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10 Black History Movies for Kids to Watch Right Now

Black History Month is an important recognition of the ways that Black culture has shaped American history. Many parents want to address this history with their children, but may struggle with exactly how to broach such a delicate, painful topic without introducing anything too adult. There are certainly plenty of ways to handle the topic with children, but one of the best is to show them a movie.

The movies on this list are all age-appropriate for children, and some of them are explicitly historical. Others are a little bit less directly related to Black history in America, but have valuable lessons for how to get young children thinking about race in their everyday lives. Whether it’s explicitly historical or not, each one of these movies has plenty to offer this Black History Month.

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures
74 %
Genre Drama, History
Stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
Directed by Theodore Melfi
Hidden Figures isn’t explicitly targeted at kids, but it’s definitely entertaining enough to hold their attention. The movie tells the story of the Black mathematicians who were crucial to getting astronaut John Glenn into orbit. NASA is a common topic in movies, but Hidden Figures is a reminder that there’s more to every story than the white men who often position themselves at the center of the frame. Hidden Figures is not confrontational, but it’s an important corrective to decades of Hollywood-influenced history.

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

The Princess and the Frog
73 %
Genre Romance, Family, Animation
Stars Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David
Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker
A great deal was made at the time about the fact that The Princess and the Frog featured Disney’s first Black princess, and that certainly is a landmark, even if it’s shocking that it happened in 2009. Although it isn’t explicitly about race, The Princess and the Frog foregrounds a Black, southern experience in a way that no other Disney movie even attempts. It’s not perfect, but the romance at its core is worth celebrating, even if Tiana spends much of the movie’s running time as a frog.

Soul (2020)

83 %
Genre Animation, Comedy, Fantasy, Family
Stars Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Directed by Pete Docter
Soul has several excellent cat jokes, but it’s also a great example of a universal story told from a Black perspective. The film follows a jazz pianist who falls to his death just moments before his big break, and who realizes how much he valued his life. It’s a beautiful, moving story, and it’s wonderfully animated. The show is also infused with wonderful jazz music, courtesy of Jon Batiste, and that music only helps to make the film feel more vivid and alive.

Remember the Titans (2000)

Remember the Titans
48 %
Genre Drama
Stars Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris
Directed by Boaz Yakin
Denzel Washington is always great, and he’s the main reason Remember the Titans works as well as it does. The film, set in Virginia in 1971, tells the story of the forced integration of two high schools, which leads to the integration of both high school football teams. The school hires a Black man (Washington) to coach the newly combined teams, and the tension and gradual acceptance is where the movie gets most of its juice from. Remember the Titans doesn’t have the most sophisticated message about race, but if you’re looking for an entry point, you can’t do much better than this.

42 (2013)

62 %
Genre Drama
Stars Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie
Directed by Brian Helgeland
It’s a pretty conventional biopic, but that doesn’t make 42 a bad movie. In fact, Chadwick Boseman’s performance as Jackie Robinson is terrific, even if the movie is hemmed in by its reliance on the conventions of the genre. After Jackie Robinson joins the Major League Baseball league, he faces discrimination everywhere he turns, and is forced to demonstrate restraint when he should be outraged. Robinson’s crucial role in the history of sports, and of civil rights in America, get a pretty loving tribute in 42, even if the movie doesn’t blow your mind.

Zootopia (2016)

Genre Animation, Adventure, Family, Comedy
Stars Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore
There’s no explicit Black/white dichotomy in Zootopia in the way that there is in most of the movies on this list, but the film nonetheless has race on its mind throughout its running time. The movie separates the animals that make up its population into predators and prey, with the idea being that predators are inherently dangerous and should be controlled by the police force. Naturally, Zootopia complicates that idea, and in its Disney-fied way, has fsome airly smart ideas about the artificiality of race as a construct.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Genre Action, Adventure, Animation, Science Fiction
Stars Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti
A movie more about self-discovery than about race, at least explicitly, Into the Spiderverse is great precisely because we get such a different version of the Spider-Man story than the one everyone knows. Here’s a hero with two married parents who nonetheless struggles to connect with them. Miles Morales has a different story than Peter Parker, and as he meets Spider-men from across the multiverse, he realizes that he’s just as worthy as anyone else to put on the mask.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird
88 %
Genre Crime, Drama
Stars Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton
Directed by Robert Mulligan
A great novel that became a great movie, To Kill a Mockingbird may be a hard sell for kids who are resistant to black and white movies. If you have a particular open-minded child, though, To Kill a Mockingbird will definitely hold their attention. The film, which tells the story of a young girl whose father is defending a Black man from allegations of rape, is about what the Jim Crow South was like through the eyes of a young girl who is still learning how to see the world around her.

Hairspray (2007)

81 %
Genre Comedy, Romance, Drama
Stars Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, John Travolta
Directed by Adam Shankman
The 2007 film adaptation of the Hairspray musical is much better than you might remember, and that’s in part because it’s got actual ideas behind it. The movie tells the story of an overnight dancing sensation on a fictional version of American Bandstand who uses her newfound clout to get the show integrated. Hairspray touches smartly on issues of appropriation, and is a hugely compelling movie about true inclusivity and equality. It may seem trite, but the movie holds up better than you might expect.

The Great Debaters (2007)

The Great Debaters
Genre Drama
Stars Denzel Washington, Nate Parker, Forest Whitaker
Directed by Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington directs and stars in The Great Debaters, and much of its success is centered on his compelling screen persona. In the film, Washington plays a professor at the predominantly Black Wiley College who forms a debate team in the 1930s. Eventually, that team takes on Harvard’s debate team, and while the story is one of a fairly conventional triumph, Washington inserts plenty of fascinating nuance along the way. The Great Debaters works no matter what age you are.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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