The Most Timeless Scenes from Iconic Black Films Over the Years
More and more African Americans are demanding representation on both the big and the small screen. While Hollywood works on that, let's not forget the legendary works of the past.
From since the '50s, Black people have made their mark in the entertainment industry. Here's an accumulation of the best moments in Black movie history from then until more recent times.
A Raisin in the Sun
In 1961, "A Raisin in the Sun" became an instant classic when the Broadway play of the same name was adapted for cinema. Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Ruby Dee, and Sidney Poitier co-starred in the film about fulfilling one's dreams despite the challenges.
Poitier, who played Walter Lee Younger, was nominated for a Golden Globe for a heart-wrenching monologue he performed in the film. The speech gave an eye-opening explanation of the imbalance of race in the country.
Not all of Black people's best moments took place in the earlier years. In a fast-paced fight scene of 2018's "Black Panther," Danai Gurira throws her wig into an enemy's face as she takes on bad guys as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje.
In the 1954 musical "Carmen Jones," Dorothy Dandridge is a shameless flirt who has all the talent. Her rendition of Oscar Hammerstein II 's "Dat's Love" is a timeless moment from the flick, which was adapted from George Bizet's opera named "Carmen."
Another recent hit was 2017's "Get Out," which earned writer and director Jordan Peele an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2018. The suspenseful horror has an eery feel throughout as Daniel Kuluuya's character takes center stage as Chris.
When he sits down with his girlfriend's mother Missy Armitage, played by Catherine Kenner, things get even more horrifying as the hypnotist guides him into what is referred to as "The Sunken Place." A single tear on Chris' face cements the scene as one of the greatest of all time.
In 2016, "Hidden Figures" shared the story of three black female mathematicians who played a central role in several 20th-century space missions.
The scene with Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P Henson, as she explains to her boss exactly why she is out so long for bathroom breaks is a raw testament to the injustices of segregation that once existed.
Lean on Me
The hit film "Lean On Me," released in 1989, centered around the youth of New Jersey by following principal Joe Louis Clark. Morgan Freeman plays the role of the pragmatic, strict, but down-to-earth authority figure — which many of the children in the film lack.
Set in the '80s, the film follows as Clark takes a hands-on approach at his school. In one scene, he breaks up a fight in which his student is getting beat up, resulting in a school lockdown. Defending his stance, he introduces the famous line: "They used to call me Crazy Joe, well, now they can call me Batman."
1965 saw the jolting portrayal of the Black history icon Martin Luther King Jr. as he and his wife Coretta Scott King push the civil rights movement. Played by David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo, the couple leads a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the scene tugs at one's heartstrings.
The Color Purple
In 1982, Oprah Winfrey left her largest footprint on the big screen with the iconic adaption of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple." While working in the cornfields alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Winfrey as Sofia gave the heavily parodied speech which contains the line, "All my life I had to fight."
The Great Debaters
Denzel Washington starred in the 2007 hit, one of the few in this list which was not pre-written, but is based on a true story of a Black debate team (among the first of its kind) who won a national championship in 1935.
Samantha Booke, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, had her biggest moment in the flick with her speech about inclusion. In the end she belts out: "The time for justice, the time for equality and the time for freedom is always right now!"
Another unforgettable classic set in more segregated times was 2009's "The Help." In one horrifying scene of the film, Minny (Octavia Spencer) takes revenge on her old boss Holly Holbrook by serving her up a chocolate pie concocted with poop.
In stark contrast to the many films that focused on equality, 1978's "The Wiz" was a testimony of the legendary musical talents that Black people contributed to entertainment from early on after their freedom.
Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Nipsey Russell contributed to the version of the classic L. Frank Baum children's novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." The musical Emerald City showdown is one of the best of its time and of all time.
Waiting to Exhale
No list would be complete without the dramatics of a scorned woman. In 1995's "Waiting To Exhale," Angela Bassett as Bernie Harris sets fire to her husband's clothes knowing that he plans to leave her. Hauntingly, she smokes a cigarette as she looks on at the burning clothes only to toss it into the fire.
The emotional impact of all these scenes is hard-hitting and unforgettable. As time goes on, there's no doubt we'll continue to see the exceptional results that originate from Black writers, directors, actors, and actresses in the film industry.