Watch These Films and Documentaries During Black History Month

Check out these films and shows, many of which can be streamed for free, during BHM.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Feb. 20 2024, Updated 2:56 p.m. ET

Still from 'Genius: MLK/X' on National Geographic
Source: National Geographic

For nearly a century, every February, people around the U.S. and Canada have observed Black History Month, a month-long celebration of the Black changemakers who have shaped history.

If you'd like to learn more about Black history, the Black experience, racism, and other related topics, this month is the perfect time to add some relevant documentaries and movies to your queue.

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There are even a few environmental documentaries out there that focus on environmental racism against Black communities, which we made sure to include on this list.

Ava DuVernay smiles as she speaks into a microphone at the 54th New York Film Festival Opening Night Gala Presentation and ‘13th’ World Premiere with Intro and Q&A at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on Sept. 30, 2016 in New York City.
Source: Getty Images

Director Ava DuVernay speaks at the 54th New York Film Festival Opening Night Gala Presentation and ‘13th’ World Premiere with Intro and Q&A at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on Sept. 30, 2016 in New York City.

So, keep reading for just a few recommendations of powerful documentaries, dramatic films, and even one comedy that you can watch for Black History Month — or anytime, all year round.


In 2016, iconic film director Ava DuVernay released the documentary 13th, named for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. However, the film essentially shows the viewer how slavery is not truly abolished in the U.S., but rather how it was rebranded into the modern-day prison system, which is rife with racial inequality.

You can stream the award-winning 13th with a Netflix subscription, or for free on Netflix's YouTube channel in its entirety.

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The Hate U Give

Based on the 2017 novel by Angie Thomas, the powerful 2018 feature film The Hate U Give stars actress Amandla Stenberg as Starr Carter, a teenager who witnesses a police officer murder her best friend. The killing leads to members of the town protesting police violence and racial injustice, and Starr finds herself at the center of it all.

You can stream The Hate U Give on Hulu with a subscription, or on YouTube or Apple TV for $3.99.

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There's Something in the Water

The 2019 documentary There's Something in the Water, which actor Elliot Page narrated, co-directed, and funded, gives viewers a look into environmental racism in Nova Scotia, Canada. There, Page and his co-director Ian Daniel spoke with locals and activists about how trash dumps and other hazardous sites built near Indigenous communities and Black communities are hurting and killing people.

You can rent There's Something in the Water on Amazon Prime Video for $0.99.

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Genius: MLK/X

The National Geographic limited series Genius: MLK/X examines the parallel lives and work of two Civil Rights leaders, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Kelvin Harrison Jr) and Malcolm X (Aaron Pierre).

Genius: MLX/X premiered on Feb. 1, 2024, on ABC, and all episodes are become available to watch with a Disney Plus or Hulu subscription the day after they air.

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Mossville: When Great Trees Fall

The documentary Mossville: When Great Trees Fall tells the story of the Louisiana town of Mossville, which was founded in the late 18th century by a man after he was freed from enslavement, as per The New York Times. For centuries, Mossville has been a mostly Black community.

However, the construction petrochemical plants nearby began putting locals in grave danger. These toxic plants allegedly caused cancer in many residents, killed many people, and uprooted many locals from their homes. The story told in Mossville: When Great Trees Fall is a sickening example of environmental racism in the U.S.

You can rent Mossville: When Great Trees Fall on Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV, or stream it with a subscription to the Roku Channel or YouTube TV.

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Judas and the Black Messiah

Released in 2021, Judas and the Black Messiah is a feature film that tells the story of Black Panther Party activist Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and how he was betrayed by FBI informant Bill O'Neal (played by LaKeith Stanfield) — something that ultimately led to Hampton's assassination.

You can watch Judas and the Black Messiah with a subscription to Max or Hulu.

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The 1619 Project

Based on The New York Times long-form journalism project of the same name, The 1619 Project is a documentary miniseries hosted by project creator and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The docuseries re-contextualizes the national origin story of the United States of America via the arrival of the first slave ship to the American colonies.

You can watch all episodes of The 1619 Project with a Hulu subscription.

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Summer of Soul

The 2021 documentary Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is about the 1969 Harlem Cultural festival, which lasted six weekends at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem, New York. Not only did the film win six Academy Awards, including Best Documentary, it is Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson's directorial debut.

You can watch Summer of Soul with a subscription to Hulu or Disney Plus.

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Racist Trees

The documentary Racist Trees, which premiered on PBS in January 2024, investigates the racial divide in Palm Springs, Calif. The film shows how a row of invasive trees planted by the city in the 1950s isolated a historically Black neighborhood from the city.

You can watch Racist Trees on PBS.

This article, originally published on Feb. 2, 2023, has been updated.

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