The Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining more steam this week after several cities continued the protests that began after the wrongful death of George Floyd.
With posts on social media and footage from the protests, it’s been more important than ever before to realize the message that’s being shared. Black people are often at a disadvantage in life, and something needs to change.
Sometimes, the best way to understand is through art. And that’s why many media networks are releasing documentaries and films that better define the history and the sacrifices that black individuals are forced to make. One of the biggest draws has been Ava DuVernay’s film 13th.
The movie, which initially debuted on Netflix, is now streaming for free on YouTube. The title comes from the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery. Ava’s film points out that while slavery is no longer around, there are other ways black people have been unfairly punished. For one, the mass incarceration of black individuals in the United States. It’s alarming how many black individuals are serving long, unfair sentences for petty and nonviolent crimes.
The film is an important watch for everyone. While it may seem uncomfortable at times, it’s a depiction of what’s actually happening in the world. Those who are privileged may avoid it or deny it, simply because it’s not happening to them. If you’re already familiar with the film, here are 13 others that you can currently stream for free.
1. 'The Secret Life of Bees'
This 2018 film stars Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Dakota Fanning. Taking place in 1964, it focuses on a young girl who travels to South Carolina to learn more about her mother who died. It’s currently available for free on Amazon. This movie was also based on a book, in case you’re looking for something new to read.
On the topic of Ava DuVernay, she also made the award-winning film Selma. The movie focuses on Martin Luther King Jr., who is played by David Oyelowo. The movie features other incredible talents, such as Oprah Winfrey, Niecy Nash, Common, Tessa Thompson, and LaKeith Stanfield. It’s currently available to stream for free on Amazon and also available on platforms such as FandangoNOW and Apple TV.
3. 'Monsters and Men'
The tragic death of Eric Garner inspired this 2018 movie, starring John David Washington and Anthony Ramos. The movie is focused on the aftermath after police kill a black man. Some sources state that the film will be free on YouTube on the distributor’s channel. You can also sign up for a free trial of NowTV to catch it.
4. 'Just Mercy'
This Michael B. Jordan film was released in 2019. The movie focuses on a civil rights defense attorney who makes it his goal to help free a wrongfully convicted inmate. The movie also stars Jamie Foxx and is currently free on a few platforms — including Amazon.
5. 'I Am Not Your Negro'
PBS has released the full version of this film to stream on its website, courtesy of Independent Lens. The 2016 film, developed from James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The film contains a lot of archived footage, including footage of James telling his story.
6. 'Daughters of the Dust'
While you typically need to subscribe for movies on the Criterion Channel, it has made a few of its films free for anyone to stream — including Daughters of the Dust. The film, which initially debuted in 1991, is about a African American family leaving their home in search of a better life.
7. 'Brian Banks'
Brian Banks was released in 2018. The story focuses on a black football player who’s dreamed of playing in the NFL all of his life. However, those dreams quickly become derailed when he’s wrongfully convicted of a crime and gets sent to prison. The movie is currently free to stream on Amazon.
8. 'Black Panthers'
Technically, Black Panthers wasn’t made by a person of color. It was directed by Agnès Varda, who became famous for her documentary shorts before passing away in 2019. The film, which was created in the late ’60s and released in the early ’70s, is currently available to stream for free on the Criterion Channel.
9. 'Antwone Fisher'
Released in 2002, Antwone Fisher stars talents such as Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, and Denzel Washington — who also directed the film. The movie focuses on Antwone’s life in the Navy. After Antwone sees a psychiatrist, the audience realizes how painful of a past he truly had. It’s currently available to watch for free on Amazon.
10. 'Body and Soul'
Are you a fan of older films? Then you might want to check out Body and Soul, which was initially released back in 1925. The film, which was written and directed by Oscar Micheaux, featured actor Paul Robeson in his first role. It’s available now on YouTube but more permanently on Criterion Channel.
11. 'Down in the Delta'
When you think of Maya Angelou, you’re likely envisioning a poet and an icon — and not necessarily a filmmaker. However, she did work hard on Down in the Delta, a 1998 film that she directed. The film is a beautiful look at the generations of a family and where they got their start. It’s currently available for free on Criterion Channel.
12. 'My Brother’s Wedding'
My Brother’s Wedding was released in 1983, and it was written and directed by Charles Burnett. While it does have some funny moments, it’s mostly known to be a drama about a black man with doubts of becoming his brother’s best man. It’s currently available to watch for free on Criterion Channel.
13. 'Suzanne, Suzanne'
Suzanne, Suzanne is another wonderful short film that’s currently available to stream for free on Criterion Channel. At under a half hour, the film focuses on a teenage girl who got caught in the world of drugs after facing an abusive childhood. It’s a heartbreaking yet important watch.
There are so many important films that have been created by black filmmakers and actors that are important to watch. These films dig deep and are meant to provide education instead of just entertainment. After watching 13th, consider checking these other incredible films out — and please consider supporting other titles and works created by black creatives that are available for purchase.