11 Documentaries and Films to Stream About Black Identity

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Credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment

The most recent wave of police brutality against the Black community in the U.S. has sparked global outcry for change and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. It has also nudged many people, particularly white people, to turn to films and documentaries to gain a better understanding of how racism has been deeply woven into America’s history, Black identity, and their own privilege. 

The stories told through movies and documentaries play a huge role in the way we see the world around us. They offer deeper insight, foster connection, and remind us how far we’ve come while showing us how much more work still needs to be done to create a future rooted in justice and equality for one and all.

With that said, here are 11 documentaries and films to get you started.

When They See Us

This powerful miniseries by Ava DuVernay brought new life to the true story of the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five. In 1990, five Black and brown boys were wrongfully accused of assaulting and raping a white woman jogging in the park. The boys were convicted and went on to serve prison sentences ranging from six to 13 years for crimes they didn’t commit.

Streaming on Netflix

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

When you see a smiling photo of Marsha P. Johnson, it’s hard to imagine the tragic story behind her death. During her life, Johnson lived out loud. She was a transgender activist known for her contributions in driving the gay-rights movement forward, as well as her role in the Stonewall Riots. In 1992, her body was discovered in the Hudson River, and her death was ruled a suicide by police, but her loved ones believed she may have been murdered. The documentary follows activist Victoria Cruz as she investigates the suspicious death of her friend.

Streaming on Netflix


Moonlight” is one of the most beautifully captured coming-of-age films you’ll ever see. It follows Chiron through three defining chapters in his life as he struggles to find his place in the world. Throughout the movie, he works to accept his sexuality and the love being offered to him while processing past trauma. “Moonlight” was directed by Barry Jenkins and went on to become the first film with an all Black leading cast to win Best Picture.

Streaming on Netflix

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé

While many Black celebrities do what they can to celebrate and highlight the culture, only a few of them do like Beyoncé does it. “Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé” puts viewers front and center at the singer’s historic Coachella performance, as she takes the stage as the festival’s first Black woman headliner. The musical documentary is also peppered with behind-the-scenes rehearsal clips and voiceovers of Beyoncé explaining different elements of the performance, including her Black collegiate tribute and its significance to the community.

Streaming on Netflix

Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” has been described as the quintessential movie on police brutality. The film is set in Brooklyn, New York, and focuses on a group of racially diverse people living and working in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. What begins as a normal summer day ends in a riot after police officers kill a young Black man by using excessive force to restrain him. The film was released in 1989, but remains just as relevant today.

Free to rent on multiple platforms (Amazon, Vudu, Apple, Google, etc) through 6/28

If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk” is based on the novel by James Baldwin, and it stitches together a tender and full love story of a young Black couple living in 1970s Harlem. They had hopes, dreams, and plans for a future together, but it was all derailed after one of them was arrested for a crime they didn’t commit.

Streaming on Hulu


Ava DuVernay’s “13th” breaks down the prison industrial complex from the 1800s. It sheds light on private prisons, its political ties, and how the 13th Amendment led to the mass incarceration of African Americans.

Streaming on Netflix

The Hate U Give

This movie is based on Angie Thomas’ 2017 YA novel, and tells the story of a young girl who watched her best friend get murdered by a police officer. “The Hate U Give” tackles Black Lives Matter, white privilege, grief, trauma, and police brutality through the eyes of a high schooler.

Streaming on Hulu

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro” is based on James Baldwin’s “Remember This House,” a book about the assassinations of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Medgar Evers. 

Streaming on Netflix

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” highlights the many ways the Black Panther Party contributed to mobilizing the Black power movement over a seven-year period.

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

The words of Toni Morrison has changed the lives of Black women all over the world, and this documentary perfectly captures why. “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” explores Morrison’s childhood, work, response to critics, activism, and so much more.

Streaming on Hulu