Top 10 Films Celebrating Black Joy



Top 10 Films Celebrating Black Joy

VOICE OVER: Andrew Tejada
Add these films to your "Must-Watch" list now! For this list, we'll be looking at movies with complex and uplifting depictions of Black characters and culture. Our countdown includes “Love & Basketball”, “Dolemite Is My Name”, "Black Panther", and more!

Top 10 Films Celebrating Black Joy

Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Films Celebrating Black Joy.

For this list, we’ll be looking at movies with complex and uplifting depictions of Black characters and culture. While a few of these films still touch on real issues, the picks we’re highlighting focus less on harsh trauma and more on cheerful or triumphant stories.

What’s your favorite film that celebrates Black joy? We’d love to hear all about in the comments.

#10: “Love & Basketball” (2000)

Although Monica and Quincy had a deep love of basketball from a young age, they had a lot of trouble seeing eye to eye. But when they spend one-on-one time together after a High School dance, they realize they might have deeper feelings for each other. Watching this complex duo navigate their basketball career struggles and their budding romance was always entertaining. The movie also took time to explore questions about gender constructs and equality in society. And while the film explores many aspects of Black Culture, it never loses sight of its complex romantic leads. The sharp writing and heartwarming scenes ensure that you’ll root for Monica and Quincy to win at life, love and basketball.

#9: “The Forty Year Old Version” (2020)

Before Radha turns 40, she wants to figure out what kind of artist she’s meant to be. After she…strongly refuses to write a musical about Black pain, she rediscovers a love for rap. Radha has to decide whether to focus on plays or to commit to speaking her truth through bars. Her story delightfully pokes fun at the tendency for Black narratives to be tied to deep suffering. Throughout Radha’s journey, we see her and other members of the ensemble push for diverse characters to be portrayed with dignity and complexity. Their important and witty discussions keep us glued to the screen for every scene. Radha’s riveting journey makes the scene where she finally embraces her voice into a moment worthy of a standing ovation.

#8: “Girls Trip” (2017)

After a tight group of friends start to grow distant from each other, they reunite in New Orleans for a trip full of business and pleasure. Their getaway features hilarious writing, surprising physical comedy and an unforgettable dance routine. The laughs keep coming thanks to the performances from the superb main quartet. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish are all individually brilliant and have great chemistry together. The sight of these four incredible Black actresses celebrating friendship is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. You also just might be inspired to buy a ticket to New Orleans in hopes of recreating their funny and heartwarming trip.

#7: “Dolemite Is My Name” (2019)

A man named Rudy Ray Moore got his first real taste of fame when he started playing an original character named Dolemite. Although people doubted him at first, he eventually gained enough support to put a feature film together. Moore didn’t know he’d make a hilarious Blaxploitation film that would go on to inspire many more movies. What makes this comedy so fun to watch is the fact that a few of its wildest scenes are based on events that actually happened. Every time Murphy’s Moore triumphs onscreen, we’re reminded of the real man who repeatedly overcame adversity to make comedy history. “Dolemite Is My Name” is ultimately an uplifting movie that recognizes one of the most unique and hilarious Black comedians of all time.

#6: “King Richard” (2021)

This sports drama gave us an up close and personal look at Venus and Serena Williams before they became legendary tennis stars. Throughout the narrative, it becomes clear that their father Richard’s determination and encouragement played a big role in their success. Seeing the family work and achieve goals together is incredible. And the narrative never forgets how much Venus and Serena’s accomplishments meant to so many young athletes who looked just like them. Although the characters hit some lows throughout the film, the setbacks only make their victories feel more rewarding. The incredibly inspiring “King Richard” reminds us that no dream is out of reach for anyone who has drive, talent and support.

#5: “Coming to America” (1988)

While Crown Prince Akeem of Zamunda could let his parents choose his bride, he decides to look for love in Queens, New York. He abandons his lavish lifestyle to find someone who loves him for who he is. Akeem’s quest for romance in the states is full of non-stop laughs, outrageous characters and a bunch of notable celebrity cameos. We’ll especially never get tired of seeing James Earl Jones play the king of Zamunda. This comedy also cleverly depicts a wide spectrum of Black characters to give everyone someone to relate to. Over 30 years after the movie premiered, the jokes and stunning dance sequence still hold up. We have a feeling this royal comedy is bound to keep people laughing for decades to come.

#4: “Southside With You” (2016)

The sweet “Southside With You” lets the audience experience the first date between a future first lady and president. Although Michelle Robinson wants to maintain a professional relationship with Barack Obama, they grow closer while spending the day together. They’re not scared to poke fun at each other or debate important Black issues. Not only is their love story fun to watch, but it’s incredibly refreshing. The characters aren’t flat stereotypes and don’t have to suffer through any violence. The romance between these two pivotal figures is more than enough for the narrative. If you’re looking for a significant love story that is full of nothing but good vibes you have to see “Southside With You.”

#3: “Cinderella” (1997)

When the multi talented Brandy put on Cinderella’s glass slippers, she shattered barriers in the fantasy genre. Since she was the first Black performer to play the famous princess in a live-action movie, her role represented a huge milestone for representation. It was also incredible to see Brandy lead an ensemble that included a diverse range of actors and the legendary Whitney Houston. And it’s impossible not to sing along to every song in the stacked soundtrack. Although the story may stick to the usual Cinderella structure, it still stands as one of the most unique live-action fairy tales in movie history. Brandy’s perfect princess portrayal helped many kids believe they could be royalty someday too.

#2: “Black Is King” (2020)

Instead of sticking to a traditional story structure, Beyoncé’s “Black Is King” uses music, dialogue, spoken word and dance to craft a stunning epic. A As the movie goes on, we’re shown awe-inspiring depictions of different aspects of African culture. Everything from the gorgeous costumes to the breathtaking settings reflect the rich history of the continent and its people. At the same time, there’s plenty of spoken and unspoken nods to Black culture worldwide. It would take days to fully unpack all the symbolism and uplifting messages contained in this ambitious film. Beyoncé unquestionably created a beautiful and towering movie that serves as a moving and monumental tribute to Black history.

Before we highlight our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Brown Sugar” (2002)
This Diverse Rom-Com Was a Huge Love Letter to Hip-Hop

“Akeelah and the Bee” (2006)
The Community Comes Together to Support a Black Girl’s Dream Of Winning a Spelling Bee

“Sylvie's Love” (2020)
A 1960’s Romance Between Two Black Leads That Find Success Was Music to Our Ears

"Barbershop” (2002)
A Range of Complex Characters Laugh & Triumph Together in a Pillar of Their Community

“The Watermelon Woman” (1996)
The Groundbreaking Movie Explored Black Film History & LGBT+ Relationships

#1: “Black Panther” (2018)

Audiences who followed the late Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa into Wakanda were rewarded with a triumphant journey. As the titular Black Panther struggled with new royal duties to his African nation, Erik Kilmonger challenged the hero to help Black lives worldwide. In between scenes of conflict, the movie celebrates African culture, discusses African-American struggles and promotes unity. “Black Panther’s” combination of incredible action and respect for culture helped it become the first superhero film to get a Best Picture nod. And since it’s one of the highest grossing films of all time, the story definitely reached lots of people. “Black Panther” stands as a fun adventure, a stunning display from a beloved actor and one of the best celebrations of Black joy.