“I have a dream,” said Martin Luther King Jr. over fifty years ago, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Between the stirring rhetoric and the rousing fight against prejudice, a message that remains as relevant now as it was then, it’s no wonder that the African-American Civil Rights Movement has been a frequent source for great stories on the big screen.
To celebrate the release of the Academy Award nominated film Loving on Digital and DVD, here are six of our favourite thought-provoking and entertaining films about the fight for civil rights in America.
Spike Lee’s celebrated biopic is an epic exploration of the life and ideology of the polarising and enigmatic civil rights leader Malcom X, portrayed in an Oscar-nominated performance by then rising star Denzel Washington.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Gregory Peck stars as a small town Alabama lawyer defending an African-American against a crime he didn’t commit as his two young children watch on, in what’s often described as one of the best book-to-film adaptations of all time. Released at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1962, it’s a cinematic masterpiece that stands the test of time, with a the message that's sadly as important today as it was then.
Loosely based on the life of White House butler Eugene Allen, who served under eight Presidents, this sweeping story offers a nuanced recount of the Civil Rights Movement – detailing the political responses and differing personal reactions to the immense push for change.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
Based on an unfinished manuscript by the late writer and social critic James Baldwin, this documentary weaves together powerful narration by Samuel L. Jackson with archival footage of interviews, newsreels and film clips, seamlessly pulling together the issues of the Civil Rights era with those of the current Black Lives Matter movement.
With a stunning performance from David Oyelowo, Selma was surprisingly the first major cinema release to feature the Civil Rights Movement’s most iconic figure, Martin Luther King Jr., as a central character. It chronicles the struggle for equal voting rights, culminating in an epic 87km march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton bring beautifully understated performances to this romance meets legal drama about Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple who challenged laws that criminalised interracial marriage. The heart-warming and inspiring film showcases their devotion to each other, and their defiance in the face of racism – a defiance that would pave the way for thousands of mix-race couples across America.
LOVING is available to buy on digital platforms now, and is on DVD and digital rental June 21.