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Movies from Black directors that have been made available to stream for free

Various streaming platforms and movie distributors are making it easier than ever to access films from Black filmmakers.
Credit: Criterion / Warner Bros. / Paramount

As nationwide Black Lives Matter protests calling for accountability after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police prepare to enter their second weekend, the arts sphere is working to elevate Black perspectives and stories into spaces that help to explain the current moment in American history, as well as educate audiences on how we got to this point. 

That includes movies. This week, various directors, streaming platforms and film distributors have announced plans to lift subscriber paywalls or otherwise provide free rentals for films contextualizing recent demonstrations in the lens of historical injustice—most of them coming from Black directors. 

Other newly available movies, meanwhile, are being promoted as foundational offerings of Black cinema that have nonetheless been unable to puncture the mainstream consciousness of an industry, and audience, still dominated by white directors, screenwriters and actors—an issue that has been spotlighted in recent years by the #OscarsSoWhite movement and subsequent pledges by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to diversify its ranks. 

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As the weekend gets underway, here's a current list of those movies that have been made widely accessible. 

On the Criterion Channel

The relatively new streaming platform curated by Criterion – which focuses on classic, niche fare over more mainstream blockbusters – is providing non-subscribers access to a multitude of movies that "focus on Black lives." 

Among the offerings are Black-produced films from the first half of the 20th century, a quarter of movies from contemporary director Khalik Allah and Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust," which in 1991 became the first movie from a Black female director to be theatrically released in the U.S. There's a treasure trove of classic Black cinema now available; below are just some of the offerings. 

"Just Mercy"

Warner Bros. has made "Just Mercy," the 2019 movie about systemic inequality through the lens of incarceration, free to rent for the month of June. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson, and was the first studio production  made with an inclusion rider. 

"Selma"

Ava DuVernay's 2014 movie dramatizes Dr. Martin Luther King's historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, an act of protest that governmental forces attempted to quash on what came to be known as Bloody Sunday. On Friday morning, DuVernay said via Twitter that the Oscar-nominated film had been made free to rent by Paramount Pictures for the month of June.  

"Monsters and Men"

Neon also said in a Friday tweet that it will be making Black-directed movies in its catalog "available to watch for free" over the coming weeks. The distributor is starting with "Monsters and Men," the feature debut from Reinaldo Marcus Green that explores the aftermath of a black man's death at the hands of a police officer through various members of a community. 

"Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror"

This documentary charts the evolution of Black characters throughout the decades-old history of horror cinema, an evolution that has often mirrored and reckoned with real-life advances or struggles of Black Americans. 

Shudder, the streaming service focused on the curation of horror films, says it has made "Horror Noire" free to stream for everyone for an indefinite amount of time. 

"13th"

This Oscar-nominated documentary has proven to be essential viewing since its 2016 release. The movie is a deep probing of an American history that has systematized racial inequality and the incarceration of Black citizens, specifically through one of the country's founding documents. 

It's been made available by Netflix to stream for free on YouTube. 


"I Am Not Your Negro"

Samuel L. Jackson narrates this exploration of racism throughout history, in a documentary based off an unfinished work by writer James Baldwin. The LA Times's Kenneth Turan called it a "smart, thoughtful and disturbing" watch.

"I Am Not Your Negro" been made free to stream on various digital platforms. 


"The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975"

A Sundance winner in 2011, this documentary is a broader look at the titular movement of the '60s and '70s through uncovered interviews and vignettes of Black stories gathered by a group of journalists. It's been made available to stream for free on digital platforms.