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According to wikipedia, Black film is a classification of film in Hollywood that has a broad definition relating to the film involving participation and/or representation of black people. The definition may involve the film having a black cast, a black crew, a black director, a black story, or a focus on black audiences. Academic Romi Crawford said, "I think a black film is a film work that takes into account in some way the relationship of African-Americans or blacks from the African Diaspora to filmmaking practice, means and industry. For me, it's in that relation between blacks and the film industry. How one engages in that relationship can be a mixture of black director and black acting talent; black director and black content in story; black content in story, no black director; black production money, nothing else that reads as black." 

As of January 2, 2019, a noteworthy item appeared in the Journal of Blacks in Higher ducation.  "Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California recently discovered a silent film that was filmed in 1898. The film entitled, Something Good-Negro Kiss, is believed to be the earliest depiction of African American affection captured on film. [Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. "Silent Movie Shows the Earliest Depiction of African American Affection Captured on Film.]

The Internet provides access to numerous free films and clips from late19th century to the present.

Images of Popular Films


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IUB Streaming Titles

The following resources require IUB CAS Authentication.

12 Years a Slave (134min., 2013)  Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

Car Wash ( 96min., 1976) Michael Schultz's irreverent but affectionate comedic look at a typical day in a Los Angeles car wash.  

Chi-Raq (126min., 2015)  Prolific director Spike Lee brings us a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play 'Lysistrata' by Aristophanes. After the murder of a child by a stray bullet, a group of women led by Lysistrata organize against the on-going violence in Chicago's Southside creating a movement that challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world.

Django Unchained (165 min., 2012) Quentin Tarantino's seventh feature films focuses on the slavery era.  Django, a former slave turned hired gun, heads back to the plantation to free his wife, Broomhilda, from the tyrannical plantation owner Calvin Candie, with the help of a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Shultz.

Do the Right Thing (119min., 1989).  Spike Lee's powerful visual feast combines humor and drama with memorable characters while tracing the course of a single day on a block in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. It's the hottest day of the year, a scorching 24-hour period that will change the lives of its residents forever.  Released in 1989 as a motion picture by Universal.

Drumline ( 118 min., 2002)  Set against the high-energy, high-stakes world of show style marching bands, DRUMLINE is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a talented street drummer from Harlem who enrolls in a Southern university, expecting to lead its marching band's drumline to victory. He initially flounders in his new world before realizing that it takes more than talent to reach the top.

Get Out (104min., 2017) Jordan Peele's breakout film had us all on the edge of our seats! A young black man meets his white girlfriend's parents at their estate, only to find out that the situation is much more sinister than it appears.

Greenbook  (130min., 2018) Peter Farrelly's Oscar winning film stars Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali.   During the 1960s, a bouncer, whose nightclub closes for renovations, finds a temporary employment as a driver for black pianist Don Shirley going on a tour into the Deep South states.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (108min., 1967)  Stanley Kramer's award winning film looks at interracial attitudes during the 1960s. Crusading newspaper publisher Matt Drayton's liberal principles are put to the test when his daughter, Joey, announces her engagement to John Prentice, an internationally renowned African-American physician. While Matt's wife, Christina, readily accepts Joey's decision, Matt intends to withhold his consent, forgetting that when it comes to matters of the heart, true love is colorblind.

Moonlight ( 111min., 2016) This academy award winner for best motion picture of 2016 is the tender, heartbreaking story of a young black man's struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

Sorry to Bother You (110min., 2018)  Boots Riley's satirical film explores how in an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.

Spies in Disguise (102min.,  2019) Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is... not. But what Walter lacks in social skills he makes up for in smarts and invention, creating the awesome gadgets Lance uses on his epic missions. But when events take an unexpected turn, Walter and Lance suddenly have to rely on each other in a whole new way. And if this odd couple can’t learn to work as a team, the whole world is in peril.

Super fly (91min., 1972) Gordon Parks, Jr.'s blaxploitation film tells the story of Priest, a cocaine dealer, who is just smart enough to know that there's no real future in dealing coke, and makes a proposal to his partner Eddie that would leave them with a million dollar profit each. But Scatter, the dealer who set Priest up in the cocaine trade, is both unwilling and unable to sell them that much product. As Priest looks for a new source for his big score, one of his underlings, Fat Freddie, is picked up by the police. Freddie tells the cops about Priest's underground empire. Priest is confronted by corrupt cops who want to become his partner.

Us  (110min., 2019) Jordan Peele does it again with this thriller. Haunted by trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family. After spending a tense beach day with their friends, Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home. When darkness falls, the Wilsons discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway: doppelgangers of themselves.

Explore more cinematic and popular titles via IUCAT as well as via IUB's licensed subscriptions to Films for Education, Kanopy and SWANK at Media Services Libguide to Streaming Databases.

IUB DVD/Video Films

During Covid, only IU faculty, staff and students can borrow materials from Media Services with a valid IU crimson card.  Face masks are required. Be sure to check with Media Services for hours.  VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT.  Possible keyword search:  African Americans in Motion Pictures, Blaxploitation. Limit to film & video, dvd/videodisc, Bloomington campus. 

Black Panther (134min, 2018) Ryan Coogler's King T'Challa returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as new leader. However, T'Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from divisions within his own country. When two enemies conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must join forces with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Wakandan Special Forces, to prevent Wakanda from being drawn into a world war.

Boyz in the Hood (112min., 2003) John Singleton's breakout film tells the story of three friends struggle to survive in South Central Los Angeles where friendship, pain, danger and love form a true picture of life in the 'hood in this critically acclaimed, action-filled story.   

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (116min., 2005)  prolific filmmaker Tyler Perry brings us this heartfelt family drama. Helen McCarter would seem to have it all. She's married to Charles who is one of Atlanta's most successful attorneys. But despite having wealth and prestige, things are not as they seem in the McCarter home. On the evening of their anniversary, Charles drops a bombshell on Helen - he's divorcing her for another woman. Thrown out of the house with nowhere to go, Helen moves in with her grandmother Madea, a sassy woman with no shortage of opinions and a gun that she's not afraid to use. As Madea helps Helen get back on her feet emotionally, she meets Orlando, a nice and handsome man who is obviously attracted to her. But after her experiences with Charles, Helen isn't sure if she's ready to trust a man again.

Foxy Brown (91min., 1974) Pam Grier in one of her many breakout roles is Foxy Brown.  Foxy Brown goes undercover to break up a crime ring headed by Miss Katherine, who keeps a male harem of violent strong men, along with a stable of female prostitutes. As Foxy wages a war against corruption, she poses as a sultry call girl, risking life and limb in her quest for revenge for the murder of her boyfriend. Includes the orginal theatrical trailer.

Gone with the Wind  (232min., 1939) Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, stars in Margaret Mitchell's story of the old south. The famous saga of southern belle Scarlett O'Hara and her triumphs and tribulations during and after the Civil War.  Videorecording of the 1939 motion picture by Selznick International Pictures.  Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell.

Hidden Figures (127min., 2016)  As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.  Originally released as a motion picture in 2016.

If Beale Street Could Talk  (119min., 2018) Based on the novel by James Baldwin, this award winning film is a timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem involving newly engaged nineteen-year-old Tish and her fiance Fonny who have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream.

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (89min., 1989) A breakout role for African American filmmaker Keenan Ivory Wayans. An action-adventure spoof "of 70's black action movies. Jack Spade and his cool sidemen ... set out to get Mr. Big, who is responsible when one of the 'brothers' OG's (over-golds) from wearing too many chains.

The Help (146min., 2011) Tate Taylors award winning film takes place in 1960s Mississippi. Skeeter, a southern society girl, returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives, and a small Mississippi town, upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen, Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up, to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community.

The Spike Lee Joint Collection (3 videodiscs, 627 min, 2006)  Spike Lee is one of the most acclaimed and controversial directors of all time. Now five of his most provocative, thought-provoking films are available in one collection. From the breakout hit dramedy "Do the right thing" to the gritty, urban "Clockers," Lee peels away life's layers, exposing the ironies, brutalities, rhythms and prejudices of the naked city in this powerful collector's set:

  • pt. 1-2. Clockers; Jungle fever
  • pt. 3-4. Do the right thing; Mo' better blues
  • pt. 5. Crooklyn.

Sweet Sweeback's Badasssss Song (97min., 1971) Melvin Van Peeble presents the story of a professional sex-show stud who kills two white policeman who are beating up a black youth ; includes members of the black community.

Explore more cinematic and popular titles via IUCAT.

Internet Resources

Black Film Center/Archive (@Indiana University) - established in 1981 as a repository of films and related materials by and about Black people Included are films which have substantial participation by Black writers, actors, producers, directors, musicians, and consultants, as well as those which depict some aspect of black experience. Black Camera, an international film journal published through the Black Film Center/Archive and IU Press, serves as an academic, professional, and community resource.

Cinema (@Indiana University) - one of the nation’s most prestigious movie house, IU Cinema presents and examines the world’s most entertaining, fascinating, and thought-provoking films as they invite you to hear from the luminaries who created them. An arthouse cinema, and most events are free.

Library of Congress: African Americans in Hollywood - contains films & clips, panel discussions,and more about the black experience in film.

Media Collections Online (@Indiana University) provides both open and restricted access to tens of thousands films owned by the IU community.

Monroe County Public Library - provides free access to thousands of films via streaming databases such as Hoopla, Internet Archive, Overdrive, Kanopy, Teenbookcloud, and Tumblebooklibrary. Must have  a library card to access online resources/

Moving Image Archive (@Indiana University) - IU Libraries Moving Image Archive is one of the world’s largest educational film and video collections. With more than 130,000 items spanning nearly 80 years of film production, the Archive is a member of the distinguished International Federation of Film Archives, the world’s leading association for film preservation.