There are many outstanding and popular African American directors\filmmakers today like Barry Jenkins and Jordan Peele, as well as far more great female talent in Sanaa Hamri, Ava DuVerney etc. and of course you certainly know Tyler Perry and quite a few others that have made their mark in the film industry but without some of the super talented, trail blazing black directors, many of them also writing and producing many of their films, the current lot wouldn’t be enjoying the fruitful benefits they and we enjoy. These are my top ten favorite black filmmakers who also happen to be the greatest in their craft of any color in my opinion.
10. Ryan Coogler.
I mean, come on. This is the brother who made the very first predominantly black film to gross over a billion dollars. That says it all, and his humbleness and genuinely cool nature only adds to his amazing talent. Fruitvale Station and Black Panther couldn’t be more different in tone and scale, proving Coogler’s range as a filmmaker.
9. Antoine Fuqua.
Antoine has touched so many hard hitting social issues that reflect the very nature of our society and he does it in both a realistic and yet highly entertaining way. From Training Day and Olympus Has Fallen to The Equalizer 1 and 2, Antoine blends high key action with gritty realism.
8. Malcolm D. Lee.
The director\writer of such classics as The Best Man and The Best Man Holiday as well as Undercover Brother and Night School , Malcolm does the Lee family name proud… Oh, I bet you didn’t know that he’s Spike Lee’s cousin did ya? Mr. Lee has the skills to pay the bills with a flair for creating real characters that we all recognize whether from people we all know or ourselves. He recently directed Space Jam 2 with Lebron James.
7. Reginald Hudlin.
Mr. Hudlin has directed some true classics for the black culture that also went on to be classics for a wider audience: House Party, Boomerang, Bebe’s Kids, Django Unchained… Those just a few of his accomplishments. He also produced a short lived Black Panther animated series back in 2008.
6. Gina Prince-Blythewood.
One of the few breakout black female directors and female directors period, Gina represents the ladies all too well. Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, Beyond The Lights and more recent The Old Guard all went on to be very successful and classic films, especially Love & Basketball, still Gina’s greatest work as a director\writer in this author’s opinion. She’s also directed and written episodes of quite a few beloved tv series such as A Different World, South Central, The Bernie Mac Show, Felicity, Girlfriends, Everybody Hates Chris, Shots Fired, Cloak & Dagger and Women of The Movement.
5. F Gary Gray.
Set it Off, The Negotiator, Straight Outta Compton, but I think we’ll always know and love him best for the first Friday film. Gary Gray has incredible range from gut busting comedy to straight action thriller to high drama. A very versatile and skilled filmmaker who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
4. Robert Townsend.
This man has directed and wrote some true all time classics like the groundbreaking Hollywood Shuffle that Townsend made with his own credit cards to the iconic Five Heartbeats, and even gave us the official first black superhero movie in Meteor Man back in 1993. Robert is a jack of all trades: Comedian, writer, director, and actor who wears all the hats well. Let’s give him his flowers now.
3. Carl Franklin.
You may have never heard of this talented brother, though hopefully you’ve heard or have seen a few of his pictures like One False Move(1992), Devil In a Blue Dress(1995), and Out of Time (2003) just to name a few. As a African American director Carl has given the community films that were and still are terribly rare: The black mystery\noir film. His first film One False Move garnered huge critical acclaim as did the Walter Mosley adapted novel Devil In a Blue Dress. Sadly his films go overlooked by most people, but nevertheless the man is extremely talented in his craft and we need him back to give us intelligent and provocative mystery films with black casts again.
2. John Singleton.
In 1991 John was only 21 years old and gave us one of the all time greatest and most classic films ever made: Boyz N The Hood. John was born and raised in South Central LA and never shied away from telling stories from his experience growing up in the hood and rising above it all. His three iconic films Boyz, Poetic Justice and Baby Boy are known as Hood classics and are still cherished by the black community to this day. I’m not shy to tell you that when I heard of his passing a few years back I was absolutely shocked and devastated because even though I’ve never met John I admired and highly respected him and his talents.
- Spike Lee.
We all know his movies: Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever, She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Summer of Sam, Inside Man, He’s Got Game, Girl 6, Crooklyn, BlacKKKlansman and so many more. It’s no secret that Spike is a very opinionated and outspoken man, and it bleeds throughout all his films as they all have something to say and do it proudly. Spike Lee came out at a time when there were very few Black directors in Hollywood, yet Lee came out and was a pioneer and changing that. He has a style that’s all his own, so much so that it has been imitated in quite a few other filmmakers’ work of any color.
’Til next time, folks.