9 Movies Embodying the Diversity of Black Love Across Decades

9 Movies Embodying the Diversity of Black Love Across Decades

Illustration for article titled 9 Movies Embodying the Diversity of Black Love Across Decades
Image: Southside With You

‘Twas the Friday before Valentine’s Day

And all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Because we cannot go out.

*Sigh* It’s Valentine’s Day again. I am a total romantic and have Valentine’s Day traditions dating back five years that I can’t do because my favorite restaurant is closed—for safety reasons—and I refuse to ever set foot in a movie theater again.

This can be a good thing, though, considering Valentine’s Day falls directly in the middle of Black History Month and celebrating Black love is of the utmost importance. Because we have been stuck inside for far too long, we haven’t had as much of a chance to love our divine Blackness and the divine Blackness of others. The end of 2020 brought us Sylvie’s Love, boasting a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and rave reviews from critics everywhere. Last Valentine’s Day, Stella Meghie’s The Photograph, a love story centered around family and connecting with one’s roots, premiered. The fact that these movies came out within less than a year from each other blows my mind, but that’s not the point.

This year, I want to honor movies I love that paved the way for Black love to be appreciated across the silver screen—and maybe even throw in a kids’ film. Types of love across all people—from romantic love to friendship and family love—are represented in these films and make for a perfect addition to your night in this coming Sunday.

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Poetic Justice – (1993)

Poetic Justice – (1993)

Wait, oh yes, wait a minute, Mister Postman… well, Mr. Postal Clerk, and buckle up, because this Valentine’s Day we’re driving across the country to Oakland. Directed by the late John Singleton, Poetic Justice features Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur in a love story about trust (or lack thereof), art, and family. There isn’t much I can say about this film that hasn’t already been said, but it is one of those enduring Black love movies that encapsulate the idea of finding love with someone who traditionally wouldn’t be “for you.” If you’re a bit more about that life but still want to get in touch with your poetic side, you can watch Poetic Justice here.

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How Stella Got Her Groove Back – (1998)

How Stella Got Her Groove Back – (1998)

Look, we’re almost a year into the global panorama and I, too, am looking forward to a getaway. Hell, I’ll settle for anywhere I don’t have to wear a parka and two pairs of socks! How Stella Got Her Groove Back follows Stella (Angela Bassett) as she needs to get away from her life in California and travels to Montego Bay, Jamaica, where she meets and falls in love with Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs), a man at least 20 years younger than her. Cue rolling in the waves and on the beach and wondering later how the hell you’re gonna get all of that sand out of your... hair. This movie exudes renewed love, both for others and yourself. So, if you’re into the traditional rom-com with a twist of newfound self-love, you can stream How Stella Got Her Groove Back here.

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Love & Basketball – (2000)

Love & Basketball – (2000)

Pull out your sports bras, gym shorts, and tissues, because we’re about to play some Love & Basketball. Childhood best friends turned basketball lovers turned slightly estranged because of… Imma stop.

The movie is broken into four quarters. The first three follow Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) at the beginning of their lives and relationship. Though it starts very flirtatious, it gets very serious over the course of a few years until they both decide to go to the same college together. The fourth quarter is where most of the hard-hitting love comes in and knocks you in the face. If you want to fall heartbreakingly in love with two childhood friends as they fall for each other, watch Love & Basketball on Hulu or HBO Max.

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The Princess and the Frog – (2009)

The Princess and the Frog – (2009)

Before we begin I would like to acknowledge the fact that yes, Disney does commodify and rip off Black love and culture, and yes, when Disney talks about Black love it is usually in the shape of one woodland animal to the next. But The Princess and the Frog is so good, and is filled with uplifting and inspiring messages for young women about what their own priorities in life should be—and also shines a light on how easy it can be to forget that. But yes, it is told through the lens of two frogs who have to journey through the bayou together with a whacked-out mosquito as their guide. In the end, they do end up happy together and the prince is sweeping Princess Tiana’s kitchen—as he should. Clearly, this movie is geared toward young children, so if you have any of your own and want to be sing-screaming “I’m almost there,” for the next few weeks, you can stream The Princess and the Frog on Netflix and Disney+.

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Jumping the Broom – (2011)

Jumping the Broom – (2011)

All right y’all, let us be transparent: I grew up on the sandy shores of Martha’s Vineyard and let me tell you, Jumping the Broom does the island dirty. The film wasn’t even shot on Martha’s Vineyard but shot on Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, where the only similarity is that both have a year-round population of fewer than 15,000 people. But I digress.

The hilarious tale of a downtown man marrying an uptown woman and their meddling mothers in-law and the threat of their upcoming marriage imploding might not be a traditional movie to watch on Valentine’s Day, but the star-studded cast of characters more than makes up for the rocky beginning, middle… and end. The love in this film spans across family and friends and is perfect if you want a humorous love story—I mean Loretta Devine, Angela Bassett, Laz Alonzo, Meagan Good, Paula Patton? I could go on. But in the time I was rambling off the cast members, you could have watched the whole movie, which you can stream on Netflix—because they really understand the type of content we need on Valentine’s Day.

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Moonlight – (2016)

Moonlight – (2016)

Moonlight is for every type of love and emotion imaginable. Period.

You can see and feel it all for yourself when you stream Moonlight now on Netflix.

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Southside With You – (2016)

Southside With You – (2016)

It’s the first Valentine’s Day where the orange dumpster fire is not in office, which makes it a perfect time to reacquaint yourself with Barack and Michelle Obama’s first love story. The Obamas have been a beacon of Black love since we first met them, and this movie shows the world how they first met each other. Viewers get first glimpses into the philanthropy and influence the couple would have on the world, from Obama’s speech in church to Michelle’s drive to make the world better for women. The film also completely changed my perception of how ice cream should be eaten. If you’re ready to watch them fall in love and fall in love again yourself, then grab some ice cream and watch Southside With You on Hulu.

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If Beale Street Could Talk – (2018)

If Beale Street Could Talk – (2018)

Following the success of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins (writer and director), released If Beale Street Could Talk, a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name. Clementine “Tish” Rivers and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt have been friends their whole lives, and when they finally get the chance to be together, Fonny is accused of raping a woman and is sent to jail. Just days later, Tish reveals she is pregnant with his child and she and her family do all they can to get him free. The movie dances across a nonlinear structure but sticks to the same storyline throughout, cutting between scenes and bringing the viewer back easily. Though there are pangs of fear and sadness that rip through the viewer from time to time, the love is effortlessly beautiful, spanning multiple generations, friends, and family. If Beale Street Could Talk is available to watch on Hulu.

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Sylvie’s Love – (2020)

Sylvie’s Love – (2020)

Jazz is the music of love, and Sylvie’s Love embodies it. Set in 1962, Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is working at her father’s music store when Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) comes in looking for a Thelonious Monk album. I mean, what kind of meet-cute doesn’t start with a man walking into a record store and asking the beautiful woman behind the counter for music? The best kind.

The love that blossoms between Sylvie and Robert carries across oceans and time, as Robert leaves for Paris to go on tour. Five years later, Sylvie is able to find and love herself, accepting that she has to defend her own hopes in order to be the woman she set out to be. But when she sees Robert again—by chance—she is unable to hold onto her previous idea of what love is. If you’re inspired by high-class, badass, fine-ass women with a swooning and jazzy love story that we all can pine after, then streaming Sylvie’s Love on Amazon Prime is exactly what you should do this weekend.

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