Five Movies You Should Watch to Educate Yourself About Protest History And Racism

These films may just be what we need to learn more about the biggest issues of today, including protest history and racism, while also helping us reflect on matters such as prejudice, compliance and injustice

Every single day, we keep hearing about more and more protests against police brutality and racism across the United States as people from all walks of life take to the streets to protest against the treatment of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in the hands of police in Minneapolis with his last moments recorded on video. This tragic event has once again brought the urgent need for racial justice to the forefront of conversation in America.

While it’s great to see the build up of support for the fight against racism and racial brutality, it’s safe to say that it might also be a good idea for each of us to educate ourselves on issues such as systemic racism and privilege—not just in America, but also everywhere.

As the need for education about the history of the long and ongoing fight for racial justice is critical, we created a selection of five feature films and documentaries that can help contextualize  current events.

Do The Right Thing

“Do the Right Thing” is a 1989 American comedy-drama film produced, written and directed by Spike Lee. The story explores a Brooklyn neighborhood’s simmering racial tension, which culminates in violence and a death by a police officer on a hot summer day, ultimately sparking a riot. The movie itself was inspired by real events: the killing of an African American man named Michael Griffith and an elderly African American woman named Eleanor Bumpurs.

Malcolm X

Another one of Spike Lee’s masterpieces, this movie illuminates the life of black nationalist Malcolm X. Based largely on Alex Haley’s 1965 book “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the movie dramatizes key events in Malcolm X’s life from his early days to his conversion to Islam and his assassination on February 21, 1965.


This historical drama film was based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches initiated and directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams and John Lewis. The movie speaks about the relationships between African-Americans, the U.S. government and private white citizens, which led to the historic moment.



Directed by Ava DuVernay, this thought-provoking documentary analyzes the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. The movie itself was titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution—adopted in 1865—which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime.

Fruitvale Station

Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, this American biographical drama film is based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed young man who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale district station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in Oakland. In short, this unexpectedly devastating drama serves as a celebration of the last day of his life.