12 Shows, Movies & Documentaries to Stream About Race in America

Paramount Network; HBO; David Lee /© Focus Features /Courtesy Everett Collection

TV has taught viewers a lot over the years, whether it was through viewing Sesame Street as a child or tuning into a true-crime favorite for new developments in years-long cases.

Viewers have become informed of a lot of things through streaming and bingeing, but there’s always a chance to learn more. Below, we’re rounding up a few films, documentaries and scripted series which serve to educate and inform viewers about race, racial tensions and race relations in the United States and beyond.

From Ava DuVernay’s 13TH and When They See Us to classics like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, see which titles are a must-see when it comes to tackling race onscreen.

Do the right thing
©MCA/Courtesy Everett Collection

Do the Right Thing (1989)

This classic film, which made an anthem out of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” follows various characters in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn on one of New York City’s hottest days and as temperatures boil over so do racial tensions. The acclaimed title from Spike Lee also included Danny Aiello, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Rosie Perez and more among its cast. (Streaming now on Peacock)


Watchmen (2019)

Damon Lindelof’s (The Leftovers, Lost) sequel series to the famed graphic novel puts the police at the center of this HBO drama, following detective Angela Abar (Regina King). Operating under the alias of Sister Night, Abar, along with her colleagues, must disguise their faces after a KKK-type organization known as the Seventh Kavalry sets out to attack them. But there’s something bigger going on in this thought-provoking alt-history piece which sees how trauma impacts people’s actions. (Streaming now on HBO Max)


13TH (2016)

Ava DuVernay’s (Selma) documentary puts a spotlight on the criminal justice system and how it marginalizes people of color. The insightful film traces the injustices currently taking place back to when slavery was legal in America. (Streaming now on Netflix)

If Beale Street Could Talk - KiKi Layne and Stephan James
Tatum Mangus /© Annapurna Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

This heartbreaking drama from Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins follows the love story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Homecoming‘s Stephan James) which is broken apart when he’s wrongly convicted of a crime. The story is based on the book of the same title by James Baldwin and delivers an Oscar-winning performance from Regina King who plays Tish’s mother Sharon. (Streaming now on Hulu)

When They See us

When They See Us (2019)

This four-part limited series from Ava DuVernay dramatizes the famed Central Park Five case in which five African-American teens were implicated in the attack of a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park. After years spent in prison, the show follows their lives from the time they’re accused of the crime until their exoneration years later. (Streaming now on Netflix)

Rest in Power Trayvon Martin
Paramount Network

Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story (2018)

This docuseries evaluates the life of Trayvon Martin whose death has served as a catalyst in the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the course of six episodes, the show examines the 2012 trial of Martin’s shooter George Zimmerman and how the event has impacted the country. (Streaming now on Paramount Network)

BlacKkKlansman - Adam Driver and John David Washington
David Lee /© Focus Features /Courtesy Everett Collection

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

This Oscar-nominated film from Spike Lee follows the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American man to become an officer within the Colorado Springs Police Department in the ’70s. Along with the help of a white undercover officer played by Adam Driver, he infiltrates a chapter of the Klu Klux Klan in hopes of delivering justice. (Streaming now on HBO Max)

dear white people

Dear White People (2017)

This Netflix series which ran for three seasons focused on a group of African-American students at a predominantly white Ivy League college. Navigating their day-to-day lives, viewers follow their experiences including the racial (and other forms of) discrimination that they face. (Streaming now on Netflix)

I am not your negro
©Magnolia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this documentary — which is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House — tackles the history of racism through the writer’s eyes. Along with his experiences, Baldwin’s story also includes influences from civil rights leaders such as Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and more. (Streaming now for $0.99 on Amazon Prime Video)

Seven Seconds

Seven Seconds (2018)

In this drama, conflict arises in Jersey City between African-American citizens and white cops after a teenage boy is critically injured by law enforcement. This overlooked series ran for 10 episodes on Netflix and provides a range of strong performances. (Streaming now on Netflix)


Mudbound (2017)

This film, which is set in the post-World War II south, sees two families who are faced with the unfair reality of society’s social hierarchy as the battle abroad juxtaposes with the battle at home. Focusing on “friendship, unacknowledged heritage and the unending struggle for land,” Mudbound follows the complicated relationship between a white family and African American family during a time of heightened tensions. The cast includes Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell and Jonathan Banks. (Streaming now on Netflix)

Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry To Bother You
Annapurna Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

LaKeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson star in this alt-universe film tackling the power of greed when Stanfield’s character Cassius Green discovers a quick way to gain success in his field. Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, David Cross, Omari Hardwick and more star in the wild feature. (Streaming now on Hulu)