The music scene has definitely changed over the past few decades, but fans are always looking for unique or historical facts about their favorite artists. Spend time learning about their history, culture, and more.
June is Black Music Month, and if you’re looking for music documentaries or series about your favorite artists, we have got you covered. These are lists of music-related movies and miniseries that highlight the contributions of Black musicians. Check out this list of series and documentaries to enjoy this weekend in honor of Black Music Month.
The Wiz (1978) The beloved feature film includes an all-Black cast, compared to its original 1993 film starring Judy Garland in the lead role of Dorothy. In the musical drama, Diana Ross plays Dorothy, Michael Jackson plays the Scarecrow, Richard Pryor as the Wiz, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, and Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion. They work together to overcome obstacles and meet their destinies at the end of the yellow brick road.
Purple Rain (1984) Minneapolis native Prince plays a young artist with an abusive at-home living situation. The club singer creates a band to compete with a rival singer and explore new love. The film’s name is the same as the late singer’s sixth studio album.
School Daze (1988) Spike Lee wrote and directed the musical comedy starring Laurence Fishburne, Tisha Campbell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jasmine Guy, and many others. The Morehouse graduate explored the socio-political and economic issues surrounding students at historically black colleges and universities.
The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992) In the film, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Angela Bassett play Joseph and Katherine Jackson, the parents of Michael Jackson and his nine siblings. The five-hour miniseries tells the captivating story of how five Jackson siblings became one of the most iconic boy groups in music history. Their unique sound came out of Gary, Indiana, and took over the music industry for years.
Tina Turner What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993) Two months before her passing, Tina Turner praised Angela Bassett’s portrayal of her in the biopic. It was based on Turner’s 1986 autobiography, “I, Tina: My Life Story,” and depicted her years of abuse during her marriage to her then-husband Ike Turner, played by Fishburne. Despite the actress being snubbed an Oscar for her role, Turner said she felt “honored” by Bassett’s portrayal in the film.
Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001) An oldie but goodie is this musical drama starring Beyoncé, Mekhi Phifer, Mos Def, Bow Wow, Erykah Badu, Wyclef Jean, Da Brat, Jermaine Dupri, Fred Williamson, and more. A beautiful woman with a hypnotizing face and body can have any man she wants. She chooses a cop who loses his job after spending one night with her. They both end up on the run from the police, but the biggest dreamer doesn’t make it out alive.
The Fighting Temptations (2003) Beyoncé and Cuba Gooding Jr. star in this musical comedy about an ad executive who loses his job and leaves the Big Apple. He heads to Georgia to collect his aunt’s inheritance, where he leads a gospel choir to victory in a citywide competition. Other supporting cast members include LaTanya Richardson, Mike Epps, Chloe Bailey, Steve Harvey, Melba Moore, Shirley Caesar, Ann Nesby and Angie Stone.
Ray (2004) Embattled actor Jamie Foxx portrays the life story and career of legendary R&B and blues musician Ray Charles. The biographical musical follows his impoverished beginnings in the South to touring under Jim Crow laws as a successful artist. He goes on to get married and have children, but his addiction to heroin never strayed too far away. After a series of arrests and a rehab stint, Charles regained his strength to make a brave comeback and enjoy decades of music success.
Dreamgirls (2006) Beyoncé also starred in the dazzling adaption of the Broadway musical about a 1960s girl group. She played Deena and Jennifer Hudson played Effie White, the latter for which Hudson won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The film also starred Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Loretta Devine, Danny Glover, and Anika Noni Rose as the group’s third member, Lorrell. The film details their development as artists and singers.
Cadillac Records (2008) Cedric the Entertainer plays music artist Willie Dixon and is the narrator of the rock ’n’ roll film full of great acting and great music. It details the rise and fall of Chess Records, the Chicago blues label owned by a Polish immigrant played by Adrien Broady’s character Leonard Chess. He launched the careers of late great musicians such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, and Etta James, the latter of whom was portrayed by Beyoncé.
Let It Shine (2012) This film’s cast includes a few veteran actors and a bevy of actors who are being given flowers. “Abbott Elementary” star Tyler James Williams plays Cyrus, a teenage rapper looking to impress Roxie, played by “ICU” singer and ‘Bel-Air” actress Coco Jones. He battles his nemesis under an alias and wins with a rhyme about his lady. Sadly, he gets no credit for it but ultimately wins Roxie’s heart.
Sparkle (2012) Jordin Sparks made her feature film debut in this remake of the original 1976 film alongside industry vets like Derek Luke, Mike Epps, and the late singer Whitney Houston. She plays a child prodigy who sings in a group with her two sisters. Set in 1968, Detroit, the musical trio have hopes of signing a record, which seems far in the future due to one sister’s drug habit and Houston’s role as an overprotective mother. The “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” singer died in February 2012, months before the film was released in theaters. The original “Sparkle,” starring Lonette McKee and Irene Cara — also is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Black Nativity (2013) Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese, Jack Latimore, Jennifer Hudson, and more shocked fans with their vocals in their musical adaption of Langston Hughes’ 1961 play. In the all-Black cast film, a teen from Baltimore moves in with his estranged grandparents. Unhappy with their strict rules, he goes out into the street to find his own way.
Annie (2014) The musical starring Jamie Foxx finds Quvenzhané Wallis as the first Black Annie. The orphan unexpectedly meets wealthy businessman Will Stacks, who uses her to help with his mayoral campaign. The funny satire has quiet moments, sad moments, and performances of “Tomorrow” and “Hard-Knock Life.” She eventually moves in with Stacks, and the two build a bond similar to the one depicted between Annie and her benefactor Daddy Warbucks in the 1932 “Little Orphan Annie” classic.
Get On Up (2014) Actor Chadwick Boseman portrayed the legendary James Brown in the biopic that explores Brown’s life, music, and presence on stages worldwide. It follows the music legend’s journey from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most influential artists of the civil rights movement.
Straight Outta Compton (2015) Based on a true story about the rap group N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton” sees six men in Compton, Los Angeles, who pushed the boundaries and revolutionized hip-hop culture with gritty rap lyrics and their dealings with Suge Knight. O’Shea Jackson Jr. stars as the younger version of his father Ice Cube in the biographical drama, alongside Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, and Brandon Lafourch to make up the famed group.
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (2016) This passionate story tells the portrait of an unconventional jazz musician whose music refined music and continues to impact, influence, and transform other people’s lives. It features more interviews and little anecdotes about his life with narration from Denzel Washington.
The Get Down (2016) The hip-hop-themed drama is set in the South Bronx, known as the birthplace of hip-hop and has been since the 1970s. It follows a small crew of teens who dance or create music. Production reportedly spent over $120 million to make the film, making it the most expensive production in Netflix history. Each episode takes a deeper dive into the rise of hip-hop and disco music.
The New Edition Story (2017) The three-part miniseries about the legendary R&B group begins with five childhood friends who become international sensations while growing up in Boston. As they quickly emerge into the spotlight, various obstacles strain their finances, friendship, and future. The film led to “The Bobby Brown Story.”
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) This marks Boseman’s last movie before his unexpected passing. The new adaptation of August Wilson’s play tackles hard issues like race, art, and the exploitation of black artists in the 1920s. Viola Davis gave viewers a riveting performance as Ma Rainey, who never failed to hold back when she wasn’t satisfied with a song. Most of the film is recorded in a studio as she prepares to record new music for an album while clashing with white producers.
Respect (2021) In this autobiographical film, Hudson played the lead as the legendary Aretha Franklin. The movie documents her adolescent years singing in her father’s church choir to her rise to international fame. Marlon Wayans plays Franklin’s ex-husband and former manager, Ted White, and Mary J. Blige portrays vocalist Dinah Washington.
Summer Of Soul (2021) Questlove made his filmmaking debut after premiering this movie at the Sundance Film Festival. The music documentary features six weeks of footage taken in the summer of 1969 in the aftermath of Black Creativity and the civil rights movement. The classic concert film looks back at a group of blues, gospel, and rock ‘n’ soul artists who performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival at Mount Morris Park. It includes performances from Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Mavis Staples, Sly & The Family Stone, and more.
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