With today being Memorial Day, it’s important that we all take the time to observe the holiday in any way that we can. Throughout the years, plenty of filmmakers have created movies that focus around military life, but some of the best ones have starred people of color.
Since the Revolutionary War during the 1770s, African American have played a pivotal role in the U.S. military. Whether it be a young, optimistic soldier to the highest ranking general, there have been countless men and women that have dedicated their lives to this country. Films such as A Soldier’s Story, Glory, The Tuskegee Airmen, and Buffalo Soldiers, all pay homage to the Black army units that fought on the front lines proudly, even amidst a swarm of racism, segregation, and bigotry. While flicks like 1996’s Independence Day put a new twist on the importance of Black people in active duty.
Memorial Day is more than just an off day, so while you’re observing this holiday, make sure to check out some of these great movies that highlight African Americans in the U.S. military.
This WWII, “who done it” film tells the story of an Army lawyer sent to a base in Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black sergeant. It features an ensemble cast that stars Denzel Washington, Howard Rollins, David Alan Grier, Patti LaBelle, and more.
This film depicts the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was the first all-black military unit that fought in the Civil War. The movie stars Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher, and also features Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
This HBO film is based on the true story of the African American men who battled racism and segregation to become pilots during WWII. The film stars Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Malcolm Jamal-Warner and more.
Dead Presidents is a 1995 American crime film co-written, produced and directed by the Hughes Brothers. The film chronicles the life of Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate), focusing on his teenage years as a high school graduate and his experiences during the Vietnam War as a Recon Marine. As he returns to his hometown, Curtis finds himself struggling to support himself and his family, eventually turning to a life of crime.
In this blockbuster summer film, Will Smith stars as Captain Steven Hiller, a fighter pilot who battles those pesky aliens who keep invading earth. Independence Day also features Vivica Fox.
This TNT television film starring Danny Glover, tells the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, and their role in the Apache Wars.
This drama, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. was inspired by the true story of Carl Brashear, the first African American master diver in the United States Navy. It also features Aunjanue Ellis and Robert DeNiro.
Directed by Spike Lee, this fictional murder mystery is a reimagining of some real-life events set during WWII in Italy. The story is centered around soldiers of 92nd Infantry Division, a segregated division of the Army, who fought in the two World Wars.
In this critically acclaimed film, Anthony Mackie plays Sgt., J.T. Sanbornall, who is one of several Army Technicians who are charged with disarming bombs amid the violent conflicts of the Iraq War. The Hurt Locker was nominated for nine Oscars in 2010, winning six.
Red Tails is a 2012 American war film directed by Anthony Hemingway in his feature directorial debut, and starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. The film is about the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II.
Devotion is a biographical war film based on the 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos, which retells the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner during the Korean War, the film Jonathan Majors in the starring role.
The Inspection is written and directed by Elegance Bratton, and is inspired by Bratton’s real-life experiences. The film follows a young gay black man who endures brutal training at a Marine Corps boot camp, seeking approval from his homophobic mother.