Looking for some good films to watch? These war films profiling black veterans are worth your time

Lisa McLean
February 07, 2020 - 1:51 pm
movies honoring African American veterans

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Hollywood has always loved making war movies, but a lot of them have failed to highlight the contribution made by African Americans. How many films can people name that profile black veterans? There are not too many but with some help from Keith Mehlinger, MFA, Director, Screenwriting and Animation, at Morgan State University in Baltimore, we've compiled a list of some movies that you should take the time to see.

Glory (1990)

This film depicts the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was the first all-black military unit that fought in the Civil War. The movie made Denzel Washington famous, and he took home an Oscar for best supporting actor. The movie also stars Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher.

Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

Mehlinger said he likes this movie directed by Spike Lee. It’s a fictional murder mystery, but it recreates some real-life events set during WWII in German-occupied Italy. The story is centered around soldiers of  92nd Infantry Division, a segregated division of the Army, who fought in WWI and WWII.

Men of Honor (2000)

This drama, starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr. and directed by George Tillman, Jr., was inspired by the true story of Master chief petty officer Carl Brashear, the first African American master diver in the United States Navy. His character is also featured in the 2001 movie, Pearl Harbor. The fight scene is excellent, though the movie didn’t do well at the box office.

“This (Men of Honor) is a powerful movie,” said Mehlinger.

 Ride With the Devil (1999)

Mehlinger also recommends this movie that tells the story of the lead-up to the Civil War conflicts between Missouri Bushwackers (Southern sympathizers), and Union Jayhawkers.

“If you want to see fine acting, watch Jeffrey Wrights's performance as a black man who sides with Confederate sympathizers,” Mehlinger said.  “He’s unlike any other character I’ve ever seen in a Civil War movie.”

 Flyboys (2006)

If WWI movies are of interest, this film introduces the audience to the real-life exploits of the black pilot Eugene Bullard who fought for the French in WWI. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his injuries at Verdun and became known as “The Black Sparrow of Death”

A Soldier’s Story (1984)

This WWII film stars Howard Rollins as an Army lawyer sent to a base in Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black sergeant played by Adolph Caesar. Denzel Washington has a significant part in the movie. 

"Caesar was an actor on Broadway," said Mehlinger. "It's an unforgettable film."

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Anthony Mackie, of Marvel movie fame, has a prominent role as Sgt., J.T. Sanbornall, in this critically acclaimed film. His character is one of several Army explosive ordnance disposal technicians in Iraq who are charged with disarming bombs amid the violent conflicts of the Iraq War.

“The Hurt Locker” was nominated for nine Oscars in 2010 and won six of them.

Buffalo Soldiers (1997)

This TNT television film starring Danny Glover, features the Buffalo Soldiers, black members of the U.S. cavalry, and their role in the Apache Wars.

This list is topped off by two science fiction war movies:

The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)

This HBO movie is based on the true story of the African American men who battled racism and segregation to become pilots during WW II. The film stars Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Malcolm Jamal-Warner and other notable actors. 

Battleship (2012)

Watch music star Rihanna battle aliens who have invaded Pearl Harbor. The movie also stars real-life Army veteran, Retired Col. Gregory Gadson, who plays an embittered amputee. This film also used many active-duty and retired veterans as extras in the film.

Independence Day (1996)

Will Smith stars as Captain Steven Hiller, a fighter pilot who battles those pesky aliens who keep invading earth.