Looking for real-life stories of Black pioneers, icons, and agents of change? In honor of Black History Month, we’ve collected 20 fascinating biopics covering artists and activists that are perfect for your next movie night. Scroll below – and don’t forget the popcorn!
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni
The story of Jackie Robinson, the first Black baseball player to break the color barrier and play in the Major League.
Starring: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles
The triumphs and controversies of boxer Muhammad Ali as he broke convention — both in the ring and out — from 1964 to 1974.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant
A young navy man is forced to see a psychiatrist after a violent outburst against a fellow crewman.
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman
A lightly fictionalized account of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and his struggles with fame, drugs, and identity.
Starring: Queen Latifah, Michael K. Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mo’Nique
HBO’s film focuses on blues singer Bessie Smith and her rise to fame in the 1920’s and ‘30s.
Starring: Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union, Beyoncé
This film chronicles the life of the Chicago-based record company executive Leonard Chess, and the musicians who recorded for Chess Records in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Get on Up
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis
A look at singer James Brown’s rise from poverty to becoming the “Godfather of Soul.”
Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom, Jr.
The story of Harriet Tubman, following her escape from salvery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes.
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner
Loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name, the drama follows a team of mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
Starring: Halle Berry, Brent Spiner, Obba Babatundé, Loretta Devine
A look at the life and career of Dorothy Dandridge — the first Black woman to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress — from club circuit, to movie star, to her untimely death.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman, Jr.
A tribute to controversial Black Nationalist leader, Malcolm X, from his early life to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Sterling K. Brown
The story of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, and one of his first cases, the State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell.
Starring: Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, Anthony Mackie
A dramatization of the life and death of Christopher Wallace, The Notorious B.I.G.
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Regina King
The life and career of legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles.
Starring: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long
The story of teen battle rap champ Roxanne Shanté in ‘80s Queens, New York.
Straight Outta Compton
Starring: O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown, Jr.
Revolutionary rap group N.W.A. changes hip hop culture with music and tales of Compton life.
Talk to Me
Starring: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji P. Henson, Cedric the Entertainer
The story of ex-con Ralph “Petey” Greene, who became a popular radio show host and community activist in 1960’s Washington D.C.
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Hannah, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber
Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, a former middleweight boxer, is wrongly convicted of a triple murder in New Jersey.
The Pursuit of Happyness
Starring: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith
A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he’s about to begin a life-changing professional career.
What’s Love Got to Do with It
Starring: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis
The life of singer Tina Turner and her relationship with her abusive husband, Ike Turner.