8 Family Films That Celebrate—and Inspire—Black Joy

These movies bring us joy during Black History Month and throughout the year.

A scene from "Soul"


Though we celebrate Black history, culture, and joy every day, Black History Month is when our celebration goes into overdrive, and one of the best ways to observe a month of Black festivity is through film. 

Kindred has compiled a list of eight movies that tell joyful stories, with topics that range from purpose and love to science-fiction and classic nostalgia. 

Try watching all eight before the month ends!

Soul (2020)

A scene from "Soul"


In this Pixar hit, Joe Gardner is a Brooklyn pianist and teacher who is immensely joyful when he plays music, but he doesn't feel completely fulfilled because he hasn't made it to the "big leagues" yet." He gets the opportunity of a lifetime, right before he dies, and is reincarnated—as a cat.

This is a film for older elementary-aged children and their families about purpose, passion, and true joy.

Watch this for a tear-jerker with a lovely lesson.

The Wiz (1978)

Michael Jackson in "The Wiz"

Michael Ochs/Getty Images

This classic is an all-Black reimagining of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that features some of the all-time biggest celebrities like Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Richard Pryor as the Wiz, Lena Horne as Glinda the Good Witch, and more. 

The Wiz was initially a box-office failure but eventually became a fan favorite in the Black community. It doesn’t hurt that music legend Quincy Jones served as the music supervisor for this film and he and Luther Vandross contributed musically.

Watch this if you’re in the mood for an old-school classic musical.

Hidden Figures (2016)

A scene from "Hidden Figures"

20th Century Fox

Hidden Figures tells the story of three Black women who are NASA mathematicians in the 1960s: Katherine Jackson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (played by Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monae). They helped send the first Americans to orbit the Earth during the space race. 

The film told the lesser-known stories of Black women who broke barriers and made systemic change in NASA.

Watch this if you’re in the mood to watch Black women excel in STEM.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A scene from "A Wrinkle in Time"


A Wrinkle in Time is the film version of the award-winning sci-fi novel of the same name. Directed by Ava DuVernay and starring Oprah, Storm Reid, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and more, this film broke records by becoming the first live-action movie with a budget of over $100 million directed by a Black woman.

The movie follows 13-year-old Meg Murry (Reid), who is struggling with bullying and mental health issues, on a search through space to find her missing scientist father (played by Chris Pine) where she learns about love and self-acceptance along the way.

Watch this for family-friendly sci-fi escapism with strong themes of good v. evil, spirituality, and explorations of the divine.

Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

A scene from "Akeelah and the Bee"


In her breakthrough role, Keke Palmer plays Akeelah, an 11-year-old with dreams of winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Angela Bassett plays Akeelah’s mom and her spelling coach is played by Laurence Fishburne. Akeelah’s grades aren’t great and she often misses school, but she is a standout speller. 

She finds motivation in ascending through the levels of spelling competition and training and makes it to the national contest in Washington, D.C. Spoiler alert: Akeelah won the spelling bee, correctly spelling “pulchritude,” a word she misspelled at the beginning of the movie.

Watch this for an achievable, inspirational story of Black girl spelling magic.

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

A scene from "The Princess and the Frog"


Starring voice acting by Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Jenifer Lewis (Mama Odie), Oprah (Eudora, Tiana’s mom), Terrence Howard (James, Tiana’s dad), and more, The Princess and the Frog introduces viewers to Disney’s first Black princess. 

Set in the ‘20s in New Orleans, Tiana is working hard as a waitress to achieve her dream of opening a restaurant when she accidentally gets turned into a frog because she kisses a prince. They spend the movie trying to be turned back into themselves and fall in love in the process. 

Watch this for a fun, musical Disney movie.


Critics have called Disney out for the first Black Disney Princess being an animal for the majority of her movie.

Queen of Katwe (2016)

A scene from "Queen of Katwe"


Based on a 2011 ESPN the Magazine article, Queen of Katwe tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a 10-year-old Ugandan girl who lives in a slum and learns to play chess through a volunteer missionary in the hopes that chess mastery can help her change her family’s station and purchase them some level of stability. She eventually becomes a top chess player, leading the Uganda team to international competition.

Spoiler: The team loses its competition, but Phiona is able to dust herself off and try again, managing to succeed and help her family purchase a home and leave the slum. This film stars Madina Nalwanga (as Phiona), Lupita Nyong’o (as Nakku Harriet, Phiona’s mother), and David Oyelowo (as Robert Katende). 

Watch this for the true story of a young girl winning for her family.

Black Panther (2018)

A scene from "Black Panther"


Black Panther is one of the biggest cultural flashpoints and markers of Black joy in the last decade. People showed up to theaters in cultural outfits and costumes. Celebrities bought out showings so underprivileged communities would be able to experience this phenomenon in theaters. Black Panther introduced us to the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the most technologically advanced nation in the world, even though very few people outside the country knew it. 

Although Marvel fans were introduced to Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and King T’Chaka (John Kani) in Captain America: Civil War, this movie fully fleshed out the world of Wakanda as we watched King T’Challa struggle with his newfound seat on the throne. Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danai Gurira also star in this award-winning and record-breaking film.

Watch this for the role that truly made the late Chadwick Boseman a household name and for a genuinely fun movie that celebrates Black excellence.

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