13 Best Movies About Racism on Netflix (Feb 2024)

Societies have been segregating people into boxes based on their physical traits, ancestry, genetics, and social or cultural traits from the beginning of civilization. Racism turns out to be a monster destroying innocent lives when one race tries to gain superiority over another. Discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race have led to many bloodbaths, wars, genocides, and other brutalities in and out of history books. Films have explored this issue in movies spread over all genres. Netflix offers its viewers a collection of some of the best movies that focus on racism and the stories of people who have fought against it.

13. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009)

‘Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story’ is based on the life of American neurosurgeon-turned-politician Ben Carson, adapted from his autobiography. The film is directed by Thomas Carter and shows how Carson went on to become one of the most well-known neurosurgeons in the world. Fighting prejudice, poverty, and a bad temper, Caron, supported by his single mother Sonya, rose from being poor in studies to receiving a scholarship at Yale and making it into Johns Hopkins Hospital. His achievements over there constitute the rest of the film, including the separation of twins conjoined at the back of their heads. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the role of Ben Carson. You can watch the film here.

12. Rustin (2023)

Directed by George C. Wolfe, ‘Rustin’ is a biographical drama of Bayard Rustin, a gay Black civil rights activist, a key player of the Civil Rights Movement, and a trusted advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. He is also the one who organized the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963, the aim of which was to promote and take a stand for the rights of African Americans. It was at this very march that King delivered his world-famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The film pays the long-overdue tribute to Rustin for his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and, by extension, to the Black Community and humanity in general.

Alongside Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin and Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King Jr., the cast includes Jeffrey Wright, Chris Rock, Gus Halper, and Johnny Ramey. The film was produced by Higher Ground, which is owned by Barack and Michelle Obama. You can watch it here.

11. Marshall (2017)

Starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular real-life personality Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice (of the United States). The film shows his rise as a lawyer, defending innocent African Americans from unjust legal accusations, with a special focus on one of his most complex cases, the 1940 State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell. In it, Bell, an African-American, was accused of raping his boss, a wealthy white woman named Eleanor Strubing. While Bell did confess to being intimate with her, he didn’t confess to raping her, and in 1941, he was found not guilty.

Alongside Boseman, the rest of the cast includes Josh Gad as Samuel Friedman, who represented Bell alongside Marshall, Kate Hudson as Eleanor Strubing, Sterling K. Brown as Joseph Spell, and James Cromwell as Judge Foster. You can watch the film here.

10. 13th (2016)

Ava DuVernay’s docu-drama, ‘13th‘, is an in-depth investigation of the functioning of the U.S. prison system. The movie upturns some of the unknown pages of American history and sheds light on the traces of racial inequality. The narrative compiles the views of scholars, activists, and politicians to draw a vivid picture of the criminalization of African-American identity, which culminates in a general science about the people. DuVernay also checks the facts and figures behind the so-called ‘prison boom‘ in the U.S. in this thought-provoking work on race, human rights, justice, brutality, suffering, and embarrassment. You can watch the movie here.

9. The Best of Enemies (2019)

The Best of Enemies‘ is a powerful drama film directed by Robin Bissell, adapted from the true story and book by Osha Gray Davidson. Set in 1971, the movie stars Taraji P. Henson as Ann Atwater and Sam Rockwell as C.P. Ellis, portraying their unlikely alliance in desegregating schools in Durham, North Carolina. The film beautifully delves into the complexities of racial tensions, showcasing the transformative journey of two deeply prejudiced individuals who come to understand and respect each other’s perspectives. Their unlikely friendship becomes a symbol of hope and a testament to the capacity for change, making ‘The Best of Enemies‘ a poignant and essential exploration of racism and reconciliation. You may watch the film here.

8. Stamped from the Beginning  (2023)

From director Roger Ross Williams comes this documentary/scripted feature based on the 2016 book of the same name by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi (author/historian/anti-racist activist). The film addresses America’s anti-black sentiment and its course through the country’s history and culture. Multiple renowned black activists, professors, scholars, and historians put forward their opinions on the matter, addressing how racism was in the past and where it stands today. You can stream it here.

7. The Black Godfather (2019)

Directed by Reginald Hudlin, ‘The Black Godfather’ is a captivating documentary that delves into the life and influence of Clarence Avant, an industry powerhouse in music and entertainment. Although it’s not a conventional narrative, the film addresses themes of racism by illuminating Avant’s journey as an African American navigating a predominantly white industry, where he played a pivotal role in shattering racial barriers for numerous artists. The documentary boasts an impressive lineup of interviewees, including Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, all emphasizing Avant’s crucial contribution to dismantling systemic racism within the entertainment world, making it an inspiring tale of resilience and combating racial adversity. You can check out the documentary here.

6. All Day and a Night (2020)

‘All Day and a Night,’ directed by Joe Robert Cole, is a thought-provoking drama that delves into the harsh realities of systemic racism in the United States. The film features a talented cast, including Jeffrey Wright and Ashton Sanders. It tells the story of a young African-American man, Jahkor, who grapples with his upbringing in a crime-ridden neighborhood, drawing parallels between his experiences and those of his incarcerated father. The film’s narrative underscores how cycles of violence, poverty, and racial injustice perpetuate, compelling viewers to confront the intricate web of systemic racism and its devastating impact on marginalized communities. You can stream the film here.

5. Strong Island (2017)

‘Strong Island,’ directed by Yance Ford, is a powerful documentary that dives into the devastating impact of racial prejudice. The film recounts the murder of Ford’s brother, William Ford Jr., an unarmed black man who was tragically killed by a white mechanic in 1992. Through deeply personal interviews and raw emotions, Ford confronts the inherent racism in the American justice system. The documentary explores how systemic discrimination allowed the killer to evade justice, shedding light on the painful reality faced by many black families in America. With its unflinching portrayal of racial injustice and personal loss, ‘Strong Island’ serves as a poignant and thought-provoking examination of racism and its profound consequences. You can stream the documentary here.

4. Layla M. (2016)

‘Layla M.,’ directed by Mijke de Jong, is a powerful film that vividly portrays the experiences of a young Moroccan-Dutch woman, Layla, played by Nora El Koussour, as she grapples with systemic racism in the Netherlands. The plot follows Layla’s journey as she becomes increasingly radicalized in response to daily discrimination. The film delves deep into the challenges she encounters as a minority, emphasizing the racial profiling, prejudice, and exclusion she endures. The exceptional performances and compelling narrative make “Layla M.” a poignant exploration of how racism impacts the lives of individuals within multicultural societies. You can stream it here.

Read More: Best Black Movies on Netflix

3. American Son (2019)

‘American Son’ is the film adaptation of the critically acclaimed Broadway play of the same name. Directed by Kenny Leon, the movie delves into the complex and raw conversation on racism in contemporary America. The story unfolds in a police station waiting room where Kendra (Kerry Washington), a distressed mother searching for her missing biracial teenage son, confronts racism head-on while interacting with Officer Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) and Lieutenant Stokes (Steven Pasquale). The gripping narrative and exceptional performances make it a must-watch, shedding light on the painful realities of racial bias. You can watch the movie here.

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2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

‘The Trial of the Chicago 7,’ directed by Aaron Sorkin, is a gripping courtroom drama adapted from real events during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film boasts a stellar ensemble cast, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. It illuminates systemic racism as it portrays the unjust trial of seven activists, including Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, who faced discrimination within the legal system. The plot expertly weaves together the intersecting stories of these activists, highlighting the deep-seated racial tensions and prejudices that were pervasive at the time, making it a compelling and important film in the fight against racism. Feel free to check out the movie here.

1. Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound‘ is a harrowing and powerful narration of racism and prejudice prevailing in the southern states of the U.S. When two families, the black family of the Jacksons and the white family of the McAllans, are pitted against each other when they are compelled to share a land by the social order. Now, they must fight for every necessity in their daily life and work.

As the two families lock horns with each other while also dealing with poverty and the overall hostile environment, the return of two war veterans changes the course of the events. They are Ronsel, the Jacksons’ eldest son, and Jamie, Henry McAllan’s younger brother, who’s come back from the war front. Soon, an unexpected friendship buds between the two soldiers. However, their friendship, sans social hierarchy and race, doesn’t have the strength to challenge the reactionary social forces. You may watch the movie here.

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