Aykrod and Belushi were paying homage to the music that served as the soundtracks of their lives, and artists they worshipped from their childhoods to adulthood; a reality witnessed by all the Black artists featured in the movie. And the fact that Jake and Elwood are forever being harassed and chased by 5-0 from the beginning to the end of this movie just adds to this film’s level of Blackness.
#2: “The Lion King,” 1994 – Do I really have to explain this one? And I won’t even go into the fact that Mansa Sundiata Keita, the original emperor of the ancient West African kingdom of Mali, was literally called by his friends and foes, “The Lion King.”
#1: “The Matrix“, 1999 – Okay. This one may need an explanation. The entire premise of the movie is that members of society are living in a false reality, blind to the fact that they’re really enslaved beings being sucked dry of every ounce of their minds, bodies and souls for the good of a machine that chews them up and spits them out without a second thought. And the journey of the movie’s main characters is literally one of escaping from slavery and moving on that perilous road to freedom. And check this. The entire universe of the “machine” is aimed at punishing and/or re-enslaving these freedom-fighters. “The Matrix,” then, from where I’m sitting, is the Blackest non-Black movie ever made. Hence, that lawsuit filed by the sister, Sophia Stewart, claiming to be the author of the work “The Matrix” is based on, shouldn’t sound too far-fetched.
Honorable Mention: “The Color Purple,” “The Godfather,” “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” “3-O’clock High,” and “Raising Arizona”