The Best Movies to Watch on Disney Plus for Black History Month
Check out these titles on Disney Plus that celebrate Black stories and creators
February is Black History Month. The month-long celebration is a chance to acknowledge the historic achievements of Black Americans and to highlight their undeniable impact on American history. To celebrate, we have selected the best movies on Disney+ that were made by Black creators and movies that tell Black stories.
You’re going to want to stream the critically acclaimed titles Hidden Figures and Ruby Bridges once you learn about the incredible real-life stories they’re based on. Be sure to add these titles to your Disney+ watchlist, and mark your calendar's for Feb. 12! That's when Disney+ is adding Brandy and Whitney Houston's iconic version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella.
In this 2016 movie, Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson play the real-life Black female NASA mathematicians and engineers whose work helped to make the first American astronaut orbit the Earth in 1961. "I think it sends a message that we all have something to contribute," Spencer told ET at the L.A. Promise Fund's screening of the movie. "It highlights the story of these three women but there were Black and white women working behind the scenes that never got their dues. Hidden Figures is a way to celebrate them all."
Black Is King
Beyoncé called her visual album with music from The Lion King: The Gift, "a labor of love." In 2020 the singer told her Instagram followers: "It is my passion project that I have been filming, researching and editing day and night for the past year ... With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy."
A Wrinkle in Time
The Ava DuVernay fantasy movie based on the 1962 young adult novel of the same name stars actress Storm Reid as “Meg.” DuVernay explained why casting a Black female lead was important on a number of levels. "She really fills in an absence that has been in these films for so long. Girls at the center, girls of color at the center," DuVernay told ET. "We're talking a lot about how girls of color will respond to Storm, but Caucasian boys will also be seeing seeds planted in the film," DuVernay continues. "[Meg] says to her friend, Calvin, 'Do you trust me?' And he says, 'I trust you.' He follows a girl. He lets himself be led by a girl. These are the kind of seeds that we need to plant with young people, that anyone can lead and that it's OK to follow anyone who has the right idea. These are real formative things that we're looking to get out to a newer generation."
The 1998 title is based on the true story of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, one of the first Black children to attend a newly integrated school in New Orleans in 1960. Chaz Monet, Penelope Ann Miller and Kevin Pollak star in the title about racism and civil rights.
The sports comedy is loosely based on the real-life Jamaican Olympic bobsled team who competed in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. The Washington Post described the 1993 film about a group of Black athletes as “a story about underdogs fighting for pride and glory -- on both a personal and national level -- against seemingly insurmountable odds.”
The sports drama is based on the real life story of Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey. After his mother enters treatment for substance abuse, the student athlete must care for his younger brother or risk losing him to the child welfare system. The New York Times said the movie “isn’t your typical sports or adversity movie; it asks questions of what educational institutions owe to their community.”
Chadwick Boseman: A Tribute for a King
The ABC News special highlights the late actor's life, his on-screen roles (Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and T'Challa from Black Panther to name a few), his private battle with cancer and his on-going legacy. The special features appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.
The iconic Marvel movie, based on the first Black superhero in mainstream American comic books, is a must-see. After the return of the reluctant but rightful heir to the throne of Wakanda, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must save his remote African nation (and the world) from an evil foe. Boseman won an NAACP Image award, a People's Choice award and a Screen Actors Guild award for his role. The superhero movie also earned Marvel its first-ever Oscar wins.
Up, Up and Away
The 2000 Disney Channel original movie about a Black family of superheroes is a coming of age movie about what makes you special. Robert Townsend, director of Hollywood Shuffle, Eddie Murphy Raw, and The Five Heartbeats directed and stars in this Disney film.
This 2012 film chronicles the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During their training, the serviceman faced racism and discrimination for the color of their skin. Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Nate Parker and David Oyelowo star.
The Proud Family Movie
It's time to revisit a childhood favorite! The classic Disney Channel animated movie follows the Proud family as their tropical vacation unravels and daughter Penny must save her parents, siblings and Suga Mama from the evil Dr. Carver. Keep an eye out for the Proud Family revival series, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, coming to Disney+ soon.
The 2020 release is the first-ever Pixar film with a Black lead. Jamie Foxx voices main character Joe Gardner, an aspiring jazz pianist who works as a middle-school band teacher by day. After a tragic accident, Gardner finds himself heading towards and then running from the great beyond. Musician Jon Batiste composed original jazz arrangements for the film and Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Angela Bassett and Daveed Diggs lent their voices to the movie that attempts to answer some heavy questions including, what happens after we die?
The 2020 short film about two kids at summer camp features Pixar's first-ever non-verbal autistic character. Non-verbal autistic actress Madison Bandy is the voice of the character, named Renee. When a young Black camper named Marcus is paired up with Renee to go canoeing and they get stuck, the pair must find a way to connect with one another. Producer Krissy Cababa told Forbes "as a person of color who grew up largely in the 70's I did not see people who look like myself in any media, like ever. So I remember how powerful it was when I first started to see people who looked like me on-screen, in TV. It's still shocking to me how underrepresented certain groups are."
The Princess and the Frog
This twist on the Brothers Grimm tale, The Frog Prince, gave the world its first-ever Black princess in Disney's Princess Line. All New Orleans waitress Tiana wants to be is a restaurant owner. But when she meets a frog who swears that he is really a human prince, both of their lives change after they share a kiss. Anika Noni Rose, Keith David and Bruno Campos star in the 2009 animated Disney film.
The Color of Friendship
When the daughter of a Black U.S. congressman welcomes a white student on a semester abroad from racially segregated apartheid South Africa, worlds collide. They were not at all what the other was expecting. Will they learn to put aside their prejudices and through building mutual respect become friends? Stream this 2000 Disney movie and find out.
For the latest content celebrating Black History Month, please visit our Black History Month page, or read more in our Black Stories section. And don’t miss our Black History Month special on ET Live.