The legendary Maya Angelou once said, "we need joy as we need air. We need Love as we need water." However, joy can be difficult to find when you feel like the world is stacked against you because of your skin color.
During Black History Month, many reflect on the history that led to the month’s inception in 1976. Unfortunately, media outlets, including movies and television series, harp on the heartbreaking stories that seemingly always end with the character’s hardships being exposed.
While resilience in the form of a slavery-focused film and the Civil Rights movement has become a familiar trope in Black media, it isn’t reflective of the entire Black experience. Although being Black in the U.S. and nearly anywhere else has its own set of challenges, there are far more instances of creativity, passion, humor, and joy oozing through our stories.
Below is our list of poignant, Black stories that accurately show Black joy in its characters and subjects. Keep reading to see how to add them to your BHM watchlist!
1. ‘American Fiction’
American Fiction, starring Jeffrey Wright, Erika Alexander, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Issa Rae, is a comedic take on many Black creatives' experiences. Jeffrey's character, Thelonious "Monk" Ellison's struggle to be seen as a writer and not a "Black writer" is far too relatable and explains why he and Sterling K. Brown were nominated for Oscars after their dynamic roles.
American Fiction is available to purchase and stream on Amazon.
2. ‘Cinderella’ (1997 version)
The world might be full of “Zanies and Fools,” but it’s easy to forget that when Brandy and Whitney Houston are singing on your screen. Disney’s 1997 version of is packed with a multiracial cast, with Brandy as the titular character. And even though the movie-musical is over 25 years old, it’s still revered as the best Cinderella movie of all time.
Cinderella is available to stream on Disney Plus.
3. ‘Love Jones’
Sometimes, Black joy looks like having the freedom to make questionable decisions regarding love. While many in the Black community deem Love Jones as a problematic love story (Nia Long’s character, Nina dating Larenz Tate’s ), it’s a story that rarely speaks on the hardships Black folks navigated during that era. The film also celebrates Chicago’s Black art and poetry scene through its main characters.
Love Jones is available to stream on Paramount Plus
4. ‘Seventeen Again’
Only the real ones know that Tia Mowry and Tamera Mowry's version of Seventeen Again far surpasses Zac Efron’s. In Tia and Tamera’s comedic classic, the twin sisters play a grandmother (Tamera) and granddaughter (Tia) whose life changes after a chemical soap makes Tamera’s character, Cat, and her ex-husband, Gene, played by Mark Taylor, into 17-year-olds in the early 2000s. The movie is Black Joy and has humor from beginning to end, and it is perfect to watch with the family!
Seventeen Again is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
5. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’
A Wrinkle in Time is a perfect film for the young dreamer in your life. The Ava Duvernay-directed fantasy starring Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah thee Winfrey is a Black girl action movie everyone will enjoy.
A Wrinkle in Time is available to stream on Disney Plus
6. ‘The Little Mermaid’ (2023 version)
Halle Bailey’s version of Ariel in The Little Mermaid was a monumental moment in film history, as she became one of few Black Disney princesses. The representation, paired with the fact that the live-action The Little Mermaid is an artistic masterpiece, makes it a perfect BHM watch!
The Little Mermaid is available to stream on Disney Plus
7. 'Roll Bounce'
Roll Bounce, starring Bow Wow, Megan Good, and Mr. "Sweeeetnesss" himself, Wesley Jonathan. The roller skating-themed film accurately depicts Black joy, as most of the movie follows Bow Wow's character, Xavier's friends, hilariously trying to win a skating contest after their favorite spot closes down.
Roll Bounce is available to stream on Hulu.
Invite your favorite "Black American Princesses" to watch Halle Berry and the late great in B.A.P.S. The movie may have introduced the world to City Girls without knowing it, but it's a feel-good movie from beginning to end and shows there's much more to Black women than our outfits, though that's important too.
B.A.P.S is available to stream on Tubi
9. ‘Girls Trip’
Will Packer was in his directorial bag when he created Girls Trip. Few films have matched the film's impact when it debuted in 2017, and many of its fans are still waiting for a sequel. While there’s no word on when we will see Girls Trip stars Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish together again, there’s no better time than Black History Month to see the dynamic friend group hilariously tackle Essence Fest one more time.
Girls Trip is available to stream on Peacock
10. ‘The ‘Black Panter’ movies
There’s no way we could make a list about Black joy without mentioning the only place it seems to exclusively exist — Wakanda. While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has a cloud of grief following the real-life loss of the Black Panther, , both films force you to dream bigger and make your own utopia in the real world.
Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is available to stream on Disney Plus
2018’s Coachella will forever be known as “Beychella.” Beyonce used her two-night event to pay homage to the Black Greek sororities and fraternities by recreating a Black Homecoming experience on stage. Not only does the Netflix doc of the same name give all of us peasants a close-up look at Beyonce’s performance, it also shows the challenges she faced soon after the birth of her twins, Sir and Rumi Carter.
Homecoming is available to stream on
12. ‘Black Is King’
If Beyonce is going to do one thing, it will be to highlight Black joy and art in her work. In 2020, she proved as much when she created her musical film, Black Is King. The 1 hour and 25-minute movie was the visual component to Beyonce’s soundtrack for 2019’s The Lion King, also named Black Is King.
Stream Black Is King on Disney Plus
13. The ‘Friday’ series
You might not be able to bring the kids to your Friday movie binge, but you can invite your favorite 420-friendly peeps! Ice Cube’s quotable series shows Black people laughing, cracking jokes, and coming together for what’s right, like Craig, played by Ice Cube, knocking down the neighborhood bully, Deebo, played by the late, great Tommy Lister, Jr.
Stream the Friday movies on Sling TV
14. ‘Summer of Soul’
Summer of Soul is Black History personified. However, unlike the March on Washington and other events centered around Black plight, the entire documentary is about how everyone should’ve known the festival at the center of the story, the Harlem Cultural Festival, existed. The musical doc includes several big names, including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Mahalia Jackson. The Oscar-winning doc is also The Roots’ Questlove’s directorial debut.
Stream Summer of Soul on Hulu
15. ‘Black Joy’
This might be a little on the nose, but honestly, what better way to celebrate Black Joy than with a movie named after the phrase? The1977 comedy, starring Anthony Simmons and Jamal Ali, shows Black people overseas, as it's about "a Guyanese immigrant exposed to the hustle and bustle of life in Brixton, South West London."
Stream Black Joy on Prime Video
Happy streaming and, more importantly, Happy Black History Month!