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5 great Netflix movies to watch on Juneteenth

Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba in The Harder They Fall.

Although it only recently became a federal holiday, Juneteenth feels a little bit like a second Independence Day. It’s a day when America celebrates the end of enslavement, and reflects on all the progress on racial equality that is still left to be made.

If you want to celebrate the day with a movie, Netflix has some excellent titles worth exploring that highlight every facet of the Black experience both in America and around the world. We’ve selected five films that will be perfect viewing for reflection and celebration this Juneteenth.

The Woman King (2022)

THE WOMAN KING – Official Trailer (HD)

A brilliant, mythic epic, The Woman King follows a group of all-female warriors who are responsible for defending their African kingdom of Dahomey. When their kingdom comes under threat from foreign invaders, a new class of recruits must prove their worth in the highest possible circumstances.

Viola Davis is brilliant as a weary general trying to keep the kingdom in line, and the action set pieces here are all genuinely thrilling. In spite of its relatively small budget, The Woman King feels genuinely epic, and the worst thing about the movie is that it’s not as long as it could be.

You can watch The Woman King on Netflix.

The Harder They Fall (2021)

The Harder They Fall | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Western has traditionally been a genre defined by colonialism and white men looking tough, which is part of the reason The Harder They Fall feels so revolutionary.

A revisionist Western that tells the story of a gang of Black outlaws who reunite to take on an old enemy after he’s released from prison, the film features an incredible lineup of compelling Black performers, and it feels like one of the most defiantly cool movies of the last few years. The Harder They Fall is both an homage to the Westerns of old and a reinvention of them, and that’s what makes it feel so vibrant.

You can watch The Harder They Fall on Netflix.

Waves (2019)

Waves | Official Trailer HD | A24

One of the more ambitious and controversial movies of the past few years, Waves tells the story of two Black siblings living in contemporary Florida as they deal with their stringent parents and the pressures of their lives. The movie is essentially a bifurcated story that switches perspectives about halfway through its run time, and the two halves have wildly different tones and rhythms.

Sterling K. Brown is a standout in a supporting role, and the pressure cooker that is the movie’s first half gives way to something much more emotional and poignant in the second. Waves is fascinating, frustrating, and complicated in ways that are almost impossible to summarize.

You can watch Waves on Netflix.

Inside Man (2006)

Inside Man Official Trailer #1 - Christopher Plummer Movie (2006) HD

Spike Lee has made plenty of movies that are explicitly about race, but Inside Man isn’t really one of them. Instead, it’s a brilliant thriller anchored by Denzel Washington doing some of his best work. The movie chronicles a bank robbery in progress as Washington’s detective matches wits with a bank robber who seems to have a secret escape plan.

Thanks to a series of overlapping twists and a strong cast, Inside Man is proof that Lee can do his thing in basically any genre, and deliver a final reveal that you’ll never see coming.

You can watch Inside Man on Netflix.

Harriet (2019)

HARRIET | Official Trailer | Now Playing

The most straightforward Black history title on this list, Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman, the former slave who eventually became one of the most prominent conductors on the Underground Railroad. What gives Harriet its juice, though, are the touches of surrealism thrown in, ones that give Harriet an almost mystical quality.

Thanks to Wicked star Cynthia Erivo’s stunning central performance, Harriet is a chronicle of one of the bravest figures in American history. Tubman is a woman who found freedom for herself, but wasn’t satisfied in stopping there.

You can watch Harriet on Netflix.

Joe Allen

Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.

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