13 gems to stream this Black History Month

February is Black History Month, so Showmax has curated a collection of 13 Black and loud movies, series and documentaries from groundbreaking Black creators, from Barry Jenkins to Issa Rae, Michaela Coel to Steve McQueen.

Showmax’s Black History Month trailer

From coming of age to fantasy to inspiring true stories, there’s something for everyone in this collection, from some of the most exciting filmmakers at work today.


Judas and the Black Messiah is inspired by the true story of the betrayal and assassination of Fred Hampton, chairperson of the Black Panther Party.

As Hampton, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther) won the Oscar, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor, while H.E.R’s Fight For You also took home an Oscar for Best Original Song. The drama also picked up Oscar nominations for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Lead Actor (LaKeith Stanfied from Atlanta) and Best Cinematography.

Directed by Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah is ranked 13th on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best Black Movies of the 21st Century, with a 97% critics’ rating. As the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus says, “An electrifying dramatisation of historical events, Judas and the Black Messiah is a forceful condemnation of racial injustice – and a major triumph for its director and stars.”


Andra Day was nominated for a 2021 Best Actress Oscar and won Black Reel, Golden Globe and Webby Awards as legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, who was targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.

Two-time Oscar nominee Lee Daniels (Precious, The Butler) directs this adaptation of Johann Hari’s book Chasing The Scream. Black Reel winner Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Screen Actors Guild nominee Garret Hedlund (Mudbound) and four-time Emmy nominee Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll, Orange Is The New Black) co-star.

As Deadline puts it, “You simply cannot say enough about what Day achieves in this role, particularly being a first-time actor. She gets beneath the skin of Holiday, giving a raw and honest portrait of an artist under duress but determined in her belief that she can use that art and talent to make the world a more just place.”


Directed by Oscar nominee and five-time Emmy winner Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI, When the Levees Broke), the HBO documentary film Black Art: In the Absence of Light explores the oft-neglected contributions of African American artists to both the art world and American culture at large.

Opening with the landmark exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art”, curated by the late David Driskell at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the documentary looks at the major Black art movements of the past half-century, and speaks to contemporary luminaries like Jordan Casteel, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Kehinde Wiley, among others.

The documentary has a 92% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Boston Globe calling it “an essential and revelatory glimpse at the accomplishments of today’s Black artists,” and Wall Street Journal saying, “The film never dips into saccharine platitudes, and it is unafraid to examine the defects within artistic movements that, while fighting for racial justice, had their own blindspots.”

I MAY DESTROY YOU | Drama series

In 2021, Michaela Coel became the first Black woman to win the Limited Series: Outstanding Writing Award at the Emmys, where she was also nominated for Lead Actress, Directing and Outstanding Limited Series for I May Destroy You, which also took home the Music Supervision Emmy.

I May Destroy You centres on Arabella (Coel), a carefree, self-assured Londoner with a group of great friends, a boyfriend in Italy, and a burgeoning writing career. But when her drink is spiked with a date-rape drug, she must question and rebuild every element of her life.

I May Destroy You was named the show of the year in 2020 by Time and has a 98% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus says, “I May Destroy You is at once brave and delicate, untangling the trauma of sexual assault with dark humour and moments of deep discomfort, all held together on the strength of Michaela Coel’s undeniable talent.”


In the multi-award-winning Miss Juneteenth, a former beauty queen and single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the Miss Juneteenth pageant.

The drama is ranked 23rd on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best Black Movies of the 21st Century, with a 99% critics’ rating. As the critics’ consensus says, “Like a pageant winner walking across the stage, Miss Juneteenth follows a familiar path – but does so with charm and grace.”

Miss Juneteenth has won nine awards so far, including from SXSW, and was nominated for eight Black Reel Awards in 2021, including Best Actress for Nicole Beharie and Best Supporting Actress for Alexis Chikaeze.

INSECURE S1-5 | Comedy series

Issa Rae’s landmark, Emmy-winning comedy series Insecure centres on friends Issa (Rae) and Molly (Nigeria’s Yvonne Orji) in what the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus hails as “an insightful, raunchy, and hilarious journey through the life of a twentysomething black woman that cuts through stereotypes with sharp wit and an effusive spirit.”

As the Peabody Awards put it, “Rae delivers a groundbreaking series that captures the lives of everyday young black people in Los Angeles with a fresh and authentic take. Breaking away from tired and familiar representations of ‘diversity’ on television, this series offers a fun and intimate portrayal of work, relationships, and the ordinary experiences of the two young black women at its center.”

Season 5 has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has already racked up 2022 awards buzz, including Critics’ Choice nominations for Best Comedy Series and Best Actress, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, and 10 NAACP Image Awards nominations, including Best Comedy.

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY S1 | Fantasy series

The dearly missed Michael Kenneth Williams (The WireBoardwalk Empire, The Night Of) was nominated for an Emmy last year as Montrose in Lovecraft Country, which took home Emmys for Sound Editing and Guest Actor (Courtney B. Vance) from 18 nominations.

In the 1950s, Atticus (Jonathan Majors in an Emmy-nominated performance) sets out on a road trip with his friend (Jurnee Smollet, also nominated for an Emmy for the role) and uncle to find Montrose, his missing father. This catapults the three into a struggle for survival against the dual terrors of Jim Crow-era America and terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a paperback written by pulpy horror author HP Lovecraft.

Created by Misha Green, Lovecraft Country has an 88% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, their best-reviewed sci-fi/fantasy series of 2020. As Newsday put it, “To call Lovecraft Country ‘wildly original’ seems almost a quaint understatement. But it is wild. And original. Little doubt about that.”

P-VALLEY S1 | Drama series

Nicco Annan was nominated for 2021 Queerty and Independent Spirit awards as Uncle Clifford, the non-binary owner of the Pynk, the fictional strip club at the centre of P-Valley. For their performances on and off the strippers pole, Brandee Evans was nominated for a Black Reel Best Actress award and won the Women’s Network Image Award, while Shannon Thornton won the Gracie for Best Supporting Actress. Lorette Devine also won a NAACP Image Award for her guest turn on the show .

Created by Katori Hall, P-Valley has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus says, “A stunning, lyrical piece of neon noir, P-Valley explores the unseen lives of strippers in Mississippi through Katori Hall’s singular gaze, celebrating the beauty of the craft without sugarcoating the challenges.”

Indiewire hailed it as “unlike anything ever seen on TV… the series knows exactly what it wants to be: a sexy, fast-paced drama that sets out to de-stigmatize the world of stripping and shatter misconceptions.”

HARRIET | Biopic

Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou), Harriet is led by rising star Cynthia Erivo (The Outsider) in the title role, for which she received 2020 Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. The cast also includes Emmy nominee Leslie Odom Jr. (HamiltonCentral Park), multiple Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe (MoonlightHidden Figures), Clarke Peters (The Wire), and British-Nigerian actor Zackary Momoh (Seven SecondsDoctor Sleep).

In addition to its nominations for Best Actress, Harriet was nominated for a 2020 Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song (for the song Stand Up, written by Erivo and Joshuah Brian Campbell).


BlacKkKlansman tells the bizarre true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs’ first African-American detective, who attempts to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s… with the help of a Jewish stand-in.

The crime film won auteur-director Spike Lee a long-overdue Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2019, making it his first competitive Academy Award in a 34-year career that’s included films like Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X. BlacKkKlansman also won the Grand Prix at Cannes; was nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Drama; and is ranked fifth on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best Black Movies of the 21st Century.

John David Washington (Tenet) stars the Golden Globe-nominated lead role, with Adam Driver (Star Wars’ Kylo Ren and Oscar nominee for Marriage Story) in an Oscar-nominated supporting role.

WHAT’S MY NAME: MUHAMMAD ALI | Two-part sports documentary

What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, HBO’s two-part documentary on the three-time heavyweight champion of the world, tells the boxing great’s story in his own voice, painting a vivid picture of the man Sports Illustrated declared the greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

Directed by Black Reel winner Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and executive produced by another sporting legend, basketball star LeBron James, What’s My Name was named Outstanding Long Sports Documentary at the 2019 Sports Emmys, among other accolades, and has a 96% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

As critic Richard Roeper wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, “The greatness of What’s My Name is that if you’re young and you know very little of Muhammad Ali, this would be the perfect place to start learning about him — but if you remember Ali in his prime and you’re well-versed in his history, it’s still a must-see television event.”

MOONLIGHT | Drama film

Moonlight looks at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young gay black man growing up in Miami, whose epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him.

Directed by Barry Jenkins (The Underground Railroad, If Beale Street Could Talk), Moonlight won over 200 awards internationally, including Oscars for Motion Picture of the Year, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali, who also won an Oscar for Green Book).

Moonlight is ranked fifth on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best Black Movies of the 21st Century, with a 98% critics’ rating. As The Independent (UK) says, “You won’t find a more sensitively rendered, evocative, or surprising coming-of-age film than Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight.

12 YEARS A SLAVE | Biopic

12 Years A Slave is based on an incredible true story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man from upstate New York, who is abducted and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War United States.

At the 2014 Oscars, 12 Years A Slave became the first film directed and produced by a Black filmmaker (Steve McQueen) to win Motion Picture Of the Year. It was also the first film written by an African-American (John Ridley) to win the category. In all, the film won over 200 international awards, including Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o) and Adapted Screenplay.

12 Years A Slave is ranked 19th on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best Black Movies of the 21st Century, with a 95% critics’ rating. As their critics’ consensus puts it, “It’s far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave‘s unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant – and quite possibly essential – cinema.”


Other Black classics to look out for on Showmax include:

• Oscar-nominated boxing drama Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan – both best-known for Black Panther

• Hilarious, Emmy-winning A Black Lady Sketch Show, created by Robin Thede and starring everyone from Angela Basset to Issa Rae

• Power, the People’s Choice-nominated crime series created by Courtney A. Kemp and starring Omari Hardwicke as Ghost, as well as its sequel, Power Book II: Ghost

• People’s Choice-nominated romcom The Photograph, written and directed by Stella Meghie, with Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield co-starring

• Classic comedy Barbershop, directed by Tim Story and starring Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, and Anthony Anderson, as well as the three films that followed: Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Barbershop: The Next Cut, and Beauty Shop, with Queen Latifah

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