30 Movies to Learn About Social Injustice
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd. These names and countless others who were victims of systemic racism will forever be engraved in our minds.
We need to change. We need to do better. We firmly believe that the first step in preventing this from happening again is education, which can be accomplished through various forms of media, including film. We wanted to highlight a few relevant movies that will help shed light on what the Black community is going through today.
Just Mercy (free to stream thru June)—With huge opportunities laid down even before he graduated from Harvard Law School, Bryan Stevenson’s career is shaping up to be an impressive one. He, however, decides to forgo all of those offers in order to go to Alabama and represent those who cannot afford a lawyer and those who are wrongly accused. There, he takes on the case of an African-American man wrongly imprisoned for the murder of a white woman.
Brian Banks (free to stream thru June)—The inspirational true story of an all-American high school football star who finds his life upended when he’s wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Years later, he fights to clear his name within an unjust system.
42—Hero is a word we often hear in the world of sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. 42 tells the story of two men — the great Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) and the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) — whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball. In 1946, Rickey signed Robinson to the team, breaking Major League Baseball’s infamous color line. Facing racism from every side, Robinson demonstrated tremendous courage by letting his talent on the field do the talking — ultimately winning over fans and his teammates, and paving the way for others to follow.
Harriet—The incredible true story of one of America’s greatest heroes, Harriet Tubman. From her escape from slavery to the dangerous missions she led, setting free hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad.
Hidden Figures—The incredible untold true story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) & Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This stunning achievement galvanized the world and inspired generations to dream big.
If Beale Street Could Talk—African-American teen sweethearts Fonny and Tish are ripped apart when Fonny is wrongly arrested for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman because of the machinations of a racist cop. A pregnant Tish relies on her Harlem community while seeking justice for Fonny.
Ali (free to stream thru June)—Superstar Will Smith gives the performance of his career as boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a visually amazing epic drama from Academy Award nominated director Michael Mann. Muhammad Ali thrilled the world with his ground-breaking boxing victories in the ’60s and ’70s. But the man behind the legend is grappling with a tumultuous romantic life, his deeply held religious beliefs and the pressures of staying on top. A quick-witted, winning personality and strong friendships with close associates, including renowned newscaster Howard Cosell ( Jon Voight), help Ali “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” But faced with a life-changing conflict outside of the ring, the famously opinionated boxer is forced to rely on the one person he knows the best: himself.
Antwone Fisher (free to stream thru June)—Denzel Washington makes his triumphant directorial debut and Derek Luke shines in his first big-screen role in Antwone Fisher. Inspired by a true life story, Antwone Fisher tells the dramatic story of a troubled sailor (Luke) who embarks on a remarkable journey to confront his painful past–and connect with the family he never knew.
Blindspotting—A Black ex-con trying to finish out his year-long probation witnesses a brutal police shooting; an incident that begins to haunt him and ultimately forces him to re-examine his relationship with his White best friend, a man who is known to be reckless and ill-tempered.
Boyz N’ The Hood—Young Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) has been sent by his mother to live with his father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). Their South Central Los Angeles neighborhood is beset by gang violence and drugs, but Furious managed to avoid their ill effects and is determined to keep his son out of trouble. He can’t, however, protect Tre from the influence of other forces, including his friends, Doughboy (Ice Cube, in his acting debut), who’s drifting into drugs and run-ins with the law, and Doughboy’s brother, Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a high school football star and teenage father. When a chance encounter leads to gunfire and tragedy, Tre must decide whether to accompany Doughboy on a dangerous mission of revenge.
Clemency—Bernadine Williams is a prison warden made tough and unfeeling by the numerous deaths she has witnessed throughout her long career. Her strong facade, however, begins to crumble after her 12th execution goes awry and after she meets Anthony Woods, the criminal who is next in line. As her connection with Anthony deepens, Bernadine finds herself being confronted by the demons inside her that were created by her job and the humanity she is trying so hard to suppress.
Detroit—This searing docudrama about race riots that engulfed Detroit for five days in July 1967 zeros in on one particular incident at the Algiers Motel, where a group of Black men and White women were terrorized by malevolent, rogue police officers.
Django Unchained—Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz.. Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django, promising to free him upon the capture of the Brittles – dead or alive. Also starring: Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo Dicaprio.
Many of these titles are available for free or at a discounted rate with Redbox On Demand, including Just Mercy and Selma, and we encourage you to take advantage. Listen, Learn and Act.
Do The Right Thing—A hilarious, insightful, and ultimately devastating day in the life of a Brooklyn street on the hottest day of the year when tempers are flaring. A brilliant study of racism that has never been surpassed in the years since its release.
For Colored Girls—Thirty six years after it’s stage debut, filmmaker Tyler Perry adapted the landmark work for the big screen, integrating the vivid language of poetry into a contemporary narrative that explores what it means to be a woman of color – and a woman of any color – in this world. For Colored Girls weaves together the stories of nine different women as they move into and out of one another’s existences; some are well known to one another, others are as yet strangers. Crises, heartbreaks and crimes will ultimately bring these nine women fully into the same orbit where they will find commonality and understanding. Each will speak her truth as never before. And each will know that she is complete as a human being, glorious and divine in all her colors.
Fruitvale Station—This Sundance award-winner follows the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a Black, 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on New Year’s Eve, 2008, and decides to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother (Octavia Spencer), being a better partner to his girlfriend, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4-year-old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, realizes that change will not come easy as his final encounter of the day with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station will shake the Bay Area to its very core, causing the entire nation to witness the story and tragic death of Oscar Grant.
Glory—Winner of three Academy Awards®, Glory tells the story of the Union Army’s first black fighting unit in the American Civil War. The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was made up of black soldiers-some Northern freemen, some escaped slaves-and led by whites, including Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), the son of Boston abolitionists. The unit faced virulent racism, not only from their Southern adversaries but from Northern whites who resisted arming black soldiers and doubted their ability to fight effectively. But in the bloody attack on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina, the members of the 54th distinguished themselves in an almost suicidal battle. Their heroic actions helped throw open the gates of the Union Army to 180,000 blacks who risked their lives for emancipation and citizenship, and may have helped turn the tide of the war.
Loving—From acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols, Loving celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who married and then spent the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry – and their love story has become an inspiration to couples ever since.
Malcolm X—Often misunderstood, Malcolm X was one of the leading forces of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. He inspired many-and frightened many-but is destined to be remembered as one of the greatest men of his era. This riveting biography directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington in an Academy Award-nominated performance reveals the man at the center of a storm of change.
Precious—Precious Jones (Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child – for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being overweight. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources.
Queen & Slim—A young couple’s first date hits a snag when a local police officer pulls them over, citing a traffic infraction as the cause. However, things soon go awry as tensions escalate, resulting in the death of the officer. The young couple hit the road, on the run from the law after the media vilifies them for the episode. Their story sparks divisive responses across the country.
Race—The incredible true story of Olympic legend Jesse Owens is vividly brought to life in Race. In his epic quest to be the greatest athlete in history, Owens (Stephan James) chooses to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he must overcome not only elite competition, but also the brutal racial climate of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Also starring Jason Sudekis and Academy Award winners Jeremy Irons and William Hurt, Race is a film about courage, determination, tolerance, friendship and trust that critics are calling “Movie magic!”
Selma (free to stream thru June)—Selma chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.
The Color Purple—Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple is a richly-textured, powerful film set in America’s rural south. Whoopi Goldberg, winner of the Best Actress Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination, makes a triumphant screen debut as the radiant, indomitable Celie, the story’s central character. Her impressive portrayal is complimented by a distinguished cast that includes Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Adolph Caesar, Rae Dawn Chong and Akosua Busia.
The Hate U Give—A young black student from a poor neighborhood who attends a prep school in an affluent area finds her uneasy life balance further disrupted when she witnesses her childhood friend get shot by a police officer. Caught in the middle of the subsequent turmoil, she is forced to look inside herself and figure out just where she stands in her young life.
The Secret Life of Bees (free to stream thru June)—Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning lead a stellar ensemble cast including Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, and Paul Bettany in this wonderful film about family, independence and the transcendent power of love based on the acclaimed best-selling novel. To escape her cruel, angry father, and discover the truth about her late mother’s past, 14-year old Lily Owens flees with her caregiver and friend Rosaleen to a South Carolina town where she’s taken in by the bee-keeping Boatwright sisters. Surrounded by the unexpected love, grace and spirituality she encounters there, Lily forms a bond with each of these uniquely gifted women and discovers that sometimes you must leave home in order to find it.
BlacKkKlansman—A Black detective sets out to infiltrate the Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his Jewish colleague. In the midst of the 1970s civil rights movement, they risk their lives to obtain insider information on the violent organization.
Dear White People—”Everyone should see this movie” raves the New York Times. A sharp and funny comedy about a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial boundaries at a predominantly White college. A sly, provocative satire about being a Black face in a white place.
12 Years A Slave—From director Steve McQueen and based on Solomon Northup’s astonishing true story comes this powerful winner of three 2013 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o). In 1841, Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free citizen, is kidnapped, stripped of his identity and sold into slavery. Now, he must find the strength to survive in this unflinching story of hope.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler—Lee Daniels’ The Butler tells the story of a White House butler (Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker) who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life, his wife (Academy Award®-nominated Oprah Winfrey), and the rest of his family. Rounding out this all-star cast is Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more.
To find out more about streaming these films, visit Redbox.com.
[…] We are seeing a vast increase of younger generations getting involved in social justice and fighting for equality. What do you feel is the value of teaching teens the importance of voting and speaking out against voter suppression; and getting involved in the fight for social justice? […]
[…] In addition to her literary work, Melissa is the co-founder of YALLWEST, and the co-director of YALLFEST, two of the largest teen book festivals in the country. She is also on the Advisory Board of Facing History, which reaches five million school children nationwide with a curriculum devoted to teaching empathy and social justice. […]