Best US movies with racially diverse leads

Written by:
April 22, 2021
New Regency Productions

Best US movies with racially diverse leads

Racial diversity in American films—or, more precisely, the lack thereof—has been a point of contention for underrepresented communities and their allies for decades. Movies made in the U.S. have historically utilized makeup, prosthetics, and caricatured accents to fake diversity or to represent people of color rather than simply casting people of color in these roles.

Happily, that is starting to change.

Casting racially diverse leads and supporting roles in movies provide validation that the experiences of people of color matter and create the space to have a wide variety of authentic, thoughtful, and nuanced portrayals. For white audiences, racially diverse casts and storylines provide views into other lifestyles and cultures, broadening people's understanding of different human experiences. As more films with diverse leads are made, the doors continue to open up for the types of stories that can told and the more accurate portrayals of diverse experiences and histories.

To acknowledge a wide range of film diversity, Stacker compiled data (last updated Feb. 4, 2021) for all American-produced movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores—and ranked the best American films with racially diverse leads in descending order from #50 to the top movie in the country featuring a person of color in the lead role. To qualify, the film had to have a non-Anglo lead or co-lead (e.g., Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”), at least 5,000 votes on IMDb, and a Metascore. Ties were broken by Metascore and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating.

Here are the 50 best U.S. movies with racially diverse leading roles.

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1 / 50
ABKCO Films

#50. One Night in Miami (2020)

- Director: Regina King
- Stacker score: 81.2
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 114 minutes

This film focuses on a fictionalized meeting of the minds between four giants in Black entertainment culture: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.). The men parse through everything from social injustice to their obligations as Black public figures during a night in a Miami hotel. “One Night in Miami” earned several accolades, including Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song for Leslie Odom.

2 / 50
A24

#49. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

- Director: Joe Talbot
- Stacker score: 81.2
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 121 minutes

This film follows Jimmie Fails, portrayed by Jonathan Majors, a young Black man who aims to reclaim his childhood home in a gentrified San Francisco neighborhood. Fails’ mission takes him through a journey of friendship, redefining masculinity, socioeconomic struggles for Black people, and dogged determination. Majors’ breakout portrayal garnered critical acclaim, opening the door for his starring role in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”

3 / 50
Red Crown Productions

#48. Beasts of No Nation (2015)

- Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
- Stacker score: 81.3
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 137 minutes

A Ghananian-American war film, “Beasts of No Nation” depicts a fictionalized novelization account of Agu (Abraham Attah), an orphaned child soldier under the tutelage of brutal leader Commandant (Idris Elba) who becomes caught up in a brutal civil war in an unspecified African country. Agu endures unspeakable trauma while engaging in violent battles in a story that focuses squarely on the humanity behind war and the loss of innocence that children face in the midst of violence. Elba won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.

4 / 50
Amblin Entertainment

#47. The Color Purple (1985)

- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Stacker score: 81.4
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 154 minutes

The film adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel of the same name is iconic in its own right, depicting the story of a Black girl (portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg) who faces a life of servitude in an arranged marriage at the behest of her abusive father. Celie’s life path and interpersonal relationships anchors this powerful tale about Black womanhood in the early 20th-century American South. Goldberg’s first leading role earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination and set the stage for future roles in “Ghost,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the “Sister Act” film series.

5 / 50
TriStar Pictures

#46. Glory (1989)

- Director: Edward Zwick
- Stacker score: 81.4
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 122 minutes

It’s relatively rare to see war dramas filtered through the eyes of soldiers who are not white. “Glory” broke this mold with a story about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, an entirely Black sector in the Civil War. Denzel Washington stars as Private Trip, a recruit into the regiment along with an array of young Black men fighting in the war. Trip builds an initially contentious relationship with Captain Shaw, a white colonel who gains a deeper understanding of racial social systems. The New York Times review claimed Denzel Washington was “an actor clearly on his way to a major screen career,” an incredibly prophetic statement.

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6 / 50
Hurwitz Creative

#45. Moana (2016)

- Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
- Stacker score: 81.8
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 107 minutes

The film’s titular character, the Polynesian daughter of her village’s chief, goes on a mission to bring a relic to a goddess. During her epic quest, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets Maui, a demigod (Dwayne Johnson) who aids her arduous path as she discovers her own strength and establishes herself as a Disney princess who is cut from a daring and diverse new cloth. Cravalho sang Moana’s theme song “How Far I’ll Go” and earned Best Original Song nominations at the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.

7 / 50
Lumière Pictures

#44. Fresh (1994)

- Director: Boaz Yakin
- Stacker score: 81.8
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 114 minutes

This underrated crime drama follows Michael aka “Fresh,” a young boy who uses his knowledge of chess to create a plan to free himself and his sister from the trappings of their neighborhood. Fresh, played by Sean Nelson, is like many of his young Black male contemporaries—brilliant, resourceful, and making the best of a life that dealt him an incredibly tough hand.

8 / 50
Focus Features

#43. BlacKkKlansman (2018)

- Director: Spike Lee
- Stacker score: 82.3
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 135 minutes

This Spike Lee joint stars John David Washington as Stallworth, the first Black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Stallworth aims to do undercover work and sets out to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s alongside his experienced white colleague Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver. “BlacKkKlansman” is based on true events and balances laughs with the arduous task of having to emulate the very thing you despise. Washington, who is the son of Denzel Washington, earned praise from several critics for his performance.

9 / 50
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#42. Creed (2015)

- Director: Ryan Coogler
- Stacker score: 82.3
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 133 minutes

This heartfelt and hopeful new chapter in the infamous “Rocky” franchise stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, the illegitimate and temperamental son of famed boxer and Rocky Balboa’s best friend Apollo Creed. Adonis’ determination to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps leads him to train under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) as he seeks to prove himself in the boxing world. “Creed” is the second creative collaboration between Jordan and Coogler following “Fruitvale Station” and later leading to “Black Panther.”

10 / 50
Fox 2000 Pictures

#41. Life of Pi (2012)

- Director: Ang Lee
- Stacker score: 82.4
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 127 minutes

Based on Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” novel, Pi Patel recounts the amazing saga of his life to a Canadian writer. His coming-of-age tale primarily focuses on a tragic ship accident that kills his parents, siblings, and several of their animals, leaving Pi to somehow survive alone. His only company is a ferocious Bengal tiger, whom he builds a relationship with for survival’s sake. Four actors—Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Ayush Tandon, and Gautam Belur—portray the character from childhood into his elderly years.

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11 / 50
Mirabai Films

#40. Salaam Bombay! (1988)

- Director: Mira Nair
- Stacker score: 82.5
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 113 minutes

Shafiq Syed stars as Krishna/Chaipau, an Indian circus employee whose struggle to earn money for his family leads him straight into the crosshairs of danger. The tough streets of Bombay school him on drugs, abuse, and other aspects of a very bleak reality. Syed did not have a lucrative acting career, only starring in one more film before moving to Bangalore to be a rickshaw driver.

12 / 50
Cinereach

#39. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

- Director: Benh Zeitlin
- Stacker score: 82.7
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 93 minutes

This film follows Hushpuppy, portrayed by Quvenzhané Wallis, a 6-year-old girl living in the Louisiana bayou with her easily angered father, Wink (Dwight Henry). A devastating storm and a grim health diagnosis pushes Hushpuppy on a premature coming-of-age mission. Wallis was 5 at the time of her audition with no acting experience, yet her performance earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination, making her the youngest nominee ever.

13 / 50
Armory Films

#38. Mudbound (2017)

- Director: Dee Rees
- Stacker score: 82.7
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 134 minutes

Set in the Mississippi Delta during the Jim Crow era, this drama focuses on the Jacksons, a sharecropping family hoping to own their own land. They work on a white-owned farm, which causes the two families’ lives to intertwine in several ways, exploring racism, PTSD, and love. The Dee Rees-directed effort stars Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell, and Rob Morgan among others. Blige, an accomplished R&B artist, also sang “Mighty River,” on the film’s soundtrack.

14 / 50
Caviar

#37. Sound of Metal (2019)

- Director: Darius Marder
- Stacker score: 82.9
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 120 minutes

Riz Ahmed stars as Ruben, a drummer in a metal duo with his singer girlfriend, Lou, played by Olivia Cooke. Their nomadic performance lifestyle changes dramatically when Ruben begins to rapidly lose his hearing and learns a new way to engage with music and others. Ahmed, a British Pakistani rapper, is not a part of the deaf community but he spent several months learning ASL for the role.

15 / 50
Forest Whitaker's Significant Productions

#36. Fruitvale Station (2013)

- Director: Ryan Coogler
- Stacker score: 83.3
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 85 minutes

“Fruitvale Station” depicts the real life of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a BART police officer on New Year’s Day in Oakland, California. Michael B. Jordan as Grant shows the last hours of his life leading up to the fateful encounter in the wee hours of the morning. Coogler created the film to humanize the man behind this story, which made national headlines in 2009. It was his debut film and a pivotal point in Jordan’s acting career.

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16 / 50
Warner Bros.

#35. Enter the Dragon (1973)

- Director: Robert Clouse
- Stacker score: 83.3
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 102 minutes

In his final film before his death, martial arts legend Bruce Lee portrays Lee, a teacher at the Shaolin Temple. Lee is given a mission by British intelligence to track down a dangerous crime lord, using a martial arts competition as his clever investigative cover. The film is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts films of all time, earning a spot in the U.S. National Film Registry in 2004 and influencing a legion of future entertainment.

17 / 50
Scott Rudin Productions

#34. Captain Phillips (2013)

- Director: Paul Greengrass
- Stacker score: 83.4
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 134 minutes

“Captain Phillips” is an autobiographical drama following its real-life titular character, a mariner who is captured and held hostage by Somali pirates. Actor Barkhad Abdi stars opposite Tom Hanks as Abduwali Muse, a pirate leader who incites fear. This was Abdi’s first acting role ever, earning him critical praise and leading to a string of subsequent roles.

18 / 50
United Artists

#33. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

- Director: Terry George
- Stacker score: 83.5
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 121 minutes

Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo lead this film as Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina, respectively, a husband-wife duo from two opposing social groups. Paul is a hotel manager and deals with the social friction of his marriage, which becomes worse during the Rwandan genocide. The couple puts themselves at risk to care for refugees in the face of war-torn trauma. Cheadle has since gained widespread recognition as Marvel’s James Rhodes aka War Machine while Okonedo went on to star in films like “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Christopher Robin.”

19 / 50
Marvel Studios

#32. Black Panther (2018)

- Director: Ryan Coogler
- Stacker score: 83.7
- Metascore: 88
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 134 minutes

This Marvel superhero film focuses on its titular hero, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, and his rise to power as the king of Wakanda following his father’s death. T’Challa aka the Black Panther discovers a grim family secret and must battle against an adversary who challenges his ideology about Wakanda and the world. The film proved that a Black-led hero film could have a massive, and profitable, global impact. Boseman’s death in 2020 changed the future of the budding franchise with the sequel set to focus on other established characters.

20 / 50
HBO Films

#31. Maria Full of Grace (2004)

- Director: Joshua Marston
- Stacker score: 83.7
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 101 minutes

Colombian teenager Maria Álvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) quits her backbreaking job to become a drug mule for financial gain. The horrific realities of this drug ring causes her to make tough and risky decisions about her future. The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin praised Moreno’s performance, calling it a skillful balance of “trembling vulnerability with steely resolve.”

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21 / 50
Apatow Productions

#30. The Big Sick (2017)

- Director: Michael Showalter
- Stacker score: 83.8
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 120 minutes

Kumail Nanjiani stars as a fictional version of himself with the same first name, a Pakistani American comedian and Uber driver. He meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a white woman, and falls for her to the chagrin of his traditional family. The film explores cultural differences, illness, and, of course, love. Nanjiani wrote the screenplay along with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, basing the story on their relationship.

22 / 50
The Mirisch Corporation

#29. West Side Story (1961)

- Directors: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
- Stacker score: 83.8
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 153 minutes

Two 1950s-era gangs, one white and the other Puerto Rican, fight over turf in the Upper West Side of New York City. Their squabbles coincide with Tony (Richard Beymer), a white gang member, falling for Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of Bernardo (George Chakiris), the rival gang’s leader, and things quickly take a violent turn for the worse. The film also stars Rita Moreno as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s friend.

23 / 50
Hollywood Pictures

#28. The Joy Luck Club (1993)

- Director: Wayne Wang
- Stacker score: 83.8
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 139 minutes

This film explores the members of its titular club: four Chinese women living in San Francisco. The group exchanges their life stories of love, abuse, marriage, motherhood, and more during mahjong games, with June (Ming-Na Wen) replacing her mother following her death. Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lisa Lu, and Kieu Chinh round out the primary group who serve as narrators and representations of Chinese immigrants building their lives in America. Wen famously voiced Mulan in the 1998 animated film and starred in “The Mandalorian” as a skilled mercenary.

24 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#27. Avatar (2009)

- Director: James Cameron
- Stacker score: 83.9
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 162 minutes

Humans in the 22nd century mine Pandora, a distant moon inhabited by the Na’vi, a species of 10-foot-tall blue beings. Jake Sully, a Marine who uses a wheelchair, explores Pandora through an avatar and forms a relationship with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of a leader. Human characters like Trudy Chacon, played by Michelle Rodriguez, and Dr. Max Patel, played by Dileep Rao, brings visible diversity to the screen.

25 / 50
Zoetrope Studios

#26. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

- Director: Paul Schrader
- Stacker score: 84
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 120 minutes

This biographical drama details the life of Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata), a prominent and prolific Japanese writer. The film takes viewers from his childhood health crises to becoming an acclaimed writer while exploring his life philosophies along with depictions of several of his novels. Ogata himself was a famed Japanese public figure through his film and acting career until his death in 2008.

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26 / 50
Gigantic Pictures

#25. Goodbye Solo (2008)

- Director: Ramin Bahrani
- Stacker score: 84.2
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 91 minutes

Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané) is a Senegalese cabbie living in North Carolina with his family. He takes a client named William, played by Red West, to Blowing Rock and the two form a friendship bond through poignant conversations. Its themes of depression, financial strife, and the pressures of being a provider resonate with viewers from all walks of life. Savané is fluent in several languages and is the oldest of 11 siblings.

27 / 50
Compulsion Inc.

#24. Traffic (2000)

- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- Stacker score: 84.3
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 147 minutes

This film interweaves several international storylines together, exploring drug trafficking through several perspectives, including dealers, users, and law enforcement. Sometimes, the stories interweave in interesting ways while others are completely unrelated to each other. The “Traffic” ensemble cast includes actors like Benicio Del Toro, Luis Guzmán, Jacob Vargas, Don Cheadle, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and more. Del Toro’s performance led to a Best Supporting Actor win at the Oscars in 2001.

28 / 50
Universal Pictures

#23. Get Out (2017)

- Director: Jordan Peele
- Stacker score: 84.3
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 104 minutes

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young Black photographer, travels with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), to her family’s idyllic and remote estate to meet them for the first time. His initial discomfort leads him toward a dark, terrifying revelation that changes the course of their relationship. Chris must go up against impossible odds for his own self-preservation in this horror story that feels all too real. Kaluuya has starred in several American films but he’s a British actor.

29 / 50
CKK

#22. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

- Director: John Carpenter
- Stacker score: 84.7
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 91 minutes

Members of Street Thunder, a Los Angeles gang, seek vengeance against the LAPD after several of their members are killed. Their mission sparks a war against police and among residents with Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), a Black LAPD lieutenant, caught up in the midst. His unexpected alliances help him prepare his defences to save lives hanging in the balance of the crossfire. Stoker is also known for his role in the “Return of the Planet of the Apes” series.

30 / 50
Celador Films

#21. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

- Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
- Stacker score: 85.5
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 120 minutes

Dev Patel plays Jamal Malik, the teenage protagonists whose life is documented in a series of flashbacks. The story covers Jamal’s childhood alongside his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) on the streets of Mumbai, his life of crime, and how he makes his way toward “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” a version of the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” gameshow. Patel gained massive recognition from the role, later starring in HBO series “The Newsroom.”

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31 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#20. Soul (2020)

- Directors: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
- Stacker score: 85.5
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 100 minutes

This Pixar animated film follows Joe, voiced by Jamie Foxx, an optimistic yet struggling band teacher who dreams of becoming a professional jazz musician. Through an unfortunate event, he ends up in the afterlife and gets a chance to re-examine his life and interpersonal relationships with the help of a lost and stubborn soul. Foxx is a music artist and has played a musician before: In 2004, he starred in the Ray Charles biopic “Ray” as the famous musician whose works spanned several genres.

32 / 50
Universal Pictures

#19. United 93 (2006)

- Director: Paul Greengrass
- Stacker score: 85.8
- Metascore: 90
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 111 minutes

Based on a true story, al-Qaida terrorists hijack a flight on Sept. 11, 2001. They intend to crash it into the U.S. Capitol but passengers work together to stop their plans. The real-time depiction of those events, including contact with those on the ground, tells the story of that heartbreaking day and honors those who stood in the face of danger. Actors Khalid Abdalla, Lewis Alsamari, Jasmine Harding, and Omar Berdouni, who played the film’s terrorists, were all relatively unknown actors and had to film the same brutal scenes many times in a row to capture the intensity of that fateful event.

33 / 50
Big Beach Films

#18. The Farewell (2019)

- Director: Lulu Wang
- Stacker score: 85.8
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 100 minutes

This Chinese-American comedy follows a family who gather together to spend time with Nai Nai (Zhao Shu-zhen), the family matriarch, to celebrate her final days. Nai Nai isn’t aware of her health diagnosis, a secret that the family struggles to maintain in her presence. “The Farewell” stars Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, and others and uses English and Mandarin Chinese in its dialogue. Awkwafina rose to fame via YouTube while Tzi Ma is known for his work in “Rush Hour” and “The Man in the High Castle.”

34 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#17. Coco (2017)

- Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
- Stacker score: 86.2
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a pre-teen Mexican boy, pushes back against his family’s distaste for music, playing his guitar and aiming to be like his music idol (played by Benjamin Bratt). He ends up in the Land of the Dead where he encounters deceased family members who teach him life lessons while fighting to return him back to his living family. The animated Disney movie’s titular character, Coco, is Miguel’s nonverbal grandmother whom he learns more about through his adventures. Bratt did not sing his character’s songs with the exception of “Remember Me,” which appears on the film’s official soundtrack.

35 / 50
The Weinstein Company

#16. Django Unchained (2012)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Stacker score: 86.2
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 165 minutes

Jamie Foxx portrays Django, a Black enslaved man who encounters Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter who needs his help with an assignment. The unlikely pair team up to hunt criminals and find Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), Django’s wife who is still in slavery at a massive plantation. The film’s creatives had Will Smith in mind for Django, but he turned it down because it didn’t feel like a “leading role” to him, allowing Foxx to take on the character.

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36 / 50
Columbia Pictures

#15. A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

- Director: Daniel Petrie
- Stacker score: 87
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 128 minutes

An adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s play of the same name, this film follows the Youngers, a Black family living in Chicago. They try to figure out what to do with an incoming insurance check, all making their cases for what it means to live their dreams. Different social issues and difficult decisions arise throughout the film with leads like Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, and Diana Sands. Poitier is an acting legend: He’s the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964. Additionally, Ruby Dee starred in the stage version of “A Raisin in the Sun” as Ruth Younger and reprised that same role in the film.

37 / 50
CBS Films

#14. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Stacker score: 87.3
- Metascore: 93
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 104 minutes

Oscar Issac plays folk musician Llewyn Davis who is trying to make a name for himself. He goes on an incredible journey from NYC to Chicago in hopes of trying to find his big break through a meeting with a music industry executive. Davis leans on random relationships and meets an assortment of characters along his enlightening and sometimes heartbreaking journey. Issac later found more widespread fame in the “Star Wars” franchise as Poe Dameron.

38 / 50
Image Ten

#13. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

- Director: George A. Romero
- Stacker score: 87.4
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 96 minutes

George Romero’s iconic zombie film follows seven people trapped in a remote home during a zombie attack. The group is largely led by Ben (Duane Jones), a Black survivor with a level head and preservation skills in the midst of danger. “Night of the Living Dead” broke the mold by making its Black protagonist intelligent, resourceful, and a leader. Jones starred in a handful of other films before his death in 1988. He was later honored in “The Walking Dead” comic series by writer Robert Kirkman, who named a character Duane Jones.

39 / 50
Dreamworks Pictures

#12. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Stacker score: 87.4
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 141 minutes

The World War II-era Battle of Iwo Jima is explored through the perspective of several Japanese soldiers. Their battle to hold on and maintain some semblance of hope in the face of certain defeat tells a rich story about loss. The Clint Eastwood film stars Ken Watanabe as Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. Wantanabe is known for his roles in Christopher Nolan films like “Inception” and “Batman Begins.”

40 / 50
2.4.7. Films

#11. Persepolis (2007)

- Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
- Stacker score: 88.5
- Metascore: 90
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, “Persepolis,” follows her coming-of-age story during the Iranian Revolution. Her own revolution from childhood to a teenage rebellion provides a mirror to the social strife of the ’70s and ’80s. Satrapi adapted her book for the screen and also directed the animated feature. As the sole outlier to the rest of this list, "Persepolis" has a white actor, Italian French star Chiara Mastroianni, voicing Satrapi's character. Mastroianni's mother, Catherine Deneuve, voices Satrapi's mother in the movie.

We kept "Persepolis" in our rankings due to the movie having been written and directed by Satrapi, in addition to her writing the graphic novel the film is based on, and the fact that the lead character in the animated film is a woman of color.

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41 / 50
Pakula-Mulligan

#10. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

- Director: Robert Mulligan
- Stacker score: 88.6
- Metascore: 88
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 129 minutes

Brock Peters portrays Tom Robinson, a Black Mississippi man accused of a heinous crime in the 1930s. The odds are stacked against him due to racism but Atticus (Gregory Peck) aims to help him get fair justice. The latter’s two children face the ugly realities of the time through their father’s legal work. Peters has his hands in both “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”—he played Joseph Sisko in the “Deep Space Nine” series and Darth Vader in radio dramas.

42 / 50
Sony Pictures Entertainment

#9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

- Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
- Stacker score: 89.2
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 117 minutes

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), an Afro Latino teen living in New York City, tries to step into Spider-Man’s shoes after his untimely death. With the help of other Spider-beings from alternate universes, Miles learns to believe in his newfound powers and help save his city from an evil threat. Brian Tyree Henry, Mahershala Ali, Kimiko Glenn, and Luna Lauren Velez also voice characters in the film.

43 / 50
Paramount Vantage

#8. No Country for Old Men (2007)

- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Stacker score: 89.5
- Metascore: 91
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 122 minutes

Javier Bardem plays Chigurh, an unhinged killer on the trail of Llewelyn Moss, portrayed by Josh Brolin, a man who picks up some loot that doesn’t belong to him. Additionally, a sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) is also hot on Moss’ tail. The characters track across Texas for this Western thriller based on Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” novel. Bardem is the first Spanish actor to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which happened with this role in 2008.

44 / 50
A24

#7. Moonlight (2016)

- Director: Barry Jenkins
- Stacker score: 89.7
- Metascore: 99
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 111 minutes

This film follows Chiron (Alex Hibbert/Ashton Sanders/Trevante Rhodes), a Black boy from Miami, in a coming-of-age story as he aims to define his sexuality and form his own understanding of manhood. “Moonlight” took home the Academy Award for Best Picture and is widely regarded as one of the best films of the 21st century. The Chiron trio continue to be active in Hollywood. Sanders starred alongside Denzel Washington in “Equalizer 2” and in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Hibbert was a leading character on Showtime’s “The Chi” and Rhodes was the leading man in “Bird Box” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

45 / 50
Esperanto Filmoj

#6. Roma (2018)

- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Stacker score: 89.8
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 135 minutes

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio Martínez), a live-in housekeeper, bonds with Sophia (Marina de Tavira), a mother and wife, after the latter’s husband leaves the family. The heartfelt drama broke several boundaries, including becoming the first Mexican film to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and the first foreign language film to get a Best Director win for Alfonso Cuarón. Aparicio Martínez’s role garnered acclaim from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who wrote that she is the “jewel of this outstanding film.”

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46 / 50
40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

#5. Do the Right Thing (1989)

- Director: Spike Lee
- Stacker score: 90
- Metascore: 93
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 120 minutes

Spike Lee writes, directs, and stars in this seminal film about a hot summer day in a Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. Its protagonist Mookie is a pizza delivery man working for Sal, a local business owner. Several undercurrents of racial bias and outright tension leads to more overt racist actions, a breaking point which culminates in a tragic ending. Lee continues to create films like “Da 5 Bloods,” and made Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list in 2019.

47 / 50
Castle Rock Entertainment

#4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

- Director: Frank Darabont
- Stacker score: 90.5
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Runtime: 142 minutes

This film, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, centers on an unlikely friendship formed behind prison walls. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) gets a life sentence for murder and meets Red (Morgan Freeman), a saavy incarcerated Black man who is intriuged by Andy’s intelligence. The pair form a bond through their own traumas that redefines what it means to be a friend. “The Shawshank Redemption” ranks #1 on IMDb’s top 25 rated movies and is considered to be a classic film.

48 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#3. Hamilton (2020)

- Director: Thomas Kail
- Stacker score: 91.2
- Metascore: 90
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 160 minutes

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical depiction of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s life and death broke new ground with a predominately non-white cast. “Hamilton” details the events of the time, using a sound infused with R&B, rap, and soul alongside typical show tune music. Its storytelling prowess and catchy tunes made it a commercial and critical success, earning 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical in 2016. Manuel portrays Hamilton himself; his film “In the Heights” is yet another musical with a diverse cast.

49 / 50
New Regency Productions

#2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

- Director: Steve McQueen
- Stacker score: 92
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 134 minutes

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free Black man in New York, is kidnapped and forced into slavery. He struggles to maintain his hope and resolve to escape and return to his family while under the thumb of his violent and cruel enslaver. “12 Years a Slave,” based on a true story, won a Best Picture Oscar in 2014. According to casting director Steve McQueen, Ejiofor was always the ideal choice for the lead character.

50 / 50
Miramax

#1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Stacker score: 95.4
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 154 minutes

Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed this comedy film following Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travola), a pair of hitmen who punctuate their web of crime shenanigans with thought-provoking and hilarious conversations. Empire named “Pulp Fiction” as a strong candidate for the “most quotable movie” ever.

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