Father's Day Films With Complex Depictions of Black Fathers
Photo Credit: FRESH

Father's Day Films With Complex Depictions of Black Fathers

FRESH (1994)


Here’s the deal in brief. In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I previously asked readers for their picks for films that feature 3-dimensional depictions of black fathers, that are also central (or are of significance) to each film’s plot. Each film needs to have a fully-realized representation of a black father (complex depictions) AND the father’s narrative is either central to the film’s plot, or his presence is of significance to the story. Or another way to think about it is, when you think of the film, is the father’s story/presence/involvement one of the first 1, 2 or 3 things you remember about it?

Also, the film cannot be a biopic.

I received several responses, went through them all, and from an initial list of about 50 films recommended, I trimmed it down to roughly half of that.

Those that didn’t make the cut didn’t fit my criteria. 

So below is the list of what remained after I *cleaned up* the original index of suggestions. Obviously it’s not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure there are others that not mentioned here. But that’s kind of the point of this exercise – to come up a list of recommendations that fit the above criteria, especially at a time when representations of black men in American media (black fathers notably) tend to be more limited, stereotypical and reductive. So instead of getting worked up over a film you think should be on the list, that isn’t mentioned here, give your suggestions in the comment section below. Again, consider the criteria as highlighted in the above paragraph; don’t just start listing films with black fathers in them. They must meet the listed criteria.

Also, as you will see, the list is heavily American, which certainly is not intentional. So let’s beef this up with some non-American titles.

I’d say that scripted television has given us more well-rounded, interesting depictions of black fathers overall. For example, you had shows like “Black-Ish” and “House of Lies” recently. Even Omari Hardwick as James “Ghost” St. Patrick in Starz’s “Power” is an interesting depiction of a black father, as well as Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon in Fox’s “Empire.” Of course there was “The Cosby Show,” but that was ions ago. The point is that, when it comes to full TV representations of black fathers in starring or key roles, we’ve had a variety to choose from over the years. And one can argue that film could do more in that regard. So if you’re a screenwriter/filmmaker embarking on your first or next project, maybe consider telling a story that centers on the (hopefully inspiring, stirring, complicated) relationship between a black father and his child or children, across all genres, even horror.

The list (whether *good* or *bad* films) follows below (in no particular order). A few aRE mine, but most were mentioned by others. Add your suggestions in the comment section and I’ll update this post accordingly. We have until Sunday, June 18:

— “Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls”

— “Sounder”

— “Straight Out of Brooklyn”

— “1982”

— “He Got Game”

— “Boyz in the Hood”

— “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

— “John Q”

— “Pariah”

— “Yeelen”

— “Crooklyn”

— “Bless Their Little Hearts”

— “Killer of Sheep”

— “Man and Boy”

— “Smoke” (It’s an ensemble, multi-narrative film, but one of the stories centers on a son searching for his father)

— “Fresh”

— “35 Shots of Rum”

— “Timbuktu”

— “South Central”

— “Fences”

Ok, dive in with debate/discussion/additions of your own… By the way, all of these movies are available on some home video format – DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD and streaming platforms, etc; some more easily accessed than others, so look them up and check them out this Father’s Day.

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