Many people have their favorite time of the year, but there’s always been something special about summer. It brings back those feelings of nostalgia as a child, playing with friends for hours on end until the street lights come on; to the memories of family cookouts when life was much simpler. As the warmer months draw to a close, we’ve decided to pay homage to those Black films that capture the summer vibes that we’ve all come to know and love.
When referencing these films, a few things come to mind. First, you want to think about the ones that were released during the months of June, July, and August. The film’s concept may not be that of the “summer,” but it still added to the exciting experience of summertime due to when it premiered – à la Dr. Dolittle and Independence Day. Also, films such as The Inkwell hit theaters outside of the three-month window, but the story was told during that time.
In the celebration of another successful summer, here is our list of the best Black Summer Films of all-time.
‘Do The Right Thing,’ 1989
This Spike Lee-directed film told the story of a Brooklyn neighborhood’s simmering racial tension between its African-American residents and the Italian-American owners of a local pizzeria. The film was a critical and commercial success and received numerous accolades, including Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Danny Aiello’s portrayal of “Sal.”
‘Poetic Justice,’ 1993
Written and directed by John Singleton and starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur with Regina King and Joe Torry in supporting roles, Poetic Justice follows Justice (Jackson), a poet mourning the loss of her boyfriend from gun violence, who goes on a road trip from South Central L.A. to Oakland.
‘The Inkwell,’ 1994
Set in the summer of 1976, The Inkwell follows the adventures of Drew – played by Larenz Tate – a 16-year-old from upstate New York, when he and his family spend two weeks with affluent relatives on Martha’s Vineyard. The film also stars Joe Morton, Suzzanne Douglass, Glynn Turman, Jada Pinkett, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Morris Chestnut, and Duane Martin.
Crooklyn is a semi-autobiographical film produced and directed by Spike Lee about a young girl named Troy Carmichael (played by Zelda Harris), and her family in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, during the summer of 1973. The film stars Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, and Isaiah Washington.
The first installment in the Friday franchise, the film stars Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Nia Long, Bernie Mac, Tiny “Zeus” Lister Jr., John Witherspoon, Regina King, and Anna Maria Horsford. In the film, friends Craig Jones and Smokey face troubles after becoming indebted to a local drug dealer.
‘Independence Day,’ 1996
Starring Will Smith, this Hollywood blockbuster centered around a group of people who get together in the aftermath of a worldwide attack by aliens. With the other people of the world, they launched a counterattack on July 4—Independence Day in the United States.
‘Dr. Dolittle,’ 1998
Starring Eddie Murphy, Ossie Davis, and Oliver Platt, the film was based on the series of children’s stories of the same name by Hugh Lofting, where the main character Dr. Dolittle was able to communicate with animals.
‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back,’ 1998
Adapted from Terry McMillan’s best-selling 1996 novel of the same name, How Stella Got Her Groove Back stars Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs in his film debut, alongside Whoopi Goldberg, and Regina King.
‘The Wood,’ 1999
The Wood tells the story of three childhood friends during a wedding. They reminisce over past experiences while growing up in Inglewood. It stars Omar Epps, Richard T. Jones, Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, LisaRaye McCoy, and Malinda Williams.
‘Baby Boy,’ 2001
Baby Boy was directed, written, and produced by John Singleton and starred Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Dogg, Ving Rhames, Omar Gooding, A.J. Johnson and Taraji P. Henson in her breakout role.
This coming-of-age film stars Shameik Moore, as he goes through the struggles of his daily life in Inglewood, CA, in hopes of attending Harvard University. Dope – executive produced by Pharrell Williams and Sean Combs – also features Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Tyga, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz, and A$AP Rocky.
‘Girls Trip,’ 2017
This hilarious instant classic starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith, Girls Trip follows four friends as they reunite in New Orleans for the ESSENCE Festival.