Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that “Black Panther” has taken the world by storm. With its record-smashing box office and cultural impact, the film has captured our imaginations and gave us a Black History Month to remember. Its monumental success has truly shattered any illusions as to the limited commercial potential of black films, though Hollywood will surely attempt to dismiss it as an anomaly. It is therefore up to us movie lovers to prove them wrong. And if the exciting slate of 2018 releases is any indication, we can expect many more opportunities to celebrate black excellence at the movies this year.
Ranging from big franchise movies to eccentric indies, here are 10 upcoming films to look forward to, all directed by and starring black talent:
“A Wrinkle in Time” (March 9)
One of the best aspects of his “Black Panther” was its inspiring female characters, especially the whip-smart Shuri played by Letitia Wright. And in just over a week, a kindred sister to Shuri will grace our scenes in “A Wrinkle in Time”. Based on the 1962 novel of the same name, “A Wrinkle In Time” tells the story of a curious young girl named Meg, who goes on an intergalactic adventure to save her astrophysicist father. Along the way, she is guided by three astral travelers (played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling), in what is sure to be an awe-inspiring cinematic experience. And if its curly haired heroine isn’t enough black girl magic for you, then consider the awesome fact that the film is directed by Ava Duvernay, making her the first black woman to direct a live action film with a $100+ million budget.
“SuperFly” (June 15)
Long before there was Black Panther, numerous black cinematic heroes made their way into pop culture during the blaxploitation era. With their enduring popularity, it was therefore inevitable that these films would be remade for our increasingly nostalgic society. Indeed, a reboot of “Shaft” has already been greenlit for next year. But even before then, we’ll be getting a remake of “Super Fly”, another defining film of the blaxploitation movement. This modern update is the sophomore feature from Director X. (known for his award-winning music videos) and will see Trevor Jackson taking on the lead role of Youngblood Priest, a drug dealer looking for a way out of the business while planning one final deal.
“Sorry to Bother You” (June 29)
While the fictional world of Wakanda was the main draw in “Black Panther”, Ryan Coogler also put a welcome spotlight on his hometown of Oakland, providing the basis for the film’s underlying tensions within the African diaspora. Picking up where Coogler left off, rapper/producer Boots Riley will also explore a fictional version of the California city with his sci-fi comedy “Sorry to Bother You”. Set in a the dystopian future, it follows a telemarketer named Cassius (played by Lakeith Stanfield) who discovers a magical key to success that upends his world. “Sorry to Bother You” premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, where critics described it as a “bonkers racial satire.”
“The Equalizer 2” (July 20)
While the magnitude of the Black Panther box office is certainly impressive, it’s worth noting the movie stars who paved the way for such heroic black representation on screen. In that regard, few action stars are as appealing as Denzel Washington, who has become a household name through his various memorable characters. One of his most badass recent roles was Robert McCall in “The Equalizer”, a retired CIA agent who gets pulled back into the violent life to protect a young girl. As expected, the film was a hit with audiences, resulting in a sequel which is set for release this summer. The plot for “The Equalizer 2” is still under wraps, but we can surely expect more of the hard-hitting action and committed acting we saw in the original film.
“Widows” (November 16)
When British director Steve McQueen arrived on the scene with the formidable one-two punch of “Hunger” and “Shame”, we knew he would be one to watch. And sure enough, his next film “12 Years a Slave” would go on to win the Oscar for Best Picture thanks to a perfect blend of his unique artistry and soul-stirring storytelling. For his next project, he will likely continue in the same vein as he remakes “Widows”, a British TV series about four widowed women who band together to complete their husbands’ failed heist attempt. This enticing thriller will be written by Gillian Flynn of “Gone Girl” fame and features a stellar cast led by Viola Davis.
“Creed II” (November 21)
If you’ve been following Ryan Coogler’s ascendant career, then you know that the success of his 2015 boxing movie “Creed” contributed significantly to his hiring for “Black Panther”. His kinetic style and Michael B. Jordan’s star-making performance revitalized the Rocky franchise and instantly made him an in-demand director. For the sequel “Creed II”, Coogler has moved on to make way for Steven Caple Jr. behind the camera. However, fans can rejoice the return of Michael B. Jordan, who will reprise his role as Adonis Creed in all his shirtless glory. And this time around, he’ll be entering the ring against the son of another iconic Rocky character – Ivan Drogo. An exciting prospect indeed.
“Black Klansman” (Release date TBD)
One of the most intriguing films on the horizon is certainly Spike Lee’s “Black Klansman”. Adapted from a novel by Ron Stallworth, it tells an unbelievable story of an African American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan and becomes their leader. John David Washington (i.e. Denzel’s son) plays the detective in a potential breakout performance. And with Spike Lee’s typically provocative voice, we expect this one to stir up debates long after the credits roll.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” (Release date TBD)
When it comes to black representation on screen, the exquisite Best Picture winner “Moonlight” was like a dream come true. Thanks largely to Barry Jenkins’ sensitive and elegant direction, it gave audiences an atypical depiction of black masculinity that had rarely been portrayed before. Jenkins’ therefore gained many new fans, who would eagerly anticipate his next film. And that follow-up is expected to arrive in 2018, as he adapts the James Baldwin novel “If Beale Street Could Talk”. Set in Harlem, it follows a woman who is desperate to prove the innocence of her fiancé, while preparing for the birth of their first child.
“Monsters and Men” (Release date TBD)
Among this year’s Sundance lineup, stories surrounding race relations were a common theme. One of the most well-received of those films was Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “Monsters and Men”, winner of a Special Jury prize for Outstanding First Feature. This topical drama depicts the aftermath of a fatal incident of police brutality inflicted on a black man, told from the perspectives of a bystander, an African-American police officer and a high school athlete. The talented cast features a number of rising stars, including Anthony Ramos, John David Washington and Kelvin Harrison Jr.
“Yardie” (Release date TBD)
Among its many virtues, the sociopolitical resonance of the “Black Panther” screenplay was one of its most pleasant surprises. Namely, the tensions between the prosperous Wakandans and oppressed African-Americans elevated the material considerably and give the film unexpected gravitas. Those connections between black persons in the African diaspora will also be at the forefront of “Yardie”, based on a novel by Victor Headley. Idris Elba will be making his directorial debut with this thriller, which follows the experiences of a Jamaican man as he navigates a life of crime both at home an in London. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was also screened at the Berlin International Film Festival.