In The New Black Film Canon, Lisa Doris Alexander argues that a variety of films that are not within the standard canon of Black cinema present more nuanced representations of black characters than what has been offered in pop media for decades.
Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy, a romance that takes on specifics and Nikyatu’s workplace drama Aisha explores the complexities of existence within the context of an high-end Manhattan family. Both should be watched by everyone who is interested in the best Black films.
1. The Blood of Jesus (1940)
The time Slate issued its New Black Film Canon seven years ago in 2007, it was the newest part of a long line of acclaimed lists highlighting some of the most important culturally significant films by Black directors.
Spencer Williams’ 1941 movie called “Morality,” which was a social and religious drama that was shot in Texas on a budget of just $5,000, was the very first film that was put into the registry. This movie is a major event in cinema of the race and documents the historical development that traces the history of Black Southern Baptist culture.
2. Bessie (1995)
Bessie Coleman, at the time of her 18th birthday, saved enough money for Langston University in Langston (formerly Colored Agricultural and Normal University). However, she quit following a single semester, because she didn’t have the money to further her education.
The story shows how one is able to succeed no matter the obstacles they face. The powerful tale is an inspirational message to Black girls encouraging them to believe in themselves and to follow their ambitions.
3. In the process of losing Ground (1988)
Losing Ground was the film of an African American women director and inductee in the National Film Registry. It is the story of a Black woman who teaches philosophy as well as her husband, an abstract painter.
Director Kathleen Collins’s polymathic talents meet in this intimate character study that is awe-inspiring. It features an impressive work of cinematic art, which Milestone Films has recently restored to release in physical and theatrical theaters.
4. The House on Mango Street (1960)
Sandra Cisneros has written The House at Mango Street, a story about Esperanza Corero. The book is based upon the experiences of the author when she was a young girl growing up in a slum Mexican American neighborhood.
The novel is structured as a series of vignettes that recall the lives of Esperanza. These vignettes offer insight into cultural and social problems faced by Chicanas in the Chicago’s Hispanic Quarter.
5. The Smell of Success (1980)
The Smell of Success (or SLOB for short) is an Oscar worthy candidate for the best film of this year. The film is a show stopper and stars Burt Lancaster. Stars such as Michael Caine, Phyllis Smith among others, are included in the film. It provides a great time all the way through.
6. The Last Picture Show (1960).
NPR and Slate have teamed up to broaden their Black Film Canon which is which is a compilation of the most outstanding films made by Black filmmakers. The goal is to push all gatekeepers and producers of Best-of lists to look at the variety of talents Black filmmakers have displayed on the screen, despite the odds being traditionally stacked against them.
This selection from director Peter Bogdanovich is an adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s semi-autobiographical novel. It is set in small Texas and follows the relationship of two high school students.
7. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (1968)
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is one of those iconic films that defined the early 70s cinema. This is a well-produced thriller and a script that’s practical and efficient.
Four armed men take over the New York subway train, asking for a ransom in the amount of one million dollars. Then there is a chief of the transit police (Walter Matthau) battles city hall, and even his own officers to keep the train’s passengers safe.
8. The Blues Brothers (1980).
Blues Brothers (1980), is the first choice to find the best Black. This show features Jake and Elwood Blues as well as a couple members of Saturday Night Live pioneers John Belushi (Dan Aykroyd)
It is their love for music that forms the movie’s principal theme. They are introduced to some famous blues and soul artists. The film also devotes large chunks of the film in absurd automobile chase comedy.
9. The Godfather, 1972
The New Black Film Canon is the ideal starting point to experience great Black cinema. The Godfather was the first film to establish a new category of films dealing with organized crime. It set the standards for these films.
It was a huge success for critics as well as audiences. It also revived Marlon Brando’s career. Coppola was also a major actor in the field.
10. The Sun is a Raisin (1963)
It is possible to find fantastic Black films from the past at The New Black Film Canon. The movement is growing among literary tastemakers as well as social media influencers, and media professionals who are digging up earlier works and bringing the films back into sharp focus.
This collection features a variety of spirited and engaging images that are fresh and relevant regardless of the time period, but there are also classic films which have not yet made it into the canon. These films are worth the time.