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DAR Films: The Best Black Films Of The 2000s

By @TrueGodImmortal 

We all love the 1990s. For many of us in a certain demographic, it is the best decade ever for a number of things: sports, music, TV, and in some way, movies. The black films of the 90s stuck to a certain formula and didn't explore much depth besides the norm, but in the 2000s, we saw movies of a variety and of improved quality in many ways (though nostalgia might not let you admit it). With that being said, we wanted to look back on the decade that has in some way been slept on, and list the best black movies of the 2000s. You won't see some of my personal favorites like Next Friday, All About the Benjamins, and Barbershop on this list because objectively, the quality of the films themselves don't deserve a nod here. What's classic to me doesn't necessarily equal a great film, but those films are definitely good comedies, just not the best of the best films. Still, there is versatility on this list. Let's get into it.

*Love and Basketball (2000)

-This film features a love story through the years between Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, and it's a gem of a film to many women in the world. Personally, I don't mind the film, but the story showcases how toxic a long term partnership could be if not executed fairly. Sanaa and Omar had great chemistry, so the toxic behavior between both (mostly from Omar in the film) tends to go ignored for the overall "love story" arc. There's hurt, pain, love, joy, sadness, and tough moments throughout the film, garnering the praise it has received over the years.

*The Original Kings Of Comedy (2000)

-Though this isn't a "film" in the traditional sense, this goes back to the days of Eddie Murphy's RAW as we take four of the premier black comedians (well three, since D.L. Hughley was never that funny), and put them on stage for 2 hours. The Kings of Comedy tour spawned a lot of success, and in this film, Cedric The Entertainer, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley (periodically), and of course, Bernie Mac set the crowd on fire with their jokes. The cut scenes are funny and engaging, while Bernie Mac steals the show easily. A true classic.

*Bamboozled (2000)

-This Spike Lee directed film flew under the radar and is not necessarily viewed as one of his best, but it's a true favorite of mine. Damon Wayans and Jada Pinkett star in this over the top look at racism in Hollywood and the hilarity of the behind the scenes that caused many black execs to sell out, so to speak. The best part of this film? The audition scenes, from the Suge Knight looking brother (this was probably done deliberately) who sang about how "he be slapping my hoes" to the ignorance of the Honeycutt character and his "Niggas Is A Beautiful Thang" monologue, the film walks the line between deep social commentary and cheap laughs perfectly IMO.

*The Brothers (2001)

-It might surprise you to see this here, but I thought this movie was executed well, despite a few miscues. Shemar Moore, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy, and Morris Chestnut make no sense as friends when you see the poster for the film, but once you see their chemistry together as boys, the movie flows together. The stories are a bit unrealistic (Gabrielle Union went on a date with his father, Shemar's soon to be wife goes crazy and shoots shit up, and Bill Bellamy's affinity for white women), but the movie works well and it's aged pretty well also, as I like the movie more now than I did when it was first released. That's what garnered this movie a spot on this list.

*Brown Sugar (2002)

-Continuing the vibe of past movies like The Wood and The Best Man, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan combine for a romantic comedy that centers around hip hop. There are special moments here in this film that revolve around the hip hop genre, and a large number of rappers appear in it. For me, the arc of using hip hop infused with a long term friendship turned love is what makes the film enjoyable. It's not your average one dimensional film, there's more context within the love story (though the concept of "long time best friends turned lovers" isn't new), and both Taye and Sanaa have really good chemistry.

*Paid In Full (2002)

-There are plenty of stories that have been told in American cinema that have centered around the streets. For me, this movie is solid, but for others, this movie is a classic. If you're from New York (sorry to stereotype), chances are you love this movie. Starring Wood Harris, Cam'ron, and Mekhi Phifer, this movie showcases the well documented and known story of illustrious drug dealers during the 80s. Well crafted and paced, this film hits the mark more often than not.

*Antwone Fisher (2002)

-There are movies that are powerful and attempt to make statements, and this is one of them. Starring Derek Luke and Denzel Washington, this Denzel directed gem is based on a true story and is more of a biographical film than anything. It tells the story and rise of the man Antwone Fisher and it is very well crafted and executed, serving as the debut of Denzel as a director, so it's a must that this film is
here on the list.

*Brother To Brother (2004)

-A film that tends to get overlooked, this movie boasts a top Anthony Mackie performance. It's a film that would have got Oscar attention had the Oscars been paying attention to black films then (what a concept). The film stars Mackie as a gay man who befriends an older male and learns all about the old man's life. It's a different role for Mackie, but it features enough emotional depth and honesty that one part of the story doesn't overshadow the whole film. If you've never watched the film, you should check this one out.

*Hotel Rwanda (2004)

-Don Cheadle stars in this Oscar nominated film that speaks to the Rwandan genocide, and some have even considered this to be an African "Schindler's List",  but perhaps even more brutal. The movie has a very dark feel to it, but what really stands as the biggest proponent of the film's success, is the performance by Don Cheadle. It really elevated the film higher by design and the supporting performances also make this an enjoyable watch.

*Hustle And Flow (2005)

-Terrence Howard was on top of the world in 2005 in a way. After a role in the critical acclaimed Crash and a solid role in the film Four Brothers, his stock was higher than ever in Hollywood and led him to the biggest role of his career in Iron Man. However, my favorite role of his comes in this 2005 film that is Memphis hip hop through and through. Howard stars as DJ, a pimp/rapper that wants to make it out of his surroundings and live better. He's supported by a cast that features Anthony Anderson, Ludacris, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai Parker, and more. The music, the lingo, the performances all make Hustle and Flow one of the best movies of the 2000s in black cinema.

*Akeelah And The Bee (2006)

-Now, some of you might be surprised. Keke Palmer, in her younger glory (before she became this annoying "but the gag is" woman she is today), as a very bright and intelligent young black woman vying for a huge spelling bee. It was a smart film, one that really showcases her young acting ability, and one that uplifts young black women in a way that hadn't been done regularly. Laurence Fishburne also stars in this film and is great to watch in his role as well, as is the always great Angela Bassett, making this a surprisingly pleasant film with a bit of depth.

*The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

-Is this really a black film? I'd say so. With Will Smith and his son Jaden starring, this film shows the length that Chris Gardner went to just to get what he wanted. While the movie's mantra of "go after it at all costs" is amazing and one I relate to, the best thing about the film is the performances from Will and Jaden. The rest of the cast, including Thandie Newton are very secondary in the story and the importance of the film. Will gives an Oscar worthy performance in this movie and that's what really earns this movie a place on this list.

*ATL (2006)

-I never would have thought that I would enjoy this movie. Aside from the music that was inspired by the film, and of course, Lauren London, this film didn't appeal to me at first. I didn't expect T.I. to be a solid actor, but I was surprised to see his role be executed so well. Based in Atlanta of course (duh, look at the title), this film showcases solid performances from T.I., Jackie Long, Lauren London, Big Boi (a better performance than he had in the horrible "Who's Your Caddy"), and Evan Ross. Centered around the late teenage high school experience and showcasing how roller skating was important to the culture, this film has the right blend of street tales, real life, and the young experience.

*The Great Debaters (2007)

-I think this Denzel film is a bit slept on because the premise is probably a bit boring to the average moviegoer. For me, it was engaging with great performances from Denzel, Forest Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, and Nate Parker. This true story based around a HBCU is certainly important in black history and with these superb performances to go with it, it is a great film that deserves more credit.

*Miracle At St. Anna (2008)

-I was on the fence about this movie at first, because Spike has a tendency to be hit or miss with his more heavy films. This particular one wasn't a disappointment and the story told was interesting. Set in an Italian landscape, we got to witness an all black group of soldiers go to war and fight in this adaptation of James McBride's popular novel. It was the perfect blend of historical fiction as it showcased events that really happened with its own slight fictional twist as well in other areas.

*Black Dynamite (2009)

-If there was ever a perfect parody and comedy, this might just be the one. Michael Jai White creates a classic Blaxiploitation parody that has laugh after laugh after laugh. There are so many iconic scenes and funny characters in this film and great performances from Arsenio Hall, Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, and a number of other actors in this underrated gem.


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