Five Black-Centered Movies Turning 20 This Year


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Pop culture milestones are constant, and when pivotal pieces of art hit more than a decade, it’s fun to celebrate. In this case, here are five culture shifting movies, centered around Black stories, that turn 20 in 2024. 

Fade to Black 

In 2004, Jay Z became the first rapper to retire on purpose. He has since come back out of retirement and released a lot more music, but back then, the idea of a rapper retiring had never been done before, so of course, Hov went out with a bang. His “last album” was preceded by a documentary titled, Fade to Black. Fade to Black marked Jay Z’s “farewell” performance via the Fade to Black tour, and chronicled the making of  The Black Album, Jay’s “final album.” The film showed Jay on the road, in the studio, kicking it with creative friends, and gave a glimpse into the life and times of one of the most successful rappers ever. It’s a pioneering film in that it helped to shape how modern day concert documentary films are shot and rolled out.  

Hotel Rwanda

The Rwanda genocide that happened in the 90s is a travesty, and the way some of the world’s super powers handled it has been criticized by historians. The film, starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo, is inspired by the harrowing story of Rwandan hotelier Paul Rusesabagina and his efforts to save the lives of his wife and thousands of refugees by hiding them and providing them shelter. The film was well received and nominated for several awards, but what’s most important is the history lesson. 


Mario Van Peebles made Baadasssss! to pay homage to his late father, pioneering film director Melvin Van Peebles.  Baadasssss!, which was released in 2004, chronicles the making of 1971’s Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. The latter film is about a man who ends up escaping “the man” when they try to frame him for a murder he didn’t commit, with the help of his community. The film was financed by some surprising people who believed in the senior Van Peebles’ vision when Hollywood didn’t, and it launched what eventually became known as the “Blaxploitation” genre. 


Nevermind that it got terrible reviews, there are other notable things about the film. What was groundbreaking about Catwoman was that a Black woman played a lead in a comic book movie. Berry wasn’t the first Black woman to play Catwoman, Eartha Kitt had that honor, but Berry was the first Catwoman in a DC movie. It also became the highest grossing female-led superhero movie of all time until Wonder Woman came out in 2017. 

You Got Served 

Urban dance movies are usually pretty cheesy because most of all, they’re unrealistic. Think about the usual formula. Most of the time, it’s some white kid from the suburbs who all of a sudden stumbles upon hip hop due to some hardship, or randomly at a performing arts school, and becomes the greatest break dancer of all time. Womp womp. However, while You Got Served was a bit cheesy, it at least featured kids and storylines that were more realistic. Omarion, the rest of B2K, and Marques Houston played some young folks from around the way who were caught up in following their dreams and making a way through their talents, which was dance. They navigated the perils of hood life as they climbed their way to the top. 

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