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  • James Reid

The Most Important Films To Visit During These Trying Times

As I sat at home watching all the drama unfolding in the world around us I decided to take time to think of movies you might watch during your quarantine that serve as both topical works of art and good home entertainment.

It is important to note that every one of these films might not truly tell the tales they want to in the most successful of ways but they do serve as either cautionary tales or topical analysis of the world around us.

Selma (2014)

Directed by Ava Duvernay

Available to Rent

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful movies about MLK ever made. It is made with such grace and fluidity that one might argue that it is one of the best female directed films of the 21st century. The story focuses on the 1965 drama in the movies namesake city of Selma. It covers the civil rights movement’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery and sprinkles in the right amount of drama to humanize Martin Luther King Jr. in a way that is more tactful than most biopics.

A Pair of Revolutionaries: Spike Lee and Ava Duvernay.
A Pair of Revolutionaries: Spike Lee and Ava Duvernay.

The Hate You Give (2018)

Directed by George Tilman Jr.

Available on Max Go, Cinemax on Amazon and HBONow

This is a tale of a girl who lives her home life in a poor mostly minority neighborhood but has the best school life, attending a wealthy mostly white prep school. The story takes a turn when she witnesses the fatal shooting of a good friend from her youth. The story focuses on her challenges as she balances her life as she serves as a witness in the trial and the fallout of the Grand Jury’s decision.

Detroit (2017)

Directed to by Kathryn Bigelow

Available on Hulu

While the film did face some push-back for being directed through the gaze of a white woman the film mostly works. It is a dramatization of the Algiers Motel Incident and is harrowing in its handling of both the brutality and tragedy of the event. The movie is important because it serves as a reminder of the dark history of police in our country. It also seems most fitting for today’s world as it shows both the murderous and abusive nature of a riot task force during that period of time.

Malcolm X (1992)

Directed by Spike Lee

Available to Rent or through a BET on Amazon subscription

It would be neglectful of me to write this up without including something directed by Spike Lee. This is an important film, as it looks into the life and death of one of the most prominent civil rights figures in human history. The performance from Denzel was one of the best performances of his career, one that truly captures the spirit of the titular character’s journey from being a catalyst of African American separation to a man who teaches tolerance instead of protest.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Directed by Spike Lee

Available on Starz Channel of Amazon or to rent

This is a film that wonderfully blends comedy drama as it dissects the tension between multiple cultures. The film is a look at how one hot day can bring out the worst in everyone and showcases the divide between peoples of various backgrounds. The film also serves as one of the greatest films of the 1980s and might be one of the biggest Oscar snubs in cinematic history.

Moonlight (2016)

Directed by Barry Jenkins

Available on Netflix

The film itself is nothing more than a tale told through three stages of a man’s life. What makes it special is that it is both haunting and beautiful in looking at both the sexuality and racial identity of the protagonist. It takes Richard Linklater’s pretentiousness in Boyhood and turns it into actual art. This might be the most artfully done film on this list, but it never feels like it.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Directed by Barry Jenkins

Available on Hulu

This is an important film from one of the most famous African American authors in American Literary history, James Baldwin. The film focuses on the life of a woman who has to deal with the false imprisonment of her husband. The film uses Barry’s talents to vibrantly tell the tale of how these two people, derailed by a tragic event navigate the biased and unforgiving world around them.

Just Mercy (2019)

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Only Available to Rent

Perhaps the most polarizing film on this list is Just Mercy, based on a book that follows in the footsteps of my last suggestion in telling the tale of a wrongfully imprisoned man. The movie is defined more by the calm theatrics and steady performances than by art or nuance. It is a film made about a deep topic for a world that doesn’t want to feel preached to. It does however have some meatiness to the material that might make it hard to watch at times.

Marshall (2017)

Directed by Reginald Hudlin

Available on Amazon Prime

A film about the early career of one of the most famous minority lawyers in the world, Thurgood Marshall. The film features a solid lead performance from Chadwick Boseman and serves as the most mainstream selection on this list. The story follows Marshall as he tries to save a man from conviction for a sexual assault he didn’t commit. The film is a hell of a court room romp and might be as good as modern biopics can get.


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