It can be scary to be a Black person in this life.
That seems to be the theme behind the Black-oriented movies and TV shows debuting in the fall season. Many show a noticeable trend of being about crime, justice, or the supernatural. These productions all say, in one way or another, that it can be scary to be a Black person when there are racist forces working against and targeting Black people. Even in Black-oriented comedy, race and racism issues are never far from the topics explored. The main difference is that, compared to the previous decade, there are more Black people directing, writing, and/or producing these stories in an industry where white people have most of the power.
“I think more TV police procedurals and crime series have been pushed to acknowledge the systemic oppression and unequal policing people of color face,” Eric Deggans, a TV critic at National Public Radio, tells Black News & Views.
“One way to approach those issues is to tell them from the perspective of people of color, so we get ‘Found,’ an NBC drama about a Black woman who tries to bring attention to missing people overlooked by traditional law enforcement,” Deggans says.
The Black showrunner of “Found” is Nkechi Okoro Carroll, who is also an executive producer/writer for The CW drama series “All American.”
When it comes to Black representation in front of the camera and behind the camera in movies and TV shows, there’s been a mixed bag of progress and lack of progress in recent years.
According to data company Luminate’s 2023 Entertainment Diversity Progress Report, the number of Black actors in main character film roles in theatrically released movies rose from 16.% in 2021 to 17.5% in 2022, while the number of Black directors of theatrically released movies jumped from 7% in 2021 to 8.6% in 2022. However, the number of theatrically released films “with Black stories at the forefront” dropped from 7.6% in 2021 to 5.3% last year. The report reveals that in TV, there was a very slight increase in the numbers of Black creators: 14% in 2021, compared to 14.8% 2022. However, there were noticeable decreases in the same time period for the numbers of Black series regulars (dipping from 29.3% to 27%); series with Black talent (dropping from 75.5% to 72%); and series with Black stories (going down from 22.4% to 19.3%).
Deggans says he’s encouraged by the increasing numbers of Black decision makers behind the scenes.
“We’re in a moment where Black storytellers have finally gotten the chance to tell their own stories, and so they are reinventing and remixing established genres with their perspectives to create new, vibrant and compelling series,” he said.
Here’s a list of Black-oriented movies and TV series debuting this fall:
This documentary, named for the 26.2 miles that mark the marathon distance, follows the unusual story of men incarcerated at California’s San Quentin Prison who are members of the 1000 Mile Club, a distance running group. Directed by Christine Yoo and distributed by athletic shoe company Hoka, “26.2 to Life” shows how these inmates train for a marathon and learn how to transform themselves. Released in theaters on Sept. 22.
This unusual drama written and directed by Raven Jackson has almost no dialogue. It traces a decade-spanning story about a Black woman’s life in Mississippi. The movie will be released by A24 on a date to be announced.
Winner of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival’s People Choice Award (the festival’s top prize), this comedy/drama from MGM Studios’ Orion Pictures is based on Percival Everett’s 2001 novel “Erasure.” In “American Fiction,” Jeffrey Wright portrays author Thelonius “Monk” Ellison, who gets into entanglements after he decides to pander to book publishing trends, by deliberately writing a novel filled with negative racial stereotypes about Black Americans. “American Fiction” is the feature-film directorial debut of Cord Jefferson, who co-wrote the movie screenplay. The movie’s cast also includes Sterling K. Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross, Erika Alexander, Issa Rae, Leslie Uggams, and Keith David. In theaters on Nov. 3.
Grammy-winning and Oscar-winning musician Jon Batiste (“Soul”) reached new heights in his career at the same time that his wife, Suleika Jaouad, has been battling leukemia. This documentary, directed by Matthew Heineman, chronicles these highs and lows. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have signed on as supporters of “American Symphony” through their Higher Ground Productions. Premiering on Netflix on Dec. 8.
Based on The New Yorker’s 1999 article of the same name, this crowd-pleasing legal drama (directed and co-written by Maggie Betts) tells the true story of charismatic civil attorney Willie E. Gary (played by Jamie Foxx) and his client Jeremiah O’Keefe (played by Tommy Lee Jones), the leader of a family-owned funeral company suing a corporate funeral business in a contract dispute. Supporting cast members include Jurnee Smollett, Mamoudou Athie, and Tywayne Wheatt. In theaters on Oct. 6. Premiering on Prime Video on Oct. 13.
In this suspenseful drama, married couple Dana (played by Meagan Good) and Curtis (played by Roger Cross) find out that their teenage daughter Alicia (played by Faith Wright), who went missing the year before when she was 16, is now being trafficked as a sex worker. The two parents come up with a plan to rescue her. Premiering on Lifetime on Oct. 7.
Former NFL star Barry Sanders relays his life story in this documentary, which includes his candid account of why he abruptly retired from football in 1999, at the height of his Detroit Lions career. Premiering on Prime Video on Nov. 21.
Eddie Murphy stars in this comedy as Chris, a married father of three, determined to win a Christmas home decorating contest. Chaos erupts when a mysterious elf (played by Jillian Bell) casts a spell to recreate the 12 Days of Christmas. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, this movie’s cast includes Tracee Ellis Ross, Chris Redd, Danielle Pinnock, Robin Thede, and D.C. Young Fly. Premiering on Prime Video on Dec. 1.
In this family-oriented comedy (directed by “Barbershop” helmer Tim Story), social worker Eddie Garrick (played by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), who has recently separated from his wife, Allison Garrick (played by Teyonah Parris), is very jaded about Christmas. When he takes their 9-year-old daughter, Charlotte Garrick (played by Madison Skye Validum), to work with him on Christmas Eve, they meet a mysterious man in a red suit named Nick (played by Lil Rel Howery), and they all go on a magical Christmas adventure. Premiering on Disney+ on Nov. 17.
She wasn’t a household name, but Donyale Luna was a trailblazer as the first Black model on the cover of any Vogue magazine. She achieved this milestone in 1966, when she graced the cover of British Vogue. This fascinating documentary, directed by Nailah Jefferson, chronicles the short but influential life of Luna, who died of a heroin overdose in 1979 at the age of 33. Premiered on HBO and Max on Sept. 13.
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell reprise their respective roles as Dexter Mitchell and Ed, in this comedy sequel to 1997’s “Good Burger.” Directed by Phil Traill, “Good Burger 2” finds sarcastic Dexter and goofy Ed reuniting at Good Burger, the fast-food place where they used to work together. Premiering on Paramount+ Nov. 22.
Black Power activist and poet Nikki Giovanni tells her life story in this experimental documentary directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” won the U.S. grand jury prize for documentary features at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Premiering on HBO and Max on Nov. 3.
This drama inspired by true events shows how criminal mastermind Jeremy Horne (played by Courtney B. Vance) convinced four young bank employees to steal nearly $80 million from the U.S. banking system. Directed by Menhaj Huda and written by Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, the “Heist 88” cast includes Keith David, Keesha Sharp, Nican Robinson, Bentley Green, and Mariah Gordon. Premiering on Paramount+ With Showtime on Sept. 29. Premiering on Showtime Oct. 1.
Modeling industry pioneer Bethann Hardison co-directed (with Frédéric Tcheng) this biographical documentary telling Hardison’s life story as a model and an agent in fashion and entertainment. This Magnolia Pictures movie includes candid discussions of her sometimes-difficult relationship with her actor son, Kadeem Hardison, one of the stars of the sitcom “A Different World.” In theaters on September 15, 2023.
Filmed over a period of more than 10 years, this inspiring documentary (directed by David Petersen) shows how children affected by being unhoused can build their self-esteem and learn life lessons through dance. Ballet director Steve Melendez is shown mentor ing children (who are mostly Black) when he goes back to the New York City homeless shelter where he lived during his youth. Ballet icon Misty Copeland is one of the documentary’s executive producers. Released in theaters Sept. 15 and on digital VOD Sept. 22.
Lil Nas X, the first openly gay male hip-hop star, gets candid in this documentary that chronicles his first tour. Carlos López Estrada (who helmed the 2018 comedy film “Blindspotting”) and Zac Manuel directed this project, to be released by Sony Music Entertainment on a date to be announced.
Filmed in black and white and released by independent film company Dekanalog, this dreamy-looking drama (written and directed by C.J. “Fiery” Obasi) takes place in the fictional African oceanside village of Iyi, whose residents believe in the power of water goddess Mami Wata. The village leader is Mama Eche (played by Rita Edochie), who claims to be a medium with direct communication to Mami Wata. Mama Eche must decide if the next villageΩ leader will be her reluctant daughter Zinwe (played by Uzoamaka Aniunoh) or her loyal protégée Prisca (played by Evelyne Ily, also known as Evelyne Ily Juhen), who is attracted to a marooned stranger named Jasper (played by Emeka Amakeze), who causes chaos in the village. Released in theaters Sept. 29.
Lil Rel Howery stars in this sci-fi thriller as a businessman who wakes up in an open-air prison and is forced to work using a grist mill. He tries to escape before the birth of his child. Howery (who is the only person seen on screen for most of the movie), is one of the producers of “The Mill,” which was directed by Jeffrey David Thomas. Premiering on Hulu on Oct. 9.
The rise and fall of pop music duo Milli Vanilli are detailed in this documentary (directed by Frank Korem), which examines how Milli Vanilli members Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan were exploited and manipulated by music producer Frank Farian. Pilatus and Morvan were best friends and musical partners, until their world came crashing down when it was exposed that other vocalists performed the songs on Milli Vanilli’s smash hit 1989 debut album, “Girl You Know It’s True.” Premiering on Paramount+ on Oct. 24.
Michael Jai White stars in this comedic Western (which he wrote and directed) as Johnny Black, a gunslinger who’s on a revenge mission to find his father’s murderer. White is also one of the producers of this campy movie from Samuel Goldwyn Films. The cast includes Anika Noni Rose, Erica Ash, Byron Minns, Kym Whitley, and Tony Baker, with cameos from Jim Brown (in his final film role) and Fred Williamson. Released in theaters Sept. 15.
In this romantic comedy directed by Erik White, a bride-to-be named Lizzie Anders (played by Ashanti) tries not to have her destination wedding ruined when her “man of honor” Marshall (played by Jonathan Bennett) brings his difficult ex-girlfriend Marie James (played by Cassandra Scerbo) as his date. The movie (released by Saban Films and Sony Pictures Entertainment) has a cast that also includes Cedric the Entertainer, Michelle Hurd, Sebastian Anders, and Luke Leonard. In theaters on September 29, 2023. Releasing on digital and VOD on Oct. 3.
Colman Domingo stars in this biopic of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Directed by George C. Wolfe and co-written by Julian Breece, this drama also explores Rustin’s life as a gay man. “Rustin” reunites Domingo and Glynn Turman with their “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” director Wolfe. The cast of “Rustin” also includes Chris Rock, Aml Ameen, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Jeffrey Mackenzie Jordan, Michael Potts, Jeffrey Wright, and Audra McDonald. In theaters Nov. 3. Premiering on Netflix on Nov. 17.
Inspired by a 2019 ProPublica piece, this documentary from Oscar-nominated director Raoul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”) chronicles the saga of the Reels family in North Carolina’s Carteret County. The family has been fighting a long battle to keep inherited land in a system that takes away Black ownership of land from families who don’t have inheritance wills. In theaters on Oct. 13. Premiering on Prime Video Oct. 21.
This documentary from Oscar-winning “Music by Prudence” director Roger Ross Williams interprets Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s best-selling 2016 nonfiction book “Stamped From the Beginning” into cinematic form. The documentary has animation and leading female scholars sharing the history of anti-Black racist ideas. Premiering on Netflix on Nov. 15.
This French-language drama sequel to 2019’s “Street Flow” continues the saga of brothers Demba Traoré (played by Kery James), Soulaymaan Traoré (played by Jammeh Diangana), and Noumouké Traoré (Bakary Diombera) living in a gritty suburb of Paris. The movie was directed by Leïla Sy and written by “Street Flow 2” co-star James. Premiered on Netflix Sept. 27.
D.C. Young Fly hosts this game show inspired by “Hollywood Squares,” but the celebrity guests are Black, and the trivia questions are about Black pop culture. Hartbeat (owned by Kevin Hart) and Jesse Collins Entertainment are two of the production companies behind the show. Celebrity guests include Bobby Brown, Taye Diggs, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Kirk Franklin, Tiffany Haddish, Luenell, and Bresha Webb. Premiering on VH1 on Oct.17.
In this limited horror series (based on Victor LaValle’s 2017 novel of the same name), married couple Apollo (played by LaKeith Stanfield) and Emma (played by Clark Backo) seem to have a contented life in New York City. But then, Emma disappears, and Apollo discovers a New York City he didn’t know existed. Premiered on Apple TV+ on Sept. 8.
This United Kingdom dramedy series is loosely based on the life of co-creator/co-writer Adjanu Salmon. He stars as Kwabena, an aspiring filmmaker trying to balance his career and personal life. Premiered on Paramount+ With Showtime on Sept. 8. Premiered on Showtime on Sept. 10.
In this six-episode docuseries, hip-hop star and car enthusiast Swizz Beatz goes on an international journey with his son Nasir Dean (also known as Note Mercato) to visit car-loving destinations and get to know the car culture in the region. Each episode features a different location: Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Atlanta, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Premiering on Hulu Nov. 16.
Lawyer-turned-TV-personality Eboni K. Williams headlines this reality courtroom series for disputes originating from small claims court. Bryon Allen’s Allen Media Group is behind this daytime TV show. Premiered in syndication on Sept. 11.
Shanola Hampton stars in this drama series as Gabi Mosely, a public relations specialist who moonlights as a private detective searching for missing people. “Found” co-stars include Azaria Carter (who plays a teenage Gabi in flashbacks), Arlen Escarpeta, Kelli Williams, Gabrielle Walsh, Karan Oberoi, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Premiering on NBC on Oct. 3.
“Law & Order” alum Jesse L. Martin returns to doing a procedural crime drama series with “The Irrational.” He stars as Alec Mercer, a Washington, D.C.-based professor of behavioral science who uses his skills and knowledge to help law enforcement officials solve crimes. Co-stars include Maahra Hill and Travina Springer. Premiered on NBC on Sept. 25.
R&B singer Keke Wyatt stars in this reality show that takes viewers inside her life as an artist and married mother of 11 children. Wyatt is one of the executive producers of the series. Premiering on WE tv on Oct. 12.
David Oyelowo is the star and an executive producer of this six-episode limited drama series, based on the true story of Bass Reeves, the first Black police deputy west of the Mississippi. Co-stars include Rob Morgan, Demi Singleton, and Gratham Coleman. Premiering on Paramount+ on Nov. 5.
Taye Diggs stars in this two-part limited drama series as Lance, a playboy businessman who revamped Atlanta’s 911 system and is found murdered in his home. Keesha Sharp is one of the co-stars in this whodunit mystery that shows the perspectives of various people who knew Lance. Premiered on BET+ Sept. 21.
Judge Joe Mathis is back with a new courtroom reality series, which has more of his brand of no-nonsense justice. Bryon Allen’s Allen Media Group is behind this daytime TV show that focuses on small claims court cases. Premiered in syndication on Sept. 11.
This two-episode docuseries covers the scandal, controversy, and 2022 criminal trial involving rapper Tory Lanez, who was convicted of shooting hip-hop artist Megan Thee Stallion after they left Hollywood Hills party in 2020. Premiered on Max on Sept. 4.
In this four-episode docuseries, basketball superstar Stephen Curry attempts to recreate famous golf shots by Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy. Curry is one of the executive producers of this series. Premiered on Golf Channel on Sept. 12.
This six-episode documentary series follows several young basketball players who are pursuing a professional career in basketball. Premiered on Prime Video on Sept. 5.
This comedy/drama series (with touches of horror) comes from showrunner Zakiya Dalila Harris and is based on her 2021 bestselling book of the same name. In New York City, editorial assistant Nella (played by Sinclair Daniel) is the only young Black female working at corporate publishing company Wagner Books, until Hazel-May McCall (played by Ashleigh Murray) joins the company—and then strange things start happening. Garcelle Beauvais is one of the cast members. Actress/filmmaker Rashida Jones is one of the executive producers. Premiered on Hulu on Sept. 13.
Morris Chestnut hosts this six-episode docuseries that looks at the impact of Oklahoma’s 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which nearly destroyed an area of Tulsa also known as Black Wall Street. This documentary also chronicles the community rebuilding of Tulsa’s Greenwood District that was hit hardest by this hate crime. Premiered on OWN on Sept. 29.
Hosted by racism expert Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, this five-episode docuseries examines how racism impacts sports. Premiered on ESPN+ on Sept. 20.
This three-episode docuseries celebrates BET’s “Rap City,” which was on the air from 1989 to 2008, making it one of the longest-running hip-hop shows on TV. Various former “Rap City” hosts are featured, including Big Tigger, Big Lez, Chris “The Mayor” Thomas, Hans “Prime” Dobson, Prince DaJour, Joe Clair, Mad Linx, J-Nicks, and Q45. Music industry experts who are interviewed include Alvin “The Unseen VJ” Jones, Chaka Zulu, Charlamagne Tha God, Debra Lee, Kevin Liles, Stephen G. Hill, and Tuma Basa. Premiering on BET on Oct. 10.