This week, Tate Taylor's 2011 drama The Help reached the number one spot in terms of most-watched movies on Netflix. The film, which is based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name, has been criticized repeatedly for its white savior narrative and for sidelining the narrative of its black characters.

If you haven't seen it, The Help tells the story of a white woman who writes a book that aims to share the perspective of black maids during the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. The film starred Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer, who, in 2018, told The New York Times that she regretted taking the role.

“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard," she explained. "I know Aibileen. I know Minny [two maids in the film]. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”

If you'd rather focus on black voices and narratives rather than relying on white interpretation, the Highsnobiety team has offered the following film titles, along with trailers and brief plot summaries, as a good place to start.

NB: It's also worth noting that the Criterion Collection has lifted its paywall on select titles from black filmmakers across several platforms including Apple TV, Amazin Fire, Roku, iOS, and Android.

When They See Us

Director: Ava DuVernay

When They See Us is a mini-series that chronicles the true story of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The show starts with the first police questioning in 1989 and tracks them up until their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement in 2014.

Sorry to Bother You

Director: Boots Riley

This film follows a young black telemarketer who adopts a white accent to elevate his career. Ultimately, he must choose between profit and joining activist friends to organize labor.

Higher Learning

Director: John Singleton

This 1995 film follows three freshmen students who find themselves the target of racism and bigotry at university.

BlacKkKlansman

Director: Spike Lee

Based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, BlacKkKlansmen is a black comedy crime film set in the 1970s in Colorado Springs. It follows the first African-American detective on a mission to infiltrate and expose the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.

Malcolm X

Director: Spike Lee

The 1992 movie Malcolm X is about the African-American activist of the same name and dramatizes key events in his life, from criminal career and incarceration to his conversion to Islam, his marriage, pilgrimage, childhood, mental illness, and experiences with racism.

Selma

Director: Ava DuVernay

This historical drama is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers continued their march, resulting in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Moonlight

Director: Barry Jenkins

Moonlight is a story of sexuality, and identity, physical and emotional abuse told through three stages of the main character's life. It's based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and is the first film with an all-black cast to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Poetic Justice

Director: John Singleton

The cult film follows Justice, a poet who's grieving after the death of her boyfriend (Q-Tip) and falls in love with Lucky (Tupac Shakur). Throughout the film, Justice recites her poems, which were written by Maya Angelou.

Dope

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Rick Famuyiwa’s coming-of-age story follows nerdy, '90s hip-hop obsessed high-school senior Malcolm Adekanbi (Shameik Moore) as he applies to Harvard and practices music in a punk band and accidentally makes off with a stash of ecstasy. It's been described as "if Federico Fellini had directed Superfly."

Set it Off

Director: F. Gary Gray

The socially conscious crime thriller stars Hollywood powerhouses, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Kimberly Elise, and Vivica A. Fox as four friends from an LA project who embark on a series of successful bank robberies to lift themselves out of poverty and reunite their families.

I Am Not Your Negro

Director: Raoul Peck

I Am Not Your Negro is a 2016 documentary film narrated by Samuel L. Jackson based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember This House. It explores the history of racism in the US through Baldwin's memories of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Watermelon Woman

Director: Cheryl Dunye

This 1996 romantic comedy tells the story of a young black lesbian working a day job in a video story while also trying to make a film about a black actress from the ’30s known for playing stereotypical "mammy" roles. The film is considered a landmark in queer cinema.

13th

Director: Ava DuVernay

Named after the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery, 13th explores the "intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States." DuVernay shows how the prison-industrial complex and the war on drugs have maintained features of slavery.

Get Out

Director: Jordan Peele

Arguably the most important movie of 2017, Jordan Peele's horrific directorial debut confronted ideas about racial alienation in a brutal, smart, and darkly humorous story of a young black man meeting his white girlfriend's "progressive" parents.

Belly

Director: Hype Williams

Starring Nas and DMX, Belly tells the story of two young men who make their way out of poverty through a life of crime and eventually move from Queens to a luxurious life in Manhattan. Eventually one turns to religion, while the other is blackmailed by police.

Barber Shop

Director: Timothy Kevin Story

Now a cult comedy, Barber Shop is about a day in the life of a barbershop on the south side of Chicago. Calvin (Ice Cube) inherits his father's barbershop but only begins to appreciate its value once he's sold it to to a local loan shark.

Fruitvale Station

Director: Ryan Coogler

The true story of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old black man who was killed in 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station in Oakland in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009.

Fences

Director:Denzel Washington

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 play of the same name, Fences is an American period drama about an African-American man who missed his chance to become a professional baseball player because of racism, and takes his frustration out on his son.

Mudbound

Director: Dee Rees

Set in rural America during World War II, Mudbound is the story of two families pitted against one another by social hierarchy yet bound by shared farmland.

Clockers

Director: Spike Lee

Spike Lee's 1995 American crime drama is based on the 1992 novel of the same name, penned by Richard Price. It focuses on the grim realities of drug dealers' lives, centering on a 19-year-old dealer called Strike who winds up in big trouble after agreeing to help a local drug lord kill a rival.

Menace II Society

Director: Allen Hughes, Albert Hughes

This film focuses on the aftermath of the Watts rebellion in 1965 as a result of police brutality. It follows the life of a young man and his friends and is often praised for its realistic portrayal of violence and powerful underlying message.

Juice

Director: Ernest R. Dickerson

Juice stars Omar Epps, Tupac Skakur, Jermaine Hopkins and Khalil Kain, four black youths growing up in Harlem. It follows their struggles with police harassment, rival neighborhood gangs and their families.

Daughters of the Dust

Director: Julie Dash

The first feature film directed by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States. Daughters of the Dust tells the story of three generations of Gullah women of Saint Helena Island as they prepare to migrate to the North on the mainland.

The Hate U Give 

Director: George Tillman Jr.

The main character, Starr Carter, tries to stand up for what is right after witnessing her best friend being shot by the police. It's based on the 2017 young adult novel of the same name by Angie Thomas.

Dolemite

Director: D'Urville Martin

After he is released from jail after being wrongfully convicted, a pimp named Dolemite takes on the criminals and corrupt police officers who framed him with the help of some female karate experts and other warriors.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Director: Melvin Van Peebles

After saving a Black Panther from racist cops, a black male sex worker goes on the run from "the man" with the help of the Black Community and some disillusioned Hells Angels.

Queen & Slim

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Queen & Slim tells the action-packed story of an African American couple whose first date takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation.

Black Panther

Director: Ryan Coogler

It's the first black superhero, telling the story of Prince T'Challa, who returns home to the African kingdom of Wakanda to make his claim for the throne. Black Panther is the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination, and the first MCU film to win an Academy Award.

Missed any essentials? Let us know in the comments.

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