10 Best Black Independent Films

Thursday, January 27 by Ed Mulero

The ten best black independent films were revolutionary in bringing the African-American experience and presence to modern American cinema. For many years, these black independent films showcased the different life perspectives from a community that was underrepresented decades ago. The black independent films went against the odds and proved the viability of displaying films with African-American leads. American has evolved since then but not without the groundbreaking role that black independent films played throughout history. Here are the ten best black independent films:

  1. "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" (1971). The film directed by Melvin Van Peebles started the "blaxploitation" movement in films for its resounding success. A man is on the run after killing racist cops who arrest and beat a young black man.
  2. "She's Gotta Have It" (1986). Spike Lee directed and starred in one of his early works about a woman and her three suitors. A poignant film told by the perspective of her three lovers as a lady who would not be held down by one man.
  3. "Boyz N The Hood" (1991). A powerful drama brought the urban reality that most African Americans face growing up in the ghetto. John Singleton directed this piece with Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Ice Cube in the backdrop of the mean streets of Los Angeles.
  4. "Eve's Bayou" (1997). A directorial debut for Kasi Lemmons showcases the affluent Batiste family set in 1962 Louisiana. Their young daughter, portrayed magnificently by Jurnee Smollett, narrates this tale of love, magic, and murder.  
  5. "Cooley High" (1975). A movie about two high school teenagers growing up in the 1960's Chicago unfurls as they become falsely accused of stealing a car.  This film was an inspiration for many films after it from film "Boyz N The Hood" to TV "What's Happening." 
  6. "Soul Food" (1997). Another heartfelt family drama revolves around Mama Joe's hospitalization due to complications from diabetes and the siblings struggle to hold together amongst their own issues. The young grandson soon hatches a plan to help bring everyone together for the holidays.
  7. "Mississippi Masala" (1991). Denzel Washington starred as a local man, Demetrius, who gets involved with an Indian woman named, Meena. This interracial tale of love delves into the deep-seeded prejudice that both sides must overcome in order to be together. 
  8. "Nothing But a Man" (1964). A strong film involves a young, care-free man falling for a more grounded woman living in the South. The drama unfolds as each has to struggle also with the economic and psychological obstacles during the 1960s for African Americans. 
  9. "Killer of Sheep" (1977). Another gripping story about Stan, a disillusioned black man who works in a slaughterhouse, is examined during the 1970s of the Watts ghetto. This independent film was placed in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as one of the "100 Essential Films" of all time.  
  10. "Do The Right Thing" (1989). Racial bigotry is explored and explodes during one hot, summer day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Spike Lee directed and starred in a striking film as everyone's prejudices are put out in full display.
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