One of the most popular period dramas detailing the life of Black Americans throughout the civil injustice of the 1960s is The Help. This drama was adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s novel and is set in Jackson, Mississippi, amidst the civil rights movement. The film intertwines the lives of Black maids working for white families and a young aspiring writer, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, who decides to chronicle their experiences. Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, challenges the social norms and racial segregation by compiling the stories of these marginalized women. As the maids, notably Aibileen Clark, played by Viola Davis, and Minny Jackson, played by Octavia Spencer, share their personal narratives, the movie confronts themes of racism, discrimination and the struggles for dignity and respect in a deeply divided society.
The impact of The Help led to a multitude of award nominations/wins, including several Oscars. For those looking for similar films that tell the story of real-life or fictional characters of this time, there are many great options. Check out these 10 movies like The Help, ranked by their IMDb score and Rotten Tomatoes ranking.
10. Son of the South (2020)
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Son of the South is a biographical drama that recounts the transformational journey of Bob Zellner, a white Southerner and grandson of a Ku Klux Klan member, who became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Based on Zellner’s autobiography, the film captures his awakening to the pervasive racism in the South and his eventual activism alongside prominent Civil Rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It portrays Zellner’s evolution from a product of his environment to a passionate advocate for racial equality, showcasing the internal struggle and external challenges he faces in his quest for justice and societal change during a tumultuous era in American history.
9. The Best of Enemies (2019)
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
The Best of Enemies is a historical drama based on the true story of the unlikely friendship that develops between civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson, and Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis, portrayed by Sam Rockwell, in Durham, North Carolina, during the racially turbulent 1970s. The film revolves around their initial animosity, which transforms into a surprising alliance as they are both chosen to co-chair a community summit on school desegregation. As they work together, they begin to challenge their preconceptions and prejudices, ultimately forging a bond that transcends their differences and contributes to positive change in their community. The Best of Enemies explores themes of reconciliation, empathy and the transformative power of dialogue in the face of deeply rooted racial tensions.
8. Self Made (2020)
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker is a limited Netflix series that chronicles the incredible journey of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made female millionaire. Set in the early 20th century, the series explores Walker’s rise from poverty to becoming a trailblazing entrepreneur, revolutionizing the hair care industry for Black women. It delves into her struggles, determination and the obstacles she faced as she built her beauty empire, highlighting themes of empowerment, ambition and the pursuit of success in the face of societal limitations and racial discrimination. With Octavia Spencer in the lead role, Self Made is a great option for those looking for movies like The Help.
7. The Banker (2020)
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, The Banker is based on the true story of two Black entrepreneurs, Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris, who take on the racially discriminatory banking industry in the 1950s and 1960s. Unable to secure loans due to their race, they devise a plan to use a white frontman to pose as the face of their business while they secretly run operations behind the scenes. The film follows their efforts to empower the Black community by providing access to housing loans and financial opportunities, while also navigating the complexities and risks of their subterfuge in a segregated society. It is a compelling narrative of ingenuity, perseverance and the fight against systemic racism within the financial sector.
6. Marshall (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Marshall is a biographical drama centered around a pivotal case in the early career of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice. Set in the 1940s, the film follows Marshall as a young attorney for the NAACP, as he takes on the defense of a black chauffeur accused of assaulting his white employer. Facing segregation and prejudice, Marshall teams up with a young Jewish lawyer, Sam Friedman, in a hostile environment where they must navigate a racially charged trial. The movie showcases Marshall’s brilliant legal mind, determination for justice and the collaborative efforts that challenged racial barriers and laid the groundwork for his future accomplishments in the realm of civil rights.
5. Loving (2016)
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Loving is a poignant historical drama that recounts the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple whose marriage in 1958 led to their arrest due to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. The film chronicles their unwavering love and determination to live together as a family, despite facing societal prejudice and legal challenges. With powerful performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the Lovings, the movie sensitively portrays their journey as they take their case to the Supreme Court in a landmark civil rights decision that ultimately invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage in the United States. Loving is a heartfelt tribute to the couple’s quiet courage and the enduring legacy of their fight for love and equality under the law.
4. Just Mercy (2019)
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Just Mercy is a powerful and emotionally stirring drama based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a young attorney, and his crusade for justice in Alabama. The film follows Stevenson as he takes on the case of Walter McMillian, a Black man wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death. As Stevenson navigates the deeply entrenched racial biases within the legal system, the movie highlights themes of injustice, resilience and the human spirit while shedding light on systemic issues of racism and inequality prevalent in America’s criminal justice system. Just Mercy is a poignant narrative that showcases the unwavering dedication of individuals fighting for fairness and equity in a flawed and often prejudiced legal landscape.
3. Green Book (2018)
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Green Book is a heartfelt and thought-provoking film inspired by the true story of a working-class Italian-American bouncer, Tony Lip, who becomes the driver for Dr. Don Shirley, a highly talented Black pianist, during a concert tour in the 1960s American South. The movie explores their unlikely friendship and the challenges they face due to racial segregation and prejudice. As they embark on their journey, the “Green Book,” a guidebook made to ensure safety for Black travelers, becomes a symbol of the stark realities of racism. Through their experiences and interactions, the film delicately touches on themes of racial tensions, understanding and the transformative power of empathy, showcasing the profound impact of their relationship amid a divided society.
2. Till (2022)
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Till is a powerful biographical film centered on the tragic murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy in 1955 Mississippi, whose death became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. The movie sensitively explores the events leading to his brutal killing after being accused of whistling at a white woman and focuses on the relentless quest for justice by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Through her resilience and determination, Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight for justice for her son becomes a symbol of the ongoing struggle against racial injustice, making Till an impactful portrayal of one of the most pivotal moments in American history.
1. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
I Am Not Your Negro is a compelling documentary that brings to life the unfinished work of James Baldwin, one of the most prominent and eloquent voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Directed by Raoul Peck, the film is based on Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, where he reflects on the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Through Baldwin’s poignant words, archival footage and powerful imagery, the documentary examines race relations in America and confronts the deep-seated systemic racism that continues to permeate society. It serves as a reminder of Baldwin’s timeless insights into the complexities of racial identity, discrimination and the struggle for civil rights, resonating strongly with contemporary issues of social justice.