Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top 5 Civil Rights Movies

You may be asking yourself, "Why civil rights movies?" I'll give you the answer, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this month you jerk! Know you damn memorial days!!!

Ok, so here we go:

5. Glory
It's the first war movie I ever saw and a very emotional one at that. But what makes this special is the theme of equality that is shown through the course of the film. It has two landmark black actors in it, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washinton, who are terrific actors regardless of the color of their skin. Each one of these five films have one moment thats burned into my head as a defining moment and in Glory it's when Denzel is being whipped and he takes the pain in stride. However, after a handful of lashings he looks at Matthew Broederick and a single tear rolls down his cheek. He never says a word. It's seems cliche now but it was such a powerfully simple moment that I will never forget. "I ain't much about no prayin', now. I ain't never had no family, and... killed off my mama. Well, I just... Y'all's the onliest family I got. I love the 54th. Ain't even much a matter what happens tomorrow, 'cause we men, ain't we?"

4. Braveheart

This might appear to be an odd choice but hear me out. The Scottish were oppressed for a long time. Their women were raped, they were killed for fun, and England was the the pushing force. During this time period England was essentially attempting to wipe out the scots through breeding and violent means. Yet, they endured. William Wallace was a much nastier human being than this movie portrays him to be and it's pretty far from historically accurate (though some parts are true) but nonethless it is a story about fighting for freedom and love. These are two elements that drive any civil rights movement. It also happens to be one of my favorite movies.Wallace: I am William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men... and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?

Veteran: Fight? Against that? No! We will run. And we will live.

Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

3. Malcolm X
Even though I'm a fan of Spike Lee, I hadn't seen his opus until last year. As a film I can honestly say it's only average. Spike's films have a tendancy to drag in parts and seem somewhat disconnected at times. Nonethless, he's a great filmmaker and a pioneer. So while the movie itself is flawed, Denzel's performance as the crass, brave, stubborn, politically incorrect, "violent", "insolent", and constantly evoloving civil rights leader is breathtaking. The movie shows Malcolm X's transition from street thug to intense black nationalist to finally, a humanist. Because of Denzel's performance and the amazing person he potray's, Malcom X must go into virtually every Civil Right Movie top 5 list." We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us!"

2. Do The Right Thing

Another Spike Lee Joint?? Imagine that. I've only seen the whole thing straight through once but I remember really liking it. It's really about 8 different stories all mushed into one film, which causes chaos and destruction. Spike took a simple idea, take the hottest day of the year and combine a bunch of socially angry individuals together, and executed it to perfection. The thing about Spike Lee movies is that they all have a certain message to say and Spike almost always says it. However, what sets Do The Right Thing apart is that there doesn't seem to be one clear cut message. He is simply showing us a glimpse into the tension of race and what this tension is capable of causing. Not to mention it's also on the AFI's top 100 films.
"My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn't believe it; I didn't believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?"

1. To Kill a Mockingbird

Another movie about a nother basic notion, do the right thing (see what I did there...BAM). Atticus Finch is arguably one of the best hero's in cinema and American Literature. He stands up against all odds and defends a man that nobody else in town believes should be defended. Why? because he's a black man. Yet, Atticus stands strong and fights to the end, despite losing the case. There is a fantastically emotional moment when Atticus has just lost the case. He feels defeated and lost. "Maybe society is as evil as I doubted?" Is going through his head. As he packs his things he sees that the black community has stayed in the balcony. Slowly they start to stand and give him a silent sign of respect. Atticus looks up, nods, and walks out of the courtroom. As he passes under them, a man tells scout "Stand up! your father is passin'." So powerful. So simple. So elegant. Perfection.

Opposed to the quote, I've given you the whole scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0NbTCYfU24


I have also not seen some civil right classics such as Mississippi Burning, In The Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and other great Sidney Poitier films. So that would explain why they are not on this list.


  1. Have you seen A Time to Kill? Great movie..

  2. Hrm - I never have. But I'm going to netflix it for sure.

  3. Definitely do and let me know what you think... It's an all-star cast.. Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Ashley Judd..

  4. I'm challenging your usage of Denzel twice in this segment.

    Not cool.

    But props for getting Matthew Broederick in ANY list.