Happy Juneteenth: 10 Movies to Stream That Celebrate Black Joy

·4-min read

Now a federal holiday, Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. Although this day marks just the beginning of an ongoing battle for equality, Juneteenth represents an opportunity to celebrate the joy of the Black experience as much as the hardship. And TheWrap’s got a great list of films to get that celebration started.

Once you’ve checked out some of the more educational Juneteenth-related fare, like “13th” or “I Am Not Your Negro,” consider adding some of these flicks to your streaming list.

“Soul” (Disney+)

“Soul,” Pixar’s first film to feature an African-American protagonist, follows Joe Gardener, a middle school music teacher with dreams of becoming a jazz star. When Joe dies prematurely before receiving his big break, he gets a second chance at his fantasy when accidentally enters the Great Before — a place that prepares unborn souls for real life. Not only does this film explore the intricacies of life and death, “Soul” features a predominantly Black cast, ranging from Jamie Foxx to Angela Bassett to Daveed Diggs. Co-director and screenwriter Kemp Powers, who is also Pixar’s first Black writer-director, doesn’t view the film as a “Black” movie, but instead honors the universal story from the perspective of a Black man. “Joe could have been of any race — but if Joe was going to be a Black man it was really important that he feel authentically of that group. I didn’t want him to seem like a stereotypical character that was just painted black,” Kemp told TheWrap.

“Invisible Portraits” (Amazon Prime Video)

“Invisible Portraits” celebrates the strength and courage of Black women, beginning the healing process from decades of generational trauma. Released on Juneteenth of 2020, filmmaker Oge Egbuonu devoted her film to weaving together narratives of struggle and celebration from Black women and scholars. “I think it’s really important that we reclaim the narrative of who we are, especially as Black women, and to cultivate a space that allows so many different Black women and girls to tell their story,” Egbuonu told WrapWomen. While this emotional documentary explores painful traumas Black women have faced throughout U.S. history, it acknowledges Black women’s role as uniting communities — building its own community in the process.

“Black Is King” (Disney+)

As a musical film and visual album written and directed by Beyoncé, “Black is King” accompanies “Lion King: The Gift,” album curated by Beyoncé for the 2019 remake of “The Lion King.” The film follows the traditional plot of “The Lion King,” following Simba, represented as a young Black boy, but adds in layers of depth by drawing from traditional and contemporary elements African culture. Featuring numerous African and American collaborators, including her daughter, Blue Ivy, Beyoncé weaves in Pan-African symbolism while remaining true to the plot. Although the directors had additional plans to shoot with Beyoncé in South Africa until the COVID-19 Pandemic prohibited them, “Black is King” is a triumphant masterpiece that celebrates the divine Black identity.

“One Night in Miami…” (Amazon Prime Video)

The Academy Award nominated film tells the fictionalized account of Black legends Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (who later renamed himself Muhammad Ali), Jim Brown and Sam Cooke one night in 1964. While the dialogue and exact events are fictionalized, “One Night in Miami…” touches on pressing issues as these Black leaders debated how to move forward as the Civil Rights Movement advanced — Malcolm’s struggles with Nation of Islam leadership, Clay’s impending conversion to Islam and Cooke’s struggle to use his platform to push the perception of the Black community forward. Directed by “Watchmen” star Regina King, “One Night in Miami…” celebrates Black leaders of the past and inspires those to come.

Sylvie’s Love (Amazon Prime Video)

“Sylvie’s Love” offers a whimsical and old-fashioned love story centering on two Black leads in 1960s New York City. Writer and director Eugune Ashe’s refreshing take on this classic tale offers Black audiences the opportunity to see themselves in a time period and genre they aren’t usually reflected in. “We generally see (Black characters) only through the lens of the civil rights movement if we’re handling subject matter that deals with Black folks in the ’60s,” Ashe told theWrap. “So I just kind of wanted to do something a little different.”

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